Q & A: Anchor Chapman knew 10 years ago potential of YNN
Your News Now, the Albany-based 24-hour television news station, has been with Capital Region viewers for 10 years now.
So has Julie Chapman.
“I’m the last anchor standing,” said Chapman, who was on the talent roster when YNN — then known as Time Warner Cable’s Capital News 9 — launched on Oct. 11, 2002.
In addition to the ebullient Chapman, only two other Time Warner broadcasters have earned their 10-year stripes. Mike Bono remains chief meteorologist; Ryan Peterson, first a reporter in the station’s bureau in Pittsfield, Mass., is now an anchorman.
Your News Now is Chapman’s fifth news organization. Since graduating from SUNY Cortland in 1992, she has worked at WENY in Elmira, WICZ and WBNG in her hometown of Binghamton and WBAL, the NBC affiliate in Baltimore. People in the Capital Region, and other parts of upstate New York and Western Massachusetts, see her on the morning beat. She has worked the early shift since she began work at YNN’s headquarters — a former bowling alley rebuilt into massive broadcast studio — on Watervliet Avenue Extension.
The 41-year-old Chapman is passionate about job and family — she is married to Mark Gillenwalters and is mother to Luke, 12, and Amanda, 9 — and talked about both subjects during a recent interview.
Q: How does it feel do be the “last anchor standing” at YNN?
A: It makes me feel good because when we launched this 10 years ago — I’ve always come from the affiliates, this is my fifth station — and I knew out of all of these 10 years, the first year would be the one I’d look back on with just fond memories. Because I knew then this was going to be something. Even though they told us 10 years ago, “This is an experiment, it might not even make it three years,” I knew that this was where news was going.
Q: Where did you see news going in 2002?
A: People want news and information now. I started to feel, even around the year 2000, that people were losing it for appointment newscasts. They were putting a lot of pressure on us when I was at WBAL in Baltimore; we’ve got to make our stories different, we got to give people a reason to tune in to watch us at 5 p.m. You want to know why? If they want news they can get it right now on the Internet. Newspapers were doing it, TV stations were doing it. They were making the availability of news stories and breaking news so fingertip-oriented where people could get it now. There was really no reason to tune in anymore if you wanted to find out what happened.
Because affiliates were bound by contracts to show programming, I knew that when they said “This is a 24-hour local news channel,” it resonated with me — that “Wow, this is like taking what we’ve been fighting with the competition of the Internet and it’s putting it on TV.” I knew out of the gate we would be popular in businesses, we would be popular in doctors’ offices, we would be popular in transportation centers because we are exactly where people are going — news, traffic, weather on your schedule. You don’t have to wait anymore.
Q: How did you choose the news business for a profession?
A: I was an ambulance chaser. Any time there was something going on, I had to know what was going on. I begged my father, I remember this vividly probably when I was 12, “Please Dad, follow the firetruck, please follow the firetruck.” And one day he did, and we sat outside a house in Binghamton that was on fire and I was so attracted to everything — the response from the police, the response from the firefighters and then the news crews showed up. Forget about it, I caught the bug.
Q: Some people believe the life of a news anchor is a glamorous one. Can you describe your glamorous lifestyle?
A: First of all, I go to bed at 8 o’clock at night. I get up at 2 o’clock in the morning. I come in here and do my own hair and makeup, so it’s not that glamorous. Half the time I’m in jeans because anchoring news for the state, I don’t get up very much.
Q: How does your state hook-up work?
A: In the beginning, it was just Albany. Then we took on Syracuse, then we took on Binghamton, then we took on the Hudson Valley. So when I come in at 3 o’clock in the morning, I usually do the Albany bin, which is all the Albany stories. Then I do a Syracuse bin, which is a chunk of Syracuse news. Then I do a Binghamton bin, which is all the Binghamton stories and weather. And then I do Hudson Valley, Poughkeepsie, Kingston, Middletown, that whole area. What’s interesting is . . . we’re a local news channel with statewide capability. We’re not a state news channel and I don’t want people to think that. When I go to Binghamton, people think I’m there, they go up to my father all the time and they’re like, “When did Julie move back?” and he’s like, “No, she’s in Albany.”
Q: How do you balance family life? When the kids’ soccer games start, are you almost ready for a nap?
A: We do soccer, dance, music. I’m so grateful that I work in the middle of the night and I know that sounds crazy. People ask me all the time, “How do you do it, aren’t you exhausted?” You can choose, I think, on focusing on certain aspects of your life. If I choose to focus on the fact that I’m tired, this life is exhausting, how am I doing, it doesn’t work. I look at it like I’m grateful I have a job that lets me have the balance of maintaining my career I’ve worked for so many years — getting out at noon and yet being home for my kids. So when it comes to running them to activities, I just drink a lot of coffee and I keep plugging forward.
Q: All newspeople have favorite interviews or stories over the years. What are some of yours?
A: I was really proud . . . at how we handled the Ethan Allen tragedy [The cruise ship Ethan Allen capsized and sank in Lake George on Oct. 2, 2005. Twenty people, mostly senior citizens, died in the accident]. I thought that was one of the first times we came out and we really owned breaking news and then we stayed with the story. They even sent me to Washington to spend a day to cover the NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] hearings. We really made a mark as a station when it came to covering breaking news and becoming a source for people at a time when they wanted news and information. We had a lot of viewership. I think we established a lot of credibility and I think we stayed with that story from beginning to end.
Q: How about another favorite?
A: There was one story I was pretty passionate about. It was just last year and they let me off the desk to go do it. I got an exclusive interview with the fifth-grade teacher who was accused of biting a student in Voorheesville. He talked only to me and we did a story where we told his side of the story. The charges ended up being dropped and he got his job back. As a journalist, I live for that, I live for being able to tell both sides of the stories. All the other news organizations ran with “Teacher bites student in classroom,” the sexy headline, where I had a connection that I tapped into and found out that’s not what happened at all. Look at the outcome — the charges were dropped, he got his job back. That was a man’s life.
Q: What are your interests outside the station?
A: Kids, kids and more kids. Thinking of what to serve for dinner. I’m lucky if I get a half hour to walk or run with my dog, but I love it. I wouldn’t change a thing. I used to read quite a bit, a lot of biographies. However, the last three months I noticed I was having trouble focusing. So I just got reading glasses — nothing depressed me more.
Q: After 20 years in the business, some younger reporters may be looking to you as a senior stateswoman. How are you handling that?
A: I joke all the time. I made a joke the other day, somebody wanted to stop smoking and I said, “Have a lollypop like Kojak.” And they said, “Who?” I said, “Everybody knows Kojak” and then it was like, “Well, maybe not everybody knows Kojak.” But I enjoy being at this stage because I remember what it was like to be young and starting out and making mistakes and almost being a little nervous and insecure and not knowing who to ask to get feedback and help. So whenever we have these new reporters coming in, I am more than happy to take them aside and talk with them about things they can do to improve. I actually like my role here in this regard. When I see them improve and when I see them tell stories better and they take your advice, I just feel so grateful that I’m in a spot where I can really help these people be better and get to where they want to go, and they can look back at their lives and say, “Wow, Julie really helped me.”
YNN news director says station just getting started
Gary Holmes appreciates both television news and history.
“We’ve done nothing but grow and change since we started here,” said Holmes, news director of cable television station Your News Now.
“It went from Capital News 9 in Albany, which was the original 95 employees. Now, when you look at the building 10 years later, it’s 150 people strong and we’re the support structure for the entire state’s news gathering operation.”
When Time Warner Cable launched Capital News 9 on Oct. 11, 2002, reporters, producers and videographers provided news for people living in all or parts of 12 counties in upstate New York and western Massachusetts. Albany began support operations for Syracuse in 2005 and Binghamton in 2007. The Albany “hub” now also supports news operations in western New York and in the Hudson Valley.
Time Warner renamed all its stations “Your News Now” — YNN — in 2010.
Twenty-seven people who were on the air or behind the scenes when Capital News 9 began in 2002 are still on the job today. Holmes, a Schenectady native who graduated from Niskayuna High School in 1993, was one of the originals. He started as morning executive producer.
Holmes said weather coverage remains one of the station’s most recognized features. “Weather on the Nines” gives viewers updates every 10 minutes. He said YNN’s hourlong “Capital Tonight” political program is carried live each weeknight in the YNN markets. Expanded sports coverage has been another achievement.
Holmes sees more success for the station during the next 10 years.
“Hopefully we’ll still be doing what we’re doing,” he said. “We have taken on a tremendous territory. We tell strong stories. The approach that we have now hasn’t changed in 10 years. We know the area in which we do well — breaking news, politics and policy, hyperlocal sports, weather — and then telling these stories in these communities that I think are oftentimes under served. You keep that philosophy going 10 years in, we’re just getting going. I think we’re just gaining steam.”