Journalism students speak to ABC evening reporter Natasha Barrett

Joel Weckerly

Barrett speaks with student journalists at a recent press conference at Cy Falls.

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Whether she is running around the city with a microphone in hand or sitting comfortably on her own talk show, ABC Evening reporter Natasha Barrett has done it all and does not plan to stop anytime soon.

On Wednesday, Jan. 20, Barrett spoke to high school Journalism students from across CFISD while at the CFISD January Press Conference that took place at Cypress Falls High School. Barrett attended and graduated from Cypress Falls in 1996, which allowed her to reminisce on her teenage years while sharing her experiences as a journalist. Joking about being late to school each morning and explaining how her high school drill team prepared her for life, Barrett gave advice and insight to the aspiring journalism students as they eagerly bombarded Barrett with questions regarding her upbringing, schooling, and everyday life as a successful reporter.

Walking the halls of Cypress Falls High School was nothing new to Barrett as she stepped foot on the school campus for the first time since graduation day 20 years ago. Multiple current Cypress Falls students were even able to relate to Barrett as they compared stories about being on their drill team, the SkyDancers, and the discipline that comes along with being in school sports. In fact, drill team influenced Barrett so greatly that she still views her first drill team instructor as one of the most influential people in her life. Whether it was from practicing her high kicks in the summer sun while wearing one pound ankle weights or being held accountable when learning dances, Barrett said the high school drill team taught her at a young age how to be held to a standard of discipline, which then prepared for her career.

“I was an officer on the drill team and to find something you love and working towards a goal and being held accountable, that really helped me later in life because you had to at a young age be held to a standard,” Barrett said. “That really changed me moving forward. You had to know what was going on at all times and be responsible and I think things like that, even though they weren’t journalism-based, even to this day I will tell a story and it comes back to that.”

Joking about being late to school each morning and explaining how her high school drill team prepared her for life, Barrett gave advice and insight to the aspiring journalism students as they eagerly bombarded Barrett with questions regarding her upbringing, schooling, and everyday life as a successful reporter.”

After graduating from Cypress Falls in May 1996, Barrett attended American University in Washington D.C. where she double majored in Broadcast Journalism and Computer Information Systems. While Barrett did have a brief interest in becoming a lawyer, that dream lasted just a short while. However, being in Washington D.C. allowed Barrett to work closely with the law by having the opportunity to cover political stories, such as the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Before being given the chance to report on this important event, Barrett had to work diligently in the journalism field.

She started by picking up any job or internship that would give her hands-on experience. During her college years, Barrett wrote for her school newspaper, worked on the local campus television, and even had the opportunity to work behind the scenes at CNB Europe in London. Barrett mentioned how she sent her resume all across the country, hoping a company would choose her among the stacks of other aspiring journalists. As she shared her post-secondary education stories with the students, Barrett made sure to highlight how important it is to participate in any experience offered.

“While you’re in school, do the internships,” Barrett said. “They don’t pay. But it’s the experience to know you want to do this because you could say, ‘Oh I want to do this.’ Then you go to school for four years and think ‘Oh gosh, I don’t want this.’ So get that experience.”

Through multiple internships and covering any news stories she could, Barrett was able to score a job as an evening and weekend reporter on ABC Channel 13 news, where she now works.

“There are reporters that I work with side by side now that I worked with when I was just a little kid,” Barrett said. “Like Shern-Min Chow on Chanel 11, I would go out in the car with her and be like, ‘Hi can I come with you today?’ And now, we’re right next to each other on Breaking News.”

While Barrett has worked her whole life to achieve the success she has, she admits that her job as a reporter is not easy. Confessing that she only received a few short hours of sleep the night before the press conference, Barrett explains her chaotic work schedule.

“On Tuesday I woke up with an hour and a half of sleep and did the morning show,” she said. “Four hours [of sleep] last night, and here I am. Our hours [as reporters] are not normal. I get home 7:30-8 o’clock on the weekdays and midnight on the weekends. There is a hard thing where I love this career, but I also want to be a mother.”

Spilling that she hopes to find the balance between her fast paced career and wanting to start a family of her own soon, Barrett shared a few other goals she plans to achieve this New Year.

“I really want to tell better stories on the news,” she said. “We do a lot of stories that I think you watch and you’re like ‘That’s a terrible story,’ but my immediate goal would be to do better that way. I think there are awesome people that live in this town and we don’t highlight the positive enough, it’s always, unfortunately, the bad stuff.”

While the work can be stressful and chaotic, Barrett has had the opportunity to work alongside celebrities and athletes such as Houston Texans football player JJ Watt. And although talking to those with a high profile can be exciting, Barrett mentioned that the stories she gets the most enjoyment out of are the ones that deal with normal citizens and their everyday struggles. Thinking back on difficult events she has covered in the past, Barrett shares how emotional her job can get at times.

While Barrett has worked her whole life to achieve the success she has, she admits that her job as a reporter is not easy. ”

“[The hardest story to cover] was just a story about a car wreck, Barrett said. “An 18-wheeler had hit a vehicle and killed the entire family. The only person who wasn’t in the car was the dad, so it was the three children and the mom. There was a memorial out in the street and the dad stopped by and we had no idea. We said ‘Hi sir,’ and it ended up being the father and he just lost his entire family. He stopped and was talking to us and was just the sweetest guy, it just broke down on me. I cried and I hugged him and we talked. But I still remember it and I still get emails from him to this day. Saying ‘thank you,’ which I’m like, ‘why are you thanking me?’ But it’s those kinds of things. Like tomorrow I’m supposed to interview Dwight Howard from The Rockets and I’m excited about that, but those aren’t the ones that you go ‘Oh yeah, that was the coolest interview.’ It’s the real people who are going through awful struggles that can hold their head high. There’s a lot of strong people out there like that guy.”

Through Barrett’s passion for writing, reporting, and helping in the community, she has achieved great success. Being awarded Best Investigative Reporting from Virginia Associated Press proved that Barrett’s dedication to digging into information and sharing with the people is a great attribute she acquires as a reporter.

By sharing her personal stories, the journalism students at the January Journalism Press Conference were able to hear firsthand from a CFISD alum about the struggles and achievements one may experience as a reporter. Barrett’s witty humor and dedication to her career proved how far one’s smile and strive to achieve goals can go in the journalism industry.