SPJ SOUTH CAROLINA MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
Myrtle Beach, SOUTH CAROLINA — One broadcast news leader and SPJ South Carolina member said she has become a more empathetic person and journalist during her first years working in broadcast news.
“I don’t think you can be a good journalist without being a good person first,” said WPDE ABC 15 Evening News Anchor Summer Dashe.
She said the most important lesson that she has learned since she started reporting is “just understanding people.”
“My perspective has changed entirely of humans, our relationships with each other, and our interactions. As journalists we see the world in a very vivid and clear way. As journalists we are more forced to reflect on human interaction,” Dashe said.
It can be as simple as watching a soldier return home and hugging his kid after a year away serving his country, or it can be the horrifying situation of watching news reports that five journalists were slaughtered recently at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, she said.
Dashe said she would like to be more engaged in speaking with people who do not necessarily understand the mission of journalists.
“I would love to be more involved with explaining what we do [reporting the facts and storytelling] as journalists to the viewers and community because I think all of this distrust of the media comes from people who don’t quite understand what we are doing and what our goal is,” she said.
Speaking at colleges and local groups about what it’s like to have a job as a news anchor does help explain her role as a reporter, Dashe said.
“I think at the surface, what people see and what they think [about] a journalist’s job is much different than what our actual goal is,” she said. “I think if they understood what our goals are in terms of storytelling — being accurate, and finding the heart and soul of the story rather than the report, I think they would be a lot more respectful of our jobs and things would be a little less violent,” said Dashe.
At the same time, Dashe said she thinks people might be scared of journalists. “Imagine if you didn’t understand what journalist do at all and all you see from journalists is them running up to people with cameras and quoting people, that seems scary.”
She said it goes back to the context of what a journalist does for a living, and it is critical for the next generation of journalists to understand as they might find themselves in a new town virtually not knowing anyone.
“On those bad days — because you will have them — just remember, the next day may be the best day of your career.” – Summer Dashe
“It goes back to perspective. What I see a lot from newer journalists is they are completely unprepared for the responsibly … and I think it is an extremely lonely feeling for a lot of first-time journalists,” she said.
Dash said that journalism can be a stressful career, “or it can be an incredibly fun adventure, [it] just depends on how you look at it,” Often we as journalists forget “how cool our job is” and how great our responsibility is to those who depend upon the news, she said.
A future broadcast news leader in the making
Born in Los Angles, California and raised in San Francisco, California, Dashe said she recalled a time in her childhood where she found herself wanting to become a journalist in the future. When she was a little kid, there was a big earthquake and she said she remembered her mom putting her under a table and leaving her there for a second to turn on the news.
“While we sat there, we watched the news and I was instantly calm and stopped crying, and said, ‘I’m going to be on the news someday, so I can know when earthquakes happen’,” said Dashe.
“I liked the idea of knowing stuff and once I got older, I loved writing.” – Summer Dashe
Years later Dashe graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, with a bachelor’s in Convergence Journalism in 2013. Originally, Dashe said she was going to focus on print journalism, but realized that broadcast television news was where she belonged. But first she had to overcome her fear of speaking in front of a camera.
During her academic career, Dashe worked as an intern at KTVU-TV Fox 2 in Oakland, California, and WFAA-TV ABC 8 in Dallas, Texas. She also gained experience as a journalist working for the Dallas Morning News, and news director at SMU-TV, a cable television station broadcast on the Southern Methodist University campus and in the Park Cities area of Dallas.
Before graduating from college, Dashe became one of two winners for the collegiate 2012 Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Pete Wilson Scholarship Award for responsible and ethical journalistic work.
After graduating from SMU, Dashe moved southeast to Texas, she joined KLTV ABC News 7 in 2013 with the title of Anchor, MMJ, Reporter, and Producer reporting out of Tyler, Texas. During her time as a multi-media journalist with KLTV-TV, her coverage of an EF3 tornado earned her and her colleagues the Texas Lone Star EMMY Award in 2015 for “Disaster in Van.”
Other more recent awards Dashe has won include:
- 2017 South Carolina Broadcasters Association‘s STAR Award Convergence Coverage – “North Myrtle Beach Fire”
- 2016 RTDNAC First Place Education – “ABC15 Investigates: Energy Positive Schools”
- 2016 RTDNAC First Place General News by Multimedia Journalist – “Talk of the Town”
Although she grew up on the West Coast, Dashe said she has always felt that she belonged in the south. She joined the ABC 15 WPDE team in north coastal South Carolina in October 2015 as the anchor of Good Morning Carolinas Weekend.
In June 2017, Dashe became an Evening Anchor for WPDE and an investigative journalist.
Dashe said she believes that her work as an MMJ helped her earn the WPDE community’s trust when they see her working in the field.
“I am offered a photographer [when reporting in the field], and though I love our photojournalists, I choose to work as an MMJ. I really enjoy shooting and editing, and I am thrilled when I get the chance to get out in the field,” she said. Multi-Media Journalists combines text, images, sound, videos, and graphics to produce a news story.
With her acquired MMJ and news leadership skills, as well as the willingness to move to other areas of the U.S. for her career, Dashe said her perspective is to learn from every place she lands as a journalist.
“I really like the people in the South, but I think what I have learned more than anything is ‘I could really be happy anywhere’,” Dashe said. “I am just one of those people who really believes in making the best of where you are.” She said she is not ruling out going back to Dallas someday.
“I think that most people, especially when they are starting out in this career, have to go somewhere that they don’t have family or any sort of connection.” – Summer Dashe
“If you would have asked me six years ago if I ever thought I’d end up in South Carolina, I would have laughed at you,” she said. “It is certainly not what you expect, but before I got into this industry, I always went in with the attitude of ‘well this is an adventure and this is going to be fun’.”
Dashe said she made an effort to get to know the cities where she worked in and learned to love each place.
“I knew I was going to have to move around a lot and probably to places that I never thought I’d live, but I chose to go about it in the perspective of ‘hey, this is pretty neat and I get to see some cool parts of the country that I would’ve never been otherwise’,” she said.
Living in the South
Dashe said she loves to visit some of her family in Tennessee as often as she can because she does not have any family that is located in South Carolina.
“I am across the country from my family. My mom and dad still live in San Francisco and my brother is also in that area, however my sister lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and little kids,” she said.
Dashe said she makes a lot of trips to Nashville to see her sister but usually takes the more than 2600 mile trek back to her hometown in San Francisco, California, to see her parents just in time for the holidays.
Outside the news business, Dashe is active the Delta Delta Delta sorority, an organization centered on the growth and development of the college woman and alumnae, and the American Heart Association, where she helped out with their annual Heart Walk and Heart Ball.
She also brought her passion for animal fostering to South Carolina. She volunteered in Dallas, Texas with Paws in the City.
“When a spot opened up at a shelter somewhere else in the country, we would put the dogs on the plane and they’d get a chance at a forever home at a different location,” she said.
Dashe also has a female dog named Sundae. “She is my whole world. I like to take her for lots of walks and she goes everywhere with me. I do a lot of extracurricular activities with my dog,” she said.
Sundae is currently in therapy pet training so she can help her volunteer at nursing homes and hospitals, she said.
To counteract the sometimes daily newsroom grind, Dashe said she selected hobbies that provide relief to a hard-pressed atmosphere because, “news can be stressful.” She unwinds and clears her head from long work days by participating in yoga, she said.
Dashe said she is also a big believer in supporting the local spots in South Carolina.
“I love to go to little local boutiques to shop, try new foods at local mom and pop shops, and restaurants, especially if they have a pet-friendly patio, I am there,” she said.
Viewers can catch Summer Dashe at 5, 6, 7 and 11 p.m., Monday through Friday nights on ABC 15 News in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Isaiah Singleton is SPJ Region 3’s 2018 summer intern. He is a senior at Savannah State University majoring in Mass Communication with a concentration in online/print journalism. Singleton is a contributing writer for the University’s student-ran newspaper, The Tiger’s Roar. Raised in Stockbridge, Georgia, writing has always been his passion. During childhood, he wrote numerous fictional stories about his life and what he wanted it to be.