Alluring white sands accent the South Florida beaches where five million people call home. In this bustling television market, days are long, competition is fierce and style is everything. News comes at you fast and life changes in an instant amid the Art Deco style of the region. If you’re not in for a fast-paced vacation spot, you may want to reconsider a visit. If you’re a broadcast journalist in South Florida, you must bring your A-game – everyday!
It’s been only a few months since one of Miami’s newest journalists arrived on the scene. She’s already turning heads and making a name for herself. Her love of news kept the dream to work in Miami alive. Her ambition prepared her to be ready for the bright lights of Miami. And, her family kept her grounded.
Alex Finnie began working for WPLG in May 2018. She was hired on as a reporter. Finnie will tell you she is blessed, and she’ll humbly explain that her success is a direct result of hard work during college, throughout internships, and experiences during her first jobs.
Preparation meeting opportunity
As a teenager, Finnie knew she wanted a career in the performing arts, but it took her a few years to realize her true love for broadcast journalism. While attending St. John’s University in Queens, New York, that dream began to manifest itself. She participated in several internships and, before long, Finnie knew broadcasting would be her career.
Her internships were impressive: the Wendy Williams Show, Entertainment Tonight and FOX 5 in New York – the #1 television market in the nation. In New York, she worked in a training program as a newsroom assistant. It boosted her experience and readied her for the next level. Finnie credits those internships and the training program – and her family and friends – with where she is today.
Finnie became a video reporter at the The Bucks County Courier Times, a local newspaper south of Philadelphia right after the training program. She anchored the newspaper’s digital newscast while filing video reports throughout the day. Within the company, Finnie transferred to WAAY-TV in Huntsville, Alabama, as a reporter.
It didn’t take long for other stations across the region to take notice. She moved to Birmingham, Alabama, within a year. For three years, she worked as a reporter for WIAT-TV. She also moved into the weekend morning anchor role. But, her dream was still not complete.
She wanted to return to her roots. Finnie is from South Florida, and her family still lives there. She longed for an opening where she could work in broadcast journalism while being close to her family – a rarity in the business. She knew a job in Miami may not happen.
“With this business, there’s no magic ball where you can whirl it around and say, great. I’m going to be here.” – Alex Finnie
Finnie was looking for a job in either Miami, Philadelphia or New York. And, then, the call from WPLG happened.
“The thing with Miami came out of nowhere,” she said. “It was just the perfect timing, the perfect position, the perfect station. All I can say is hard work, perseverance and never giving up is what opened that door.”
But, before she stepped foot inside the door at WPLG, she was apprehensive. After all, the dream job was about to become a reality.
“There’s going to be a lot of competition. There will be a lot of people looking at me and wondering if I will measure up. I’m looking at myself really hard to see if I am going to measure up.” Her number one worry were live shots. Those who work in broadcast news will tell you: if you can make it through a live shot with no problems, you’ve made it in the business.
Large market mess-ups are few and far between, Finnie acknowledged. “I knew I was standing next to the Michael Putneys who have been in Miami for 40 plus years and well respected. And, the Glenna Milbergs or the Laurie Jennings – the people I grew up watching and idolizing for so long.”
Although she knew the pressure was there, she welcomed the change because of the exceptional newsroom environment.
“Every day I feel growth because I’m with a team that is so supportive. If you need a mentor, they’ll mentor you. When you have a team of people who want to win, and they want to see the best for everyone, no one is going to fail.” – Alex Finnie
Finnie said she has seen it all. From her days in Pennsylvania to the days in Alabama, no day has been the same. Miami was quite a shock to the system, though. The pace, she said, is the biggest difference between the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market and markets she’s worked in previously.
Also, Finnie said she wholeheartedly believes new journalists need to start out small and work their way up.
“My foundation has come from being in a small market where you can make certain mistakes. It’s a little bit slower,” said Finnie. “You have time to adjust. You’re learning how to become a journalist and you’re also working on becoming yourself.” She urges new journalists not to rush into big markets in order to have time to focus. “Don’t rush it.”
“If you don’t do an internship, you lose that experience that you can bring to an interview.” – Alex Finnie.
Finnie is a huge proponent of internships. Those experiences, she said, separates you from other journalists looking for their first job. “If you play your internships right, you have the opportunity to work with people who are in the business by working on your reel and asking those people loads of questions. If you don’t do an internship, you lose that experience that you can bring to an interview,” said Finnie.
Finnie credits her aunt’s guidance in helping her expand her career. “I remember her [Wendy Williams] telling me, ‘you say no to nothing and you get comfortable with being uncomfortable because the most successful people are the ones who see an opportunity. They may be scared out of their mind and they may not know what they’re doing, but they will never say no.” She has carried that advice with her throughout her career so far. Finnie said she understands that responsibility will help to further her career, and that’s why she has made sacrifices.
Finnie said she challenges journalism students not to become lazy or make excuses. Another person is always ready to move forward and lazy journalists will be left behind, she said.
And also, “You have to enjoy the journey,” said Finnie.
David Baxley is Assistant Professor of Mass Communications, Francis Marion University, and the president of SPJ South Carolina. Baxley worked in broadcast news since 1999. He is also a meteorologist. Before entering academia in 2016, Baxley worked as an investigative producer at WIAT-TV in Birmingham, Alabama, for two years. Baxley is a regular contributor to the SPJ Region 3 website, SizingUpTheSouth.com.