With a firm Myrtle Beach connection, Meghan Miller brings gratitude & voice of her community

By David Baxley, SPJ South Carolina President, Assistant Professor of Mass Communication, Francis Marion University

Photos above: WBTW News 13 Anchor Meghan Miller delivers news to the Myrtle Beach, northeast South Carolina audience at 5:30 p.m., and 10 p.m. on the local FOX affiliate, WFXB.

CURIOSITY IN JOURNALISM

American pioneer and frontiersman Daniel Boone once said, “Curiosity is natural to the soul of man and interesting objects have a powerful influence on our affections.” Many of us in journalism have a natural curiosity about the world around us. We seek an explanation for mystifying phenomena. We look to make sense of complicated matters. In general, many of us simply want to help others understand.

Meghan Miller, news anchor at WBTW News 13 in Myrtle Beach, S.C., developed that curiosity at an early age. Even in middle school, she found excitement in delivering “news,” or announcements, to her classmates. Her love of reading, writing and storytelling has already turned into a noteworthy career in television news.

A Society of Professional Journalist member, Miller credits much of her success to her longtime mentor Rusty Ray – a former news anchor at WBTW. Ray allowed Miller to shadow him at the television station years ago.  There, she learned more about the importance of making contacts, impactful reporting and teamwork. Miller assembled a news package that aired while she was still a student at Coastal Carolina University.

Photo: Rusty Ray, former news anchor at WBTW News 13, Myrtle Beach, SC, is now a producer/anchor at North Metro TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn. and adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota, Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

PREPARATION MEETS YOUR OPPORTUNITY

Miller said she is a firm believer that hard work and initiative will lead to opportunities.  In college, Miller freelanced for FOX News and CNN when the networks hosted presidential primary debates in South Carolina. “I also took a few gigs as a freelance production assistant for HGTV,” she said. These opportunities are what potential employers want to see on a resume.

Those experiences helped Miller land her first full-time news job.  Her big break came when she participated in a CCU internship fair. She met the news director of WMBF News, and her initiative paid off. “We ended up walking back to her office for a quick hello, and that conversation turned into an offer to interview for an online journalist position.”  

Miller told countless stories at WMBF before taking a job at WBTW in 2014. Over the past ten years, she has covered high-profile cases involving the disappearance of Brittanee Drexel in 2009 and the disappearance of Heather Elvis in 2013.

Miller covered the disappearance of Brittanee Drexel in 2009 from Myrtle Beach, SC, and Heather Elvis who disappeared in 2013. Facebook photos

And, she has also covered her share of natural disasters. The “Thousand-Year Flood,” Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence brought death and destruction to parts of the Carolinas. Miller was at the forefront of delivering life-saving information to viewers in the Myrtle Beach/Florence television market through the stories she told.

“The most recent disasters we’ve experienced have shown me the power of news and the power of storytelling,” Miller said.

“We had the responsibility of not only delivering life-saving information to our viewers, but truly had the ability to change lives through the stories we told in the hours, days, weeks and months after.”

Meghan Miller, Anchor, WBTW News 13

But, perhaps Miller’s most memorable story came in 2008 while covering a huge wildfire in Horry County, South Carolina. “It was the first major, national breaking news story I had helped cover right in our community. For days, we worked around the clock to bring the most comprehensive coverage to our viewers about what was happening.”

Miller covered the Horry County wildfire that was listed as the third largest wildfire in South Carolina history in 2009. Horry Electric photos

The wildfire made a lasting impact on her as a journalist.

“I will never forget the people crying. The neighbors hugging. The smell of lives burnt to ashes.”

Meghan Miller

The wildfire was bittersweet for Miller. In the middle of scorched earth, Miller met her husband – a firefighter with the North Myrtle Beach Fire Department.

TELLING REAL STORIES

Miller said she believes delivering the news comes with responsibility.  “Stories, in my opinion, are the fabric of a community. They show the diversity of a community. The voice of a community. The strength of a community. The weaknesses of a community.  The perseverance of a community.”

From the left, Frank Johnson, Chief Meteorologist, WBTW, and Anchor Meghan Miller, bring the news and weather to the Myrtle Beach viewing area. Supplied photo

Eagerly seeking to earn trust with her viewers every day, Miller does see a problem with the increasing sentiment by some that all journalism is fake. She believes there has been a “trickle-down” effect at the local level.

“I challenge those who call local journalism ‘fake’ to take a hard look at the content being published and aired by local journalists, only.”

Meghan Miller

Local journalism allows people to understand varying viewpoints and perspectives. Miller believes the way journalists tell those stories helps capture that diversity. “Storytelling affords people the opportunity to see the world beyond themselves and in a different light, and that can be a beautiful thing,” according to Miller.

ADVICE TO YOUNG JOURNALISTS

For aspiring journalists, Miller offers a few suggestions. In today’s broadcast news environment, being a well-rounded employee will help your success down the road.  She encourages student journalists to not focus entirely on one role in the newsroom.  

“Knowledge is power in television news.”

Meghan Miller

Moreover, Miller said she believes internships are the key to landing a job after college.  Internships allow you “to see for yourself what it’s like to be in the trenches,” she said. “It also gives you an opportunity to see what vibes with you and what doesn’t.” A newsroom is also the perfect place for an up-and-coming journalist to find a mentor.

Miller spends countless hours working to provide her community with stories – stories that she hopes will make a difference. She features memorable people to help tell those stories. She understands hard work and dedication are required to be successful in this business.

And, most importantly, Miller brings her love of reading, writing and storytelling to her job each day.

David Baxley is Assistant Professor of Mass Communications, Francis Marion University, and  SPJ South Carolina President. 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. To contact Baxley email him atdtbaxley.spjsc@gmail.com