Many New Orleanians wouldn’t think of starting each day without a strong cup of coffee and the morning news with WWL-TV and Sheba Turk. Born and raised in New Orleans’ Seventh Ward, Turk forged a path from girl next door to successful career woman, empowering and mentoring others along the way. In her new autobiography “Off Air, My Journey to the Anchor Desk,” Turk gives a special glimpse behind the anchor desk and recounts her journey with inspiring and humorous stories, mentorships with award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien and CNN executive Kim Bondy, and her special connection to her hometown city and beyond.
Q: Why did you decide to write your new book “Off Air, My Journey to the Anchor Desk?” I always wanted to write a book. I just didn’t know that it would be this one. Once I got on TV, aspiring journalists started reaching out to me asking for advice with their own careers. This book is my answer to all of their questions. I figured that I would write a book reflecting back on my career when I retired one day, but I knew that this book needed to come out now to help all of the young people coming behind me as soon as possible.
Q: What was your biggest career obstacle and how did you overcome it? My biggest career obstacle was transitioning from behind the scenes to being in front of the camera. I started at WWL in 2011 just a few months after graduating from the University of New Orleans. I was an associate producer, writing for the morning news, but I really wanted to be a reporter. It took me months to get up the courage to make a move to seriously make an effort to get a reporting job. Eventually, I landed a reporting job in Lafayette, but I ended up not taking it because they offered me the traffic reporter position at WWL.
Q: What words of encouragement do you have for young people, especially little girls, looking to get into journalism? I have so much to say to young people, especially to young women who want to be in this business, that’s why I wrote a whole book about it! Get an internship and learn all aspects of the business. That will help you figure out which role is right for you. Don’t be afraid to move to another city to get the position you want. Don’t just sit at the desk answering phones in New Orleans or New York. Go to that little town in Louisiana and be the reporter because soon enough you’ll have options for reporting jobs in places you do want to be. Never compare yourself to anyone else. Your journey is your own.
Q: Your book has a very meaningful foreword by journalist and mentor Soledad O’Brien. Who are some others that have inspired you in your journey (family, teachers, etc.)? Soledad O’Brien wrote the foreword for my book, paid for me to finish college, got me an internship at CNN and is still a friend and mentor. Yes, she is that amazing! We met through my college professor, Kim Bondy, who drew my interest from newspapers to TV news and has changed my life with her advice and guidance. My mom has been the biggest warrior in my journey from day 1 and has sacrificed so much to get me to where I am. My dad has kept me laughing through the highs and lows. There is not enough room to list all of the amazing people who have guided me along in my TV career. Gina Swanson…Mike Hoss…Sally-Ann Roberts (who pushed me to write my book), and my current co-anchor Eric Paulsen. I have been beyond blessed to sit beside some of the greats and pick up so much wisdom and guidance from them.
Q: What does it mean to you to be a part of the PowHerful Foundation, empowering young women across the country from low-income families? Soledad O’Brien’s PowHerful Foundation has been very important part of my journey. The foundation paid for me to finish college. After I graduated and got on air at WWL, I became a mentor through the foundation. I have been mentoring a mass communications student at Dillard since her freshmen year. Her name is Tassion and she graduates this May. She actually just snagged a job as a camera operator at WWL. I could not be more proud of her. She is like the little sister I never had. The foundation also holds free, day-long enrichment conferences all around the country to provide young women with educational, professional, and personal development. I travel around the country to emcee those conferences and it is so amazing to be part of Soledad’s mission to empower young women.
Q: New Orleans has just elected its first female mayor. Do you see the role of women in leadership positions, especially women of color, in New Orleans changing for the better? I am so excited that we have our first female mayor. It is long overdue. I certainly hope that all women are inspired by this historic victory and step up in their own career fields. Women still have a long way to go in the fight for equality: the gender pay gap, parental leave policies, and double standards when it comes to appearance are all major issues. I do believe that things are headed in the right direction. I tell young women do your part: Help other women, fight for equal wages if you know that you are making less than your male counterparts- don’t just accept that they deserve more, and speak up when something is wrong even if it’s something has become normalized in our society.
Q: What has been your favorite assignment or interview to date? My favorite interview has been with the co-hosts of the talk show The Real. I love Tamera Mowry from her Sister, Sister days and Adrienne Bailon from the music group 3LW, so it was super exciting to meet them in person. They were really sweet, and we had a very fun interview.
Q: Who is one person (not necessarily from New Orleans) you would love to interview? J.K. Rowling! I am a huge Harry Potter fan. Her writing is everything. I have a million questions for her about the series… her life… her writing process. I don’t know her, but I love her.
AT A GLANCE
Born: New Orleans, 7th Ward
Education: St. Mary’s Dominican High school, NYU, UNO Grad
Favorite Book: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Favorite Movie: The Wizard of OZ
Favorite TV Show: The Wendy Williams Show
Favorite Food: I love sushi!