Breaking Barriers: Dr. Elayne Anthony discusses being 1st black female anchor at WJTV

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) — You may remember her as Elayne Jackson on TV.

Now she’s all grown up and working to get more diversity in newsrooms. She’s the current Director of the Jackson State University Department of Mass Communications.

WJTV first signed on in 1953 as the first television station in Jackson, Miss. For about 20 years, Black women did not anchor the news at WJTV.

“Don’t tell me it cant be done,” she said to a class of students at Jackson State University. “I sat in the same place you did.”

Dr. Elayne Anthony said she is the first African-American female to intern at Channel 12. After finishing Jackson State in 1973, her boss at WJTV made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. He told her to take a two-week vacation and promised her a reporting job when she returned.

“Then when I came back he said what do you see yourself doing?” she said. “I said I want to be an anchor.”

WJTV is Jackson’s oldest TV station. Just a few years before Dr. Anthony’s debut. Another newsroom in town lost its right to broadcast after supporting segregation. The owners of WJTV wanted to make sure they didn’t get in trouble too.

“I give credit to a gentleman who is now deceased who was the GM at WJTV his name was Owen Alexander. He was a tough GM and businessman.”

Mr. Alexander took heat from viewers. Deputies would often surround the station to make sure Dr. Anthony could safely report the news.  Despite some advances, she still witnessed censorship as people here and across the country fought for equality.

“A lot of times when we were on the air at the time, if there was a story out there that dealt with the Civil Rights movement they would put a card up that would say trouble on the line. There was no trouble on the line at that time, they just did not want that broadcast.”

Anthony said she doesn’t hold any bad feelings and says it was a different time. She’s just happy to be a part of the history at WJTV 12.

 

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