Joy-Ann Reid has become a national treasure. As one of few black faces in an anchor chair on MSNBC after the network dealt with the sudden departure of Melissa Harris-Perry in February 2016 and this February’s exit of Tamron Hall, Reid is one of only three African Americans with a regular show on the network. And while Reid’s success can be attributed to her in-depth reporting, scathing commentaries and downright willingness to go there on every topic, the newswoman also has had a firm pair of shoulders on which to stand, in the form of Yvette Miley.
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As a top MSNBC executive, Miley has been credited with advancing Reid’s career. It also doesn’t hurt that Reid’s show, AM Joy, is now handily beating CNN in her time slot for the first time ever.
And this weekend in New Orleans, Miley is being presented with the Chuck Stone Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual National Association of Black Journalists convention. The honor goes to a journalist with at least 15 years of experience.
Miley is perhaps the top African-American executive in broadcast news.
She started her career in broadcasting in 1991 and in 2001 she was named vice president and news director of the NBC station in Birmingham, Ala. Under her leadership, the station’s newscast jumped from third to first place in the late-news category. Miley joined MSNBC in 2009 and soon became a senior vice president. In 2015, Miley was given the added responsibility of head of diversity and inclusion for both MSNBC and NBC News.
In an exclusive conversation with The Root, Miley gives advice to others on advancing and discusses MSNBC’s ratings blowup in this breakneck news pace in the age of Trump.
“At this point, MSNBC is enjoying an absolute rating bonanza,” Miley says.
“I think it’s attributed to the fact that viewers are more engaged than ever,” she says on the big ratings gains. “I think it’s the impact of fake news, and people have become even more engaged and want to know what’s happening.
“They’re tuning in in record numbers,” Miley adds, “and I think it’s just an incredible, unquenchable thirst for information, and that’s what I think is driving people to a platform in broadcast digital and other [platforms].”
Miley also expanded on comments she made after accepting an award at a pre-White House Correspondents Dinner event last year.
“I believe that it doesn’t matter if you are a journalist; in whatever industry you are in, you must learn to tell your own story. I say that because we believe that our hard work will speak for us. Hard work does, but it doesn’t speak loud enough. We must learn to tell our story,” she says.
“If we want a promotion, we must ask for one. If we want a raise, we should ask for one as opposed to waiting for someone to come to you with the promotion or with the raise. That’s what I mean by tell your own story. Be able to articulate what you bring to the company; what you bring to your division; how you’re making your business better,” Miley says.
“You must be able to articulate that for your bosses because sometimes they might know that you bring value, but they may not be able to articulate it themselves,” she continues. “Don’t wait for someone else to tell your story, you tell your own story, and you are your best communicator about what you are doing and how you are contributing to the organization.”
Unlike many in a tough business that is known for its cutthroat ways, Miley is a well-respected mentor who has helped others, and she credits her mother’s influence and guidance for her success.
“There’s a great quote from Alice Walker that says, ‘Mom knew what I needed to know without knowing the pages herself.’ My mom didn’t finish elementary school or high school and didn’t go to college. But she knew that was the path that I should be on,” Miley says. “She taught us the value of hard work and she taught us that if you want something value yourself. I would say that my mom was my first mentor.”
As for the NABJ award, Miley says, “It’s very humbling to have that honor, but the honor is not about me the individual. I think the lifetime achievement award speaks to the people that you touch and you interact with. So it’s not about me; I think that award is about all the journalists who look like me, working wherever they are working in newsroom or at a digital outlet who are representing the good that we do as journalists working hard telling great stories.”
The executive concludes that “the lifetime achievement award might have my name on it, but it’s not something that I wear for myself; this is a team sport.”