The NBC4 anchor returned to its birthplace to cover life in Columbus during turbulent times.
In the middle of that nightmarish year, Kerry Charles landed his dream job in his hometown. In June, as the coronavirus spread and the country struggled with a racist reckoning, the Columbus native returned to the NBC4 news desk alongside Colleen Marshall on weekday evening broadcasts. The upside for Charles: There’s no shortage of topical issues to address.
Charles grew up in the Linden area and was naturally curious about current affairs. His foray into journalism came as a student at Crestview Middle School in the 1990s when he hosted the weekly WCBE 90.5 radio show Kids Sundae. He also served as a presenter and reporter for the Kids News Network, which aired on 10TV. The Linden-McKinley High School graduate was a presenter, reporter, and producer in Cincinnati. Greensboro, North Carolina; Shreveport, Louisiana; and most recently in Atlanta before returning to Columbus, where he previously worked for the ABC / Fox subsidiary.
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At NBC, Charles sits in the seat that was once occupied by Mike Jackson, who left the station to focus on recovering from a massive stroke in early 2019. Marshall, the mainstay on the nightly show, compares the co-anchor relationship to a marriage and says she and Charles are a good match because they share a similar work ethic. “He’s very motivated and very passionate about the stories he wants to tell,” she says.
Charles says he is pushing for coverage that promotes understanding. When his work takes him to his former hunting ground in Linden, he tries to create context for headline-grabbing events.
“We can’t just say, ‘There’s shooting in Linden. ‘There are systemic problems,’ says Charles. “We have to address that.”
When reporting crime there and in other communities, news outlets should describe the underlying historical and socio-economic causes, he continues. “You talk about redlining and white flight, and you talk about the crack epidemic and the opioid epidemic. If you add that amount of stress and add to the pandemic, there are many socio-economic factors. ”
His longtime friend Orie Givens, a Spectrum News 1 reporter in Ohio, lived and worked elsewhere before returning to Columbus. Givens, who started with Charles on the Kids News Network, says their reverse migration offers a unique perspective on local news.
“We’re in this place where we can think about how far we’ve come, as kids on TV and now as adults on TV – as Oprah says, those full circle moments,” says Givens. “I can tell stories about Columbus because I’ve seen the changes from afar. Kerry has that experience too. ”
Although Charles visited Central Ohio throughout his hiking career, the region has continued to develop since childhood. “I remember when Columbus was a ‘cowtown’,” he says. “It was interesting to come back and see how the city has grown.”
The most noticeable changes are the population boom and the increasing diversity of the city. Charles has also been impressed with the development of the broadcasting market over the past decade since he left. A new generation of news directors and on-air talent is increasingly reflecting this diversity. Shortly after joining NBC4, he and fellow African American Matt Barnes and Darlene Hill co-hosted The Conversation, a series of hour-long specials on race and inequality.
The program shows that people are genuinely interested in discussing race, says Charles. “I never thought I’d see that in Columbus.”