Cherri Gregg calls herself “the queen of the fish fry.” As community affairs reporter for KYW radio in Philadelphia, Gregg says she finds stories everywhere, from church events to flea markets. But when she started the job in 2011, it took time for her to get to know the community.
“In the beginning, if you want to have the kind of contacts to be a good reporter, you’ve got to ‘get on your grind,’” Gregg says. “It’s hard in a city the size of Philadelphia getting to know everybody. It takes persistence to build it block by block.”
For Gregg, that meant going to police advisory board meetings after work and visiting recreation centers on the weekends, showing up when she wasn’t working on a story. “The first time you go into a community shouldn’t be when there are sirens and blood on the ground,” she says.
Gregg now dedicates two days a week to expanding her network. She hands out business card everywhere and uses her personal Facebook page to connect with people, most of whom have never met a journalist before. “If you become the go-to person for a community you get stories because you are the only one they know.”
One example: When a young black man posted a Facebook Live video of a traffic stop, saying he was being targeted, someone tagged it, “Cherri Gregg, OMG.” Gregg checked the man’s Facebook page, found multiple videos of traffic stops, and contacted the man. It took three weeks for Gregg to verify his claim that he had been stopped a dozen times in three months, a story that turned into an exclusive for the 11 p.m. TV newscast.
Natural curiosity also pays off. Gregg was walking downtown one evening and noticed a woman doing something unusual. Gregg knocked on the woman’s car window. “What are you doing?” she asked. “I’m feeding Philly,” the woman answered.
— Cherri Gregg (@cherrigregg) September 15, 2017
It turned out the woman sold T-shirts to raise money and went out by herself at night, feeding homeless people. Gregg got a great story for both radio and TV just by staying observant and asking a simple question.
“A lot of it is knowing how to be a people person, to get people to talk to you and do things for you,” Gregg says. “You’ll get a lot of no’s in the beginning. It will be awkward.” But keep trying. Gregg is living proof that practice really pays off.