Hall of Fame bound WLNS-TV 6 anchor Sheri Jones would rather be right than first
In the midst of an award-winning 30-year career as television news anchor and journalist at Lansing CBS affiliate WLNS-TV 6, Sheri Jones is a member of the 2018 class entering the Michigan Association Broadcasters Broadcasting Hall of Fame on August 14 at Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
“Just even hearing you say that just says, ‘Is that really me?’ I mean I still am humbled and honored. I really can't even believe it, you know? I'm the third female anchorwoman to go into the Hall of Fame. Robbie Timmons and Glenda Lewis' mom are the others,” says Jones.
“It is just overwhelming and people have been so kind. You go along with your career and you do your job, you really get invested in the community and you take some chances. You stay true to who you really are, what you believe in, the ethics of what you do, and all of a sudden you have a 30 year career.”
Jones says developing her renowned Crime Stoppers series and being asked by Ross Woodstock to anchor the 11:00 news as a 24-year-old are career highlights. And while she says television news has changed over her 30 years in the business, “it's really changed the most in the last five years or so.
“We're really multimedia journalists. We go out on many different platforms now. Going on Facebook Live, when you arrive at the scene, is the first thing that you do. You send out a tweet to let people know where you are or if there's any situation that requires a traffic backup or some road closures.
“Social media has changed the way we do our job. Twitter certainly has. And there's a big difference there. Twitter is just, ‘Hey, I just saw this happen or I heard this happen.’ There doesn't have to be any accountability or ethical ramifications for that. Then it's up to us to get our sources to confirm that, to make sure that it's accurate and fair and unbiased and then we put it on the news.”
The field of journalism is under siege, often from the highest office in the land.
“Journalists really write the first draft of history and it's really important for us to continue to have that voice, to be the checks and balances for our community, our counties, our cities, our states, our country. So sometimes it gets very frustrating when people have a negative view, which sometimes if things are sensationalized or not fact checked can happen. But I feel like many times we're under siege for what we're trying to do, which is just get the information out there for people and help educate them, help them make well informed decisions and let them know what's going on in their own community.
“That's why I really believe in local news. So I can't really control what happens at the national level, but locally my philosophy has always been I want to be right, then first. It's always more important to be right than first. And I've lived by that philosophy and we've been beaten a few times, but we're always right. That's so important to me.”
Jones says her advice for young people who want to break into television or communications is to become fact-checking storytellers.
“Try not to get caught up and blur the lines between social media and the news media. Try to make sure that you're good storytellers, that you fact check, that you have someone else proofread your story, that you run it by someone else. Make sure that you have both sides of the issue, multiple sides of the issue. Not just one source. It's not good enough.
“But also be prepared. Know how to use a camera. Understand the benefits of social media when it's used correctly. The classes in journalism are critical. I had some of the toughest professors at MSU. If you misspelled something, if you had a factual error, you dropped from a four point to a three point like that and we all thought that's so harsh.
“But what we learned and what I've tried to tell the reporters is every word has weight. Is or isn't are the simplest words. We don't look at them that way but they change the fact of the whole story. So every word counts and that's why my professors graded me so difficultly, but wow, did they teach me some great lessons.”
Jones is a proud Michigan State University alumna.
“I love Michigan State University and my blood bleeds green. Michigan State gave so much to me and I'm so lucky to still be giving back. That's why one of the reasons people ask, ‘Why did you stay in mid-Michigan for 30 years?’ And I say, ‘Because I love my university.’
“I am indebted to it. It gave me fantastic experiences when I was an undergrad.”
MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 105.1 FM and AM 870.