Lights, camera, ‘Action News’

Justin Runquist

Camille Edwards remembers exactly where she was during our world’s most recent epic events.

Do you remember your location when our nation declared war on Iraq? When the lights went out on the East Coast? On Sept. 11?

Edwards remembers because she was responsible for delivering you the news. She’s an assistant news director of Action News at WPVI-6 Philadelphia: a position where she helps present the news that shapes our lives, our city, our nation and our world.

She is the ideal student, as there are no boundaries for her knowledge. And unlike regular workers, she never clocks out each day. News is unpredictable. News never stops. News is part of Edwards’ blood: her job has unlimited challenges and it lasts 24 hours each day.

“You never know what’s going to happen with this job,” she said. “The days never end like you’d think. There’s always breaking news. There’s always weather to report, along with other variables. I love the spontaneity I have here.”

After 15 years in media, Edwards knows how to capture fragments of everyday life and present them in an exciting fashion. “You just get a gut feeling after being in this business for so long,” she said. “I need to make instant decisions on coverage and try to motivate others see outside the box.”

While savvier than most, she keeps an eye glued to local and world events all day, every day.

She can’t help but pay attention. Edwards’ office is stationed next to what she calls the “traffic control tower,” which is the central nervous system of WPVI-6. There she and co-workers listen to CB-radios, track local and world news wires and dispatch reporters and photographers. And quite arguably, her own office allows her to be even more industrious.

With her desk consumed by memos and newspapers, she spends time each day scanning the three televisions that sit across her desk. She also attends to e-mails and alerts that flash across her computer screen in rapid fire sucession. All the while in the background murmurs from the news radio resonates. While news can change her days in a matter of New York minutes, Edwards starts each morning more calmly, sitting in on a daily conference call with other managers by 7:15 a.m. She is one of eight managers of Action News, who collaborate to lead day-to-day operations and establish direction for their telecasts.

“We’re a diverse group and we don’t work in a vacuum,” she said. “We have different backgrounds, ethnicities and personalities. It’s not made of all men, nor is it all women. Some are low-key and some are high-strung. But everyone is full of opinions, and together we create an interesting balance.”

As a woman, as an African-American and a non-Philadelphia native, Edwards believes she brings a very unique perspective to the table. “I claim two cities: Philly and Detroit,” she joked. Edwards grew up in Michigan, but also has roots in Delaware and New Jersey. She also worked in Toledo, Ohio for nearly a year, where she gained experience as a reporter. “No matter where I’ve been though, I’ve always wanted to be in television. If anything, jumping around has really helped me in my career,” she said.

Graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in communication and a minor in English, Edwards took important classes, edited the features section of her college paper and landed big internships to help pave the way toward her dream.

She quickly discovered she was camera-shy, however. “Once the camera turned on, I became nervous, I stuttered, I was uncomfortable,” she admitted. “I just lacked the sparkle you needed to succeed.”After that first trial, she realized her calling was to have a louder say in media leadership and a bigger input in the total product of a newscast.

Today, after having worked her way through management ranks, Edwards reflects on her career with both pride and satisfaction. She recalls the more difficult days like Sept. 11; tragedies, she said. made it tough separating personal emotions from professional duty.

Yet, she beams with excitement when describing the atmosphere in the office during Eagles season, or when the mayor’s race gets hot.

Throughout these events of our world and our lives, Edwards was behind the scenes of it all, projecting the news onto our television screens as she saw it herself.