Some people crave routine; not Fredricka Whitfield. The anchor of CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield, which ranks No. 1 among the coveted 25–54 demographic, says she prefers being on her toes. “It’s the thing I love most about my job,” says Whitfield, a fifty-two-year-old mother of three. “You never know what the day’s going to bring.”
Her work has taken her to such far-flung places as Southeast Asia, where she covered the 2004 tsunami disaster, and Macedonia, where she spent a month in 1999 interviewing refugees. During the latter trip, her stay was extended to the point she almost missed her wedding to Atlanta photojournalist John Glenn. She returned to the States with less than a week in which to buy a dress and dash to the altar. It’s a scenario that would stress even the calmest of brides, but not Whitfield. As she puts it, “Living out of a suitcase and making adjustments is what I’ve done my whole life.”
Indeed, as the daughter of champion Olympic runner Mal Whitfield, she crisscrossed the globe throughout much of her childhood. Her father was a goodwill ambassador to countries such as Kenya, Uganda, and Egypt, and she spent her formative years listening to him motivate young athletes. “One of the most important things he taught me was to run my own race,” she recalls. It’s something she says she carries with her in the cutthroat world of television news.
Whitfield herself now does her fair share of motivating, delivering keynote addresses to students at the Georgia Tech College of Engineering and her alma mater, Howard University. She says she loves to encourage students, particularly women, to pursue their academic goals—and never take the easy road. “For me, I always want to feel like I can be better, learn something new, and test myself,” she says. “I don’t ever want to feel complacent.”