For the ten years you worked at FOX, you had an unpredictable ride.
You received a letter from Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, covered the Chandra Levy murder investigation and broke news on the Monica Lewinsky scandal. You’ve since switched over from political madhouse ticker updates to the slow paced world of murder trials over at HLN. Did you have to rework your whole mentality in the new coverage genre? It’s like the news leaks, slowly but surely, and the bulk of coverage is wondering what could happen, right?
Whether it’s covering politics or trials, it’s far from slow at any moment in the news world. I’m still covering everything from an NSA leaker to George Zimmerman’s trial, and both are equally fascinating. HLN is having big success with gavel-to-gavel trial coverage and all the various twists and turns. On my WOR Radio show, we’ve had on everyone from President Jimmy Carter to Vice President Dick Cheney to Tom Hanks and Dog the Bounty Hunter. There is never a dull day.
How do you stay focused with a details oriented job? Like filling in for Nancy Grace? You need to know when a girl disappeared, what time, which three people may be suspects and then, separate reported speculation from fact.
Everyday is like cramming for a college exam, except my test is LIVE on the air! Plus, the audience ultimately gives us the grade. I’ve always been an information junkie who likes to be over prepared and known for burning lots of midnight oil, but I am also lucky to work with great producers who certainly know their stuff as well. Broadcasting is a team sport.
Did you ever report on crime so sickening, you couldn’t believe it was real?
Sadly, this has happened several times. The hardest cases to me are the ones that involve children. I covered the Newtown shooting last year and was so sickened to learn that a 20 year old would open fire on helpless children and teachers at an elementary school. Some crimes are so horrific and unexplainable.
The Chicago musical turned movie was based on real events in Cook County back then: the public’s real desire for crime stories that ultimately made murderesses into temporary media starlets.
Why do you think people still crave this almost 100 years later?
People are fascinated with “why” people can commit such horrible and surprising acts against strangers or ones they love: how a human being can be so twisted to do something so terrible. It is amazing how people are so glued to every development in these large profile cases such as Casey Anthony, Jodi Arias, etc. Having covered crime cases for many years now, I have seen every kind of defendant, from a homeless grandmother to a successful businessman in a three-piece suit. They come in all shapes and sizes.
When you do the radio show or contribute to TV’s Inside Edition, where do you search for story ideas? What draws you in?
My home and office are like “mini-news bureaus” with multiple TVs on virtually ALL the time and stacks of newspapers and magazines.
I am always voraciously checking various online news sites looking for new nuggets or interesting angles. My Blackberry is constantly beeping! After decades in the news business, my contacts are sending me news tips from around the world at all hours of the day and night. I am thankful that I am well conditioned to get minimal sleep! I tell young journalists that is often the key to success, plus a good sense of humor and patience.
Years ago, the American edition of Cosmopolitan named you a Fun Fearless Female. Why do you think you deserved this honor? What makes you fearless?
Answering these questions for starters! Secondly, I like to experience life to its fullest and I’ve never shied away from interviewing a despot or someone in the remote regions of Afghanistan or elsewhere. I’ve checked off quite a few things on my bucket list already, including doing a skydive with the Army’s Golden Knights at 13,500 feet.
What about you is fun?
You have to have some fun besides working. The worst Manhattan workaholic has fun at some point, so please don’t say, “But I work too much to have fun!” You have to like some kind of indoor or outdoor activity, or you wouldn’t smile as much as you do.
I’m a “work hard, play hard” kind of gal. Even though I’m constantly on planes (and jumping out of them) for work, I love to travel when I’m off air too! I’ve hung out with the penguins in Antarctica, rode mopeds in Mykonos, taken hot air balloon rides over volcanic peaks in Turkey and climbed an erupting volcano in Hawaii! Maybe I should have gotten a Fun and Fearless title for what I do off air as well!
Advising women who want to be better journalists or go into journalism is pretty vague.
The media world’s love affair with technological advances changed culture forever in the last decade. So I shall pose it like this. What is problematic today? What do you hate most about the mass media’s new makeover and feel needs to change with women in journalism?
There is so much Information overload for all journalists. There are so many websites and blogs and it’s become even more imperative to know how to sort fact from fiction. As far as women in journalism, I think that we’ve come a long way since I started in the business. I still think we need to work on pay equity overall and seeing more women in management positions. But we have made great strides in all areas of journalism on and off air, and that makes me very happy. I believe opportunities for women now are endless.
Do you think women want something different in their TV news than men? And the same for the written word: newspapers and magazines? If so, what?
I think we all want different perspectives and compelling story telling, which explains why there are so many cable channels and other news sources on line today. We all view and read news through our own visions and life experiences. Whether you are a man or a woman is secondary. I’ve had guys stop me on the street and ask me about a fashion story, and then women call into my show about motor sports. Everyone has different interests and views about how they see a case or political election come out.
Years ago, you wrote a bestselling book on Anna Nicole Smith.
Because you are on the reporting side, do you lead your life carefully with the understanding of how someone could one day write a book about you posthumously? I’m not alleging you’ve ever done what the Playboy centerfold was rumored to have lived. It’s really a weird thought I had: what if people one day reported on you as you do them? What if, at your death, there were 24/7 news programs devoted to what you might have been like, “the untold story?” How would you feel being in someone else’s shoes?
If someone plans to do an untold story on me someday, I better start “bribing” my high school friends now! Yikes!!
What are you doing now with all of your projects that you want to promote? How can people meet you, see you, hear you and read what you say?
These past few years have been truly incredible ones for me. Not just because of the work I get to do on TV and radio, but by doing a bestselling book with my own father, which was an incredible and deeply personal experience for both of us. I’ve been speaking all over the world about the heroism of our American military and their families since US troops literally saved my father, who was a Nazi POW in WWII. I want everyone to know what a gift it is to be an American and that freedom is far from free. We are blessed to have great men and women in our military. For all my latest appearances, and especially how you can help our troops, check out QuietHero.org and follow me @RitaCosby on Facebook and Twitter. As you can imagine, I am always tuned in!!!