Perhaps one of the most familiar personalities to nightly viewers of the news is that of Allison Rosati, who c-anchors the Channel 5 News at 10 p.m. with her close friend and colleague Warner Saunders. The Delaware-born Rosati was raised in Pine City, Minn., and came to Chicago's Channel 5 in August of 1990, when she was hired as a general assignment reporter and anchor. By May of 1997, Rosati had distinguished herself as a pivotal member of the news team and was selected to co-anchor the 10 p.m. weekday news broadcast upon Carol Marin and Ron Magers' departures in that year. Rosati also co-anchors the 6 p.m. news.
Allison Rosati came to Chicago and Channel 5 from WGRZ-TV in Buffalo, NY, where she anchored the 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts from July 1987 to 1990. She also did general assignment reporting for the Buffalo station.
Rosati, an honors graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College with a double major of speech and communications, began her career in Rochester, Minn., in 1985 when she was hired as a general assignment reporter for KTTC-TV and within one year was co-anchoring the 6 and 10 p.m. weekday newscasts there.
A community activist and humanitarian, Rosati has dedicated much of her free time to various charitable organizations. She has volunteered for The March of Dimes, Ronald Mc Donald House, The Salvation Army, and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. A mother of three children, and with another little girl on the way, Rosati is actively involved in an NBC ongoing series entitled "Wednesday's Child," which she hosts. The objective is to place children in adoptive homes, not just any children, but the children who have waited the longest in Illinois to be adopted. Allison also serves on the board of Big Brothers/Big Sisters locally.
The enigmatic and gracious Rosati is an Emmy Award-winning journalist for "Survive Alive," an NBC special and fire prevention piece she hosted and co-wrote. Rosati is also the recipient of the David Award for Achievement in Broadcasting by the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. The Association of Women in Communications also named her "Outstanding Communicator of the Year."
WCT: As a mother of three children, and with another ( little girl ) now on the way, what would you say to the mother of Matthew Shephard if you were able to speak to her right now?
AR: Oh, my gosh. I would tell her that I want to express my deepest sympathies to her, and I pray that she finds some sort of comfort in the fact that even though his ( Matthew's ) death was horrible and tragic, some good has come from it in that people are more aware. That doesn't bring him back, so it is very hard. And I think that once you have a child, you understand the unique love that that is.
In my experience, I think, ( having a child ) was the closest I've ever come to giving unconditional love, and understanding how God loves all of us. It's not about whether you do something right or wrong; it's just because you are. And for her ( Matthew's mother ) , I can only imagine how hard it must be for her to think that someone could hurt her baby because of who or what he was that they didn't like. I don't know how I could offer her any comfort, but I feel for her. Every person, whether it's Matthew Shephard or any other name that comes across in the news, is somebody's little boy, somebody's little girl. Whether or not that child was wanted or not, they still have people who love them. Their passing means something. I did a series of stories about parents who lost children. People are often afraid to say anything, for fear that they'll make you ( the grieving parents ) feel sad. Even though I might make Matthew's mother cry by saying something, I'm sure her worse fear is that he would be forgotten. So I would ask her to tell me about Matthew. What was he like as a little boy? I'd want to bring out her feelings about her son. Because all parents like to talk about their children, even when they're no longer living.
WCT: If you could change just one thing about yourself, what would that one thing be?
AR: ( laughs ) Just one thing? Oh, man! There are so many things …
WCT: Well, you can give me a couple if you want ...
AR: Well, I sometimes think I'm a little too sensitive. I think that I take things to heart more than I probably should. Even growing up, my Mom would always say, "Oh, you wear your heart on your sleeve." Like, something would happen and it would make me sad for days and other people would say "what are you getting upset about that for?" So if I could remain sensitive but not take things so personally, I think that would be a good thing. ( Allison laughs loudly ) I don't know if that's possible though! It's like you want to remain sympathetic, empathetic, but at the same time not always take things so personally, because sometimes I don't think people intend it ( what they say ) to be personal. But I'm working on that! That's just one thing, though. I'd also like to be more athletic on a regular basis. Because exercise is important. Between sleep and kids, my sleep just keeps diminishing so I don't really sleep much anymore. I always say I just can't find time to exercise regularly, and I was doing pretty well there for a while. So I'd like to be more athletically inclined on a regular basis.
WCT: Putting aside your career as a broadcast journalist and anchor for a moment, and speaking from a strictly personal point of view, does a woman, in your opinion have a fundamental right to choose whether or not she carries her unborn child to term?
AR: Oh, God! I don't think I can answer that one as a journalist. Because I know we're supposed to remain objective. I personally couldn't do it ( abort a child ) from a moral standpoint, but I know that's my choice. At the same time, I believe that everyone ( as human beings ) have the right to have a say in what happens to their bodies. Some people carry it to extremes and use ( abortion ) as a form of birth control and I think that's horrible and heinous. But I also realize that there are young women who have a one-night stand with someone when they're 16, and are facing a pregnancy that they can't handle emotionally or otherwise, and I think that they should have a right to alter their life course in that regard because that's a forever kind of thing. Now, that's a personal decision, and I think that every female has the right to choose.
WCT: In what way does the media help the plight of minorities such as African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, gays and lesbians? Or, how can the media work to the detriment of these groups?
AR: Boy, that's a big question. Well, I think the media can always help when it comes to educating the public about issues that are important for them to know as much as they can about. Because the more informed you are, the less biased you may be, and it may even help you to be more understanding about a lifestyle choice or about a way of seeing the world through someone else's eyes. I think the media can help with that in the way that stories are told.
At the same time, I think we can do a lot of damage when we focus on the negative. When the violence always seems to involve someone of a certain ethnic background. Or, when we only present people who have a different lifestyle in a very stereotypical way. But I think we can do a lot more good than harm in that we have the opportunity to show and tell stories with real people, from their voices. So that hopefully more people will see those stories. And we ( the media ) are a very powerful medium because of the numbers of people we can reach in a very expositional and intimate way. When you think about how people change their minds about something, it's usually because something touches them deeply. And television can be very powerful in that way. It can move you. And it moves people to pick up a phone sometimes and call and say, "How can I help that family that doesn't have any heat?" Or, "What can I do to make sure that your daughter has a proper funeral?" So if we do stories and we do them well, and in a way that really can move people, I think we can be very, very helpful to minorities and to those of the gay and lesbian lifestyle. And I think that those who are involved in the media who happen to be African-American or gay or lesbian or Hispanic, have a unique responsibility to bring to the table stories that will help allow them to educate everyone in a way that we hadn't even thought of. That's really being part of the newsroom family. It's important to stand up for who you are and what you are about, because that brings something to the table that others may not have.
WCT: Allison, I know how much you love children, and I know you've been involved in an ongoing series for NBC called "Wednesday's Child." Could you tell us just a little bit about it?
AR: "Wednesday's Child" basically is an opportunity for us to feature children who have waited the longest in Illinois to be adopted. The children are available; the parental rights have been surrendered. These children are basically in foster homes or group homes and they are waiting for a family to call their own. Now, when they first approached me about doing this, I was reluctant. I wanted to make sure that the stories that we did were respectful of these children, and did not come across in any way to embarrass them. If anything, I want to celebrate who these kids are. Show a little bit of their personality and what they like to do. You see, originally they had talked about just interviewing them one-on-one, and then putting together a short little piece. And I said, "No, I want to take them someplace that they want to go. I want to make like a 'Dr.Seuss-today is your day.'" We give the viewer an idea of what the children are like, and a little glimpse of what they ( each child ) might be interested in. And we only get a minute and 30 seconds to do it, so you really got to make it count. It's heart wrenching. I've had children that I've met that have brought me to tears when you hear what they've been through. This little project has brought such great joy; we even have people here in the newsroom who are mentors if they can't adopt.
WCT: I already know you're a day person….
AR: Morning. It's hard when you work nights, let me tell you!
WCT: In your career as a journalist, what was the most nerve-wracking interview you have ever conducted?
AR: Oh, God! The most nerve wracking? There's so many ... I'll never forget one&emdash;this was way back in Buffalo. It's one of the most nerve wracking. I'm interviewing Al Gore. Live. When he was campaigning for President way back when. The first time around, I think. And I was doing a live shot It's the six o'clock news, and he would not stop talking. No matter how many times I said, "Well thank you Mr. Gore," you know, I didn't want to be rude but I couldn't get him to stop talking. And I remember the producers are yelling in my ear, "Wrap it up! Wrap it up!" I thought, "How in the heck am I ever going to get out of this graciously?" I mean, I had already interrupted him like, it had to have been at least three or four times. He just would not stop. And it was just awful. Absolutely awful.
WCT: What gay or lesbian figure do admire the most and why?
AR: That's a great question. There are so many. Well, I like k.d. lang. I love her voice. Ellen DeGeneres is someone I really admire. Maybe it's because she's such a public person, and did so much to raise awareness when she came out on television. And I know that was really difficult for her career-wise. But I had an opportunity to watch her HBO special, and at the end I was truly moved to tears when they showed this montage of clips when she spoke to people in the audience. There was one young woman who was at the very end and she left me almost speechless. She stood up and said: "I want to thank you for what you've meant to me in that you gave me the courage to tell my parents about my choice." I just watched, and realized how powerful that was for so many people who feel ashamed or scared or unsure. Of being OK with that. And so I admire her for what she did. Career-wise she took a big hit.
WCT: If you could pick anyone in the world to interview, who would you select?
AR: ( Allison's eyes get very large ) Wow! I think I would really want to talk to Caroline Kennedy. I mean, talk to her about everything that's happened. But her ability to stay so strong. I would love to talk to her about that, and about her brother and about the realities of what her life is really like on a day-to-day basis. Her memories of growing up in The White House as a member of a big public family. I also think Chelsea Clinton would be fascinating. Because she was somebody who lived through a personal hell that was kept out of the media spotlight and she was trying to have a life too. And I'd be interested to hear her perspective, how does she walk anywhere and listen to the things people say about both her mother and father? I just wonder how she deals with that, and also what she wants to do with her life.
The way I see it, there are those who report and broadcast hard-core news, do insightful features and conduct interesting, perhaps groundbreaking interviews. There are also those who spend a significant part of their lives giving something back to the community, helping to make the world a gentler, kinder place in which to live by their gracious contributions of time and/or money and effort. Then there are those people like Allison Rosati who represent the best of both groups. It seems a safe bet that Rosati does her very best to meet and consistently surpass the expectations placed upon those to whom much has been given.