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Meek School Magazine: Sharyn Alfonsi Is On The Move

By Clancy Smith. This story was originally published in the Summer 2013 issue of the Meek School Magazine and has been reprinted with the permission of its publishers. 

Ole Miss alumna and news reporter Sharyn Alfonsi is on the move, specifically from the ABC network to join the team at “60 Minutes Sports.”
Alfonsi graduated from the University with honors in 1994 and has since worked for national networks CBS and ABC. She has reported extensively from war zones and was nominated for an Emmy for her “Made In America” series during her time at ABC.
Stories that Alfonsi has covered include Hurricane Katrina and the Virginia Tech Massacre. There have been so many that no one event stands out as a better reporting job than the others.
Danger has not been uncommon. Alfonsi experienced a very close call while covering the Israel-Lebanon War when Katushya rockets began pounding the bunker where she and her crew were hiding.
“I texted my husband that I loved him and good-bye,” Alfonsi admitted. “I thought that was it.”
Although she has been with two national networks, Alfonsi began her career working for a small local station in Arkansas after sending audition tapes to several small market television stations throughout the nation during her senior year at Ole Miss.
“Most of them rejected me immediately, citing my big hair and thick accent,” Alfonsi said, “but a few were kind enough to write back and give me critiques so I could improve the tape.”
After working several years for local stations, Alfonsi chose to audition for CBS. Her final interview for the job was with Dan Rather. Other reporters warned Alfonsi that he would want to discuss his favorite book, “War and Peace.”
“I read ‘War and peace,’ all 1,400 pages of it, in like two days,” Alfonsi recalled. “I studied the Russian Revolution, Tolstoy, the whole bit, and I was ready, but he never asked me about the book! I was being hazed!”
Alfonsi said that moving to different networks can sometimes be hard after growing close to colleagues, but that change is good, too.
“I work really hard to maintain those friendships,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s all that really matters. Your job, as great as it is, will never love you back.”
Alfonsi gives a great deal of credit to Ole Miss for helping her get where she is today. She notes that the classes and experiences she had in college taught her skills she needed in order to get a good job.
Alfonsi received her start at the campus news station, known at that time as Newscene 12.
“My freshman year, I did the weather,” she remembered. “I was awful, and my hair was so big it covered half the weather map, but I loved working there.”
Dr. Ralph Braseth, who served as Alfonsi’s professor and adviser during her time at Ole Miss, says he always was impressed by the goals that Alfonsi set for herself.
“You hear students say that they want to do a lot of things,” Braseth said, “but Sharyn would always say, ‘I just want to be a kick-ass reporter,’ and that really impressed me.”
Braseth is quick to mention Alfonsi’s humility, integrity, and intelligence.
“Sharyn is sincerely curious about the world, and she loves to connect the dots,” he said. “She’s smart as heck, and she’s not going to be out-worked.”
Although she does not get to come back and visit Ole Miss as much as she would like, Alfonsi does have the chance to return to Oxford every now and then. Once, after an interview with the Prime Minister of Japan, Alfonsi introduced the White house press corps to the town and university.
“We spent the night hanging around the square, eating at City Grocery. they loved it,” she said. “No one wanted to leave.”
Alfonsi still manages to keep in touch with old friends from Ole Miss, especially the “journalism goobs.”
“They text and write me whenever I’m on tv,” she said, “usually to give me hell.”
Alfonsi says that it sometimes feels like she is dreaming and that she is convinced she is the “admissions mistake,” but Braseth says that he could not disagree more.
“She created all this for herself, and she doesn’t always understand that,” Braseth said. “Luck doesn’t just happen. What she has took a lot of hard work.”
In addition to her career, family is very important to Alfonsi. She has been married to her husband, Matt, for 18 years. she and her husband, a Naval Academy Graduate, met in Washington, D.C., during college through a mutual friend. They have a three-year-old son, Wyatt, and a one-year-old daughter, Flynn. Alfonsi admits that it is strange raising kids in New York.
“My son’s first word was ‘TAXI!’ but I have taught him ‘Hotty Toddy,’” she said. “Unfortunately, the only part he gets right is the ‘Ole Miss, by damn!’ part, which is always fun at Sunday School.”
During time off, Alfonsi enjoys cooking, having friends over, watching football, and playing with her children. She said she is happiest in chaos.
Braseth said he would not be surprised to find Alfonsi in the anchor chair of a major network one of these days.
“She knows the background, she knows the history, and she knows the world, and where she belongs is in the news anchor chair for the nightly newscast,” he said.
For now, though, alfonsi is excited to be a part of what she calls her dream job as a member of “60 Minutes Sports.” She said that her ideal interview would be to get the whole Manning family together.
“They’re so talented, generous, and funny, and the family dynamic is great,” she said. “of course, I may be a little biased!”
Her advice to college students working to achieve her level of success is simple.
“Work your tail off and be kind,” she said. “Good things will happen.”

In the time since this story was published in 2013, Alfonsi has gone on to become a contributor on 60 Minutes, she has anchored CBS This Morning, and has filled in as an anchor on the CBS Evening Show. 

For questions or comments email Hottytoddynews@gmail.com

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