1.05.2010

New Year one-on-one with BET News anchor Sharon Carpenter: "Michael Jackson coverage....something I'll never forget"

(Blogger’s Note: Sharon Carpenter is an award-winning journalist currently working as an anchor / reporter for Black Entertainment Television (BET). I was able to go one-on-one with her to look back on 2009 and what's ahead for her in 2010.)

Jesse Muhammad: I have been following you on Twitter, you have had a busy year. Share some of your memorable 2009 moments with our blog readers.

Sharon Carpenter: 2009 was certainly a year for memorable news moments beginning with the inauguration of our first Black president. It was more than an honor to be in DC at the center of this historic event. It's hard to even describe the energy at the inauguration but the simple way to put it is that people were happy, people felt proud, it was an emotional day or few days for so many. Working up to this point I'd covered the primaries, DNC, RNC and the election.

Our news team was dealing with freezing temperatures and very long hours but it didn't matter -- we were all humbled to be at one of the most historic events of our lifetime. One of the highlights of my coverage was the chance to interview general Colin Powell and his wife. He's someone that I deeply respect so it was a great moment for me.

Then in June came the untimely death of Michael Jackson. I happened to be in LA when he passed as I was there to cover the upcoming BET Awards. When I first got news that MJ had been rushed to the hospital in critical condition I was praying that my idol would be ok but I knew work-wise things were about to change drastically. And then we found out he'd died. Rather than dwell on emotions I had no choice but to jump into breaking news mode.



I had to gather all the details to deliver live on 106 & Park as soon as possible. Dodging traffic and avoiding the back to back MJ songs on the radio so as not to get emotional, we rushed to CBS and made it just in time for our hit. That evening we headed to the hospital where Michael had been pronounced dead. Outside was teaming with fans of all ages, races and cultures, who'd been there for hours mourning his death but were now celebrating his life, dancing, singing and sharing stories of why Michael Jackson meant so much to them. It was a real experience to see that and feel the love.

My coverage continued over the next few days as we uncovered more details. I was all over, staying on top of the story, at the coroner's office, outside the Jackson family compound, at the BET Awards which was dedicated to Michael Jackson. For weeks and months later my coverage continued with MJ's funeral and the death investigation.

BET News produced 3 successful news specials on MJ and I was lucky enough to anchor 2 of them. Losing Michael Jackson was a big hit to most of us but to have the chance to be there at the center of this major story was truly an honor and something I'll never forget. I could talk about the experience for hours!

Jesse Muhammad: As a BET news anchor and reporter you get to meet a wide spectrum of people. What was the best interview you did this year? Why?

Sharon Carpenter: Well one of the interviews that was very meaningful to me was with Colin Powell as I mentioned earlier. Another would be an exclusive I was able to secure with John Forte. He gave me his first TV interview since being pardoned by Bush after serving 7 years in jail and this was something several major outlets were fighting to get.

Forte was working with a non-profit called "In Arms Reach" where he mentored children who's parents are incarcerated, through music. We were in the studio with them and then got to interview Forte about some of his own experiences in jail.

Also, I got to speak with Joe Jackson in one of his first interviews since his son's death. That was at the BET Awards.

Jesse Muhammad: Now, let's set the record straight from your perspective. You know, as I do, that BET gets criticized so much by the Black community for it's programming. You seem to be very happy working there. Shed some light on some of the good things BET does that may get overlooked? Why do you enjoy your work at BET?

Sharon Carpenter: People need to take the time out to watch some of the great, insightful and informative programming we're doing at BET News. This year we did specials focusing the spotlight on issues such as obesity, education, healthcare, President Obama's first 100 days in office and the moves he's made since then. With our daily news briefs we keep young viewers up to date with the important stories and issues they need to know about and interesting stories they want to know about. We also work with bet.com to provide extended news content.

This year I did some work with the BET Foundation which is doing some wonderful things in the community. I hosted their townhall at a health symposium they held for young girls. It was great to see how much these children learned there about physical health but also mental health issues like self-esteem, dealing with peer pressure, bullying, etc. You don't hear people talking about these things often enough.

Jesse Muhammad: Okay, don't hold back. What can we expect from Sharon Carpenter in 2010?

Sharon Carpenter: Well in 2010 you can expect me to continue keeping viewers in the know, breaking stories, bringing you exclusives plus much more. I'm already working on some big ideas for some news specials that if I get the green-light, I think you're going to love. BET News has lots of new and exciting projects lined up for this year. I'll continue to do work for both the US network and BET International which is now in the UK plus 34 nations in Africa. In fact I'm hoping to get even more involved in the international efforts this year. You'll also see me keeping you updated on twitter which has become an essential tool for me to get information out there immediately so make sure you follow me there at twitter.com/sharoncarpenter.

Jesse Muhammad: On a lighter note, what was your personal album of the year for 2009?

Sharon Carpenter: The album I loved the most in 09 was basically anything Michael Jackson, especially the classic "Thriller." MJ's music is timeless and is something I'll never get tired of. The song "Gone too Soon" now has special meaning to it. That one's actually very hard to listen to. Another album I love is Jay-Z's "Blueprint 3" as well as Drake's "So Far Gone."

Jesse Muhammad: Thanks for the interview and I like "Blueprint 3" also.