ORLANDO, Fla. – Making history as Central Florida’s first African American primetime weekday news anchor, Annetta Wilson told News 6 it is her mission each day to continue to inspire the younger generation of journalists, while also giving back to the same community she’s called home for the past four decades.
Wilson was hired at News 6, formerly known as WDBO-TV, in 1978. She worked her way through the ranks from general assignment reporter to morning news anchor, later taking over the 6 p.m. anchor desk alongside late TV legend Ben Aycrigg.
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“It was a time where women in general were beginning to populate newsrooms,” Wilson said. “And for an African American woman, that was even more special. I could count on one hand the number of Black reporters in the market.”
Wilson worked at Channel 6 from 1978-1983, then returned once again as an anchor from 1995-2000, after moving to New York and returning to work part-time at a different local station.
Wilson is a 1978 graduate of Florida A&M University where she completed her journalism degree with honors (Summa Cum Laude). She then became a reporter in her hometown of Panama City, Florida, also making history she said as the first African American television news reporter in the city.
“I was fresh out of college and bright-eyed and wanting to take on the world like journalists do. So it was a wonderful time,” Wilson said.
Though she told News 6 her journey to becoming the successful journalist and woman she is today wasn’t always pleasant. She grew up in segregation in Panama City and helped to integrate her middle school.
“Imagine being 12 years old and going to a school where no one wanted you to be there anyway,” said Wilson, who only stayed at that school for a year because her parents didn’t want her to experience an environment that physiologically draining. “When I think back on those times it was absolutely crazy.”
She told News 6 that even throughout her career, she faced hair discrimination and also racial discrimination while out reporting the news in Orlando.
“There were people who didn’t want to talk to me, who would ask the videographer a question rather than talk to me. But we were a team, and you do what you have to do to get the job done,” Wilson said.
Wilson also spends her free time mentoring young journalists and working to inspire the next generation. She said it’s important that all voices be represented in newsrooms.
“I hope the young African American men and women and people of color in general embrace their own perspective while certainly telling the story in an unbiased way,” Wilson said. “It is your job to show up in the best and highest way possible because the children are watching, even those who haven’t been born yet.”
Wilson has been recognized and awarded by numerous professional organizations for her outstanding work as a journalist and for her legacy, including the Central Florida Association of Black Journalists (CFABJ). Current CFABJ President Tammie Fields released a statement about Wilson’s legacy saying, “As Central Florida’s first African American weekday evening news anchor, Ms. Wilson’s legacy continues. She is a trailblazer who continues to give back by serving as a role model and mentor to so many journalists who follow in her footsteps.”
Wilson said her career and success as a journalist would not be possible without her parents and the other journalists who came and paved the way before her, particularly African American journalists who worked in Central Florida and across the state of Florida.
She also worked alongside veteran News 6 photographer Tee Taylor, who also made history as one of the first Black photographers in Central Florida.
“She was good on the anchor chair and set the world on fire with her charm and her trademark wink at the end of every newscast,” Taylor told News 6. (Read more about Taylor’s legacy here.)
Wilson said her faith, perseverance and persistence have been key into making it where she is today.
“I was always one that was like, ‘Oh that door is closed, let’s see what happens if I go in there,’” Wilson said.
She is now the mother of three adult children and has a successful media coaching business where she helps people better communicate and deal with the media.
Her business is called Annetta Wilson Media Training and Success Coaching. Read more about it by clicking here.