Ashleigh Banfield is one of the most successful women in the news business. She’s hosted numerous shows on networks like CNN and is now the host of NewsNations Banfield. But, the news anchor struggled to find guidance in the early days. And now she wants to ensure that changes.
The T.V. personality is on a mission to mentor the next generation of professionals and encourage other people successful in their industries to do the same. That’s why Banfield started the free monthly symposium called “Rising Tide: The Value in Mentoring Others” with guests like Gayle King, Savannah Guthrie, Lisa Ling, Billy Bush, and more. During the sessions, those getting started in broadcast journalism can get advice from the very best in the profession.
As part of this new initiative, I was able to chat with Banfield to find out why mentorship is so important to her, how it’s shaped her life, and why others should seek it out.
How do you define mentorship?
“Mentorship can present itself in myriad ways: a helping hand, a great example, a steady guide. For the most part, I see the most valuable mentors as magnanimous of their time and knowledge. But it behooves a mentee to ask the right questions too.”
Why is mentorship something that’s so important to you?
“Everyone wants to give back. Unfortunately, time and treasure are in short supply in our younger years. But after three decades of broadcasting, I have acquired a fair bit of broadcast “treasure” that I would love to share with those seeking to be better in this craft. I love this industry, and I want to see it constantly improve. If I can share what I know and make it easier for NextGen to be thoughtful keepers of our craft, all the better!”
Why do you think it’s important for current workers and college students?
“Let’s face it; there’s a lot of information out there, and sorting through it is time-consuming, tedious, and can often feel unproductive. The veterans have been to this rodeo a few times, and they can help those just getting started cut a few corners by avoiding the hiccups and pitfalls we lived through. While innovation and technology have changed our industry at warp speed, some things never change; human interaction, telling stories, and clear communication. These are dynamics about which we can provide is valuable intelligence.”
Who are some of your mentors, and how did they change your career path?
“Sadly, I had very few mentors early on in the broadcast business. It was uncommon for women in the 80s to help other women as the environment was extremely competitive. Men, for the most part, saw us as a joke. But the one person who truly changed my life was Jack Ford, defense attorney, prosecutor, legal analyst, and anchor of “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show,” and Court T.V. We hosted the program “Courtside” together, on Court T.V. in the mid-2000s, and Jack spent every commercial break explaining the intricacies of American law to me. I feel I earned a de facto law degree through his generous tutelage.”
What was the inspiration behind Rising Tide?
“I’d always wanted to scale the individual efforts I had made throughout my career to help young people in the business with advice. Dozens and dozens of young broadcasters have reached out to me over the years, asking for my time and helping hone their careers. I did what I could, when I could, but felt this was finally a wonderful opportunity to do more.”
What have you learned so far about mentorship from hosting these symposiums?
“I’ve been so overwhelmed and delighted by the generosity of the dear friends I contacted who have risen to the top of the industry. Without hesitation, those who signed on to be VIP Mentors in the Rising Tide series have done so with aplomb. I thought I’d struggle more in populating the calendar with leading mentors. But the opposite happened. The positive response has been heartwarming.”
How do you recommend people go about finding a mentor?
“It’s important to choose wisely. Identify someone you admire for all the right reasons. Choose a person you know will have time and commit periodically to lunch, coffee, a phone call, or a few emails. It’s important not to ask too much of a mentor, as their time is at a premium. Instead, choose a mentor with whom you identify and feel comfortable because asking the right questions can be as valuable as listening to the best advice.”