After graduating with a degree in broadcast journalism, Tracy (Szerencse) Davis ’04 jump-started her career working behind the scenes in TV news.
She began at WLFI in West Lafayette, Indiana, as an overnight news producer and eventually took over producing the 6 and 11 p.m. news shows, which had the strongest viewership. As Davis was considering her next career move, she heard a tip about a producer’s job in Vermont. It wasn’t the move she imagined, but she took the chance to interview anyway. It turned out the interviewer was so impressed with Davis that it led to a better job offer — executive producer.
“My first day on the job was the first day we were on air,” Davis said. “We had to adapt really quickly.”
From there, Davis helped grow the station over the next five years and advanced to the role of news director.
“I never thought that was going to be my path, and it opened up so many doors for me because I just said yes to learning all the time,” Davis said.
For example, in 2008, amid the troubling times brought on by the global recession, some job roles at the news station shifted and others were vacated. At 24 years old, Davis saw an opportunity to demonstrate her value as an employee and leader.
“I just kept asking to do more and gaining the trust of the GM (general manager) so he would allow me to take on more responsibility,” Davis said. “I went from an executive producer role to a news manager role to a news director role. So, I grew a lot in Vermont. That’s probably where I got the style of leadership that I have today.”
She is a leader who embraces teamwork.
“It’s a lot about collaboration and mentorship, and letting people have a voice but ultimately leading them in the right direction,” Davis said.
“When I was younger, my thinking was black or white. As a leader and a manager, you have to realize that there are many shades of gray.”
The Franklin College undergraduate experience helped prepare Davis for the newsroom and as a leader. She honed skills in investigating, writing, reporting, photographing, editing and producing through coursework, internships and participation with “Inside Franklin,” a video-recorded weekly news program founded by students in the ’90s.
Joel Cramer, J.D., who recently retired as the Pulliam School of Journalism director, remembers seeing early glimpses of Davis’ professionalism.
“She was always hard-working, always friendly, always doing something,” Cramer shared. Those characteristics helped Davis flourish after college and have helped sustain her career.
After her stints in Vermont and three years of directing news for a Wisconsin TV station, Davis received what most people would consider their big break — a job offer in bustling downtown Chicago. She worked for four years in the Windy City, as an assistant news director for NBC. During that time, she helped provide in-depth news coverage surrounding the murder of George Floyd and the spread of COVID-19, as well as other distressing events. Similar, emotionally challenging work has continued since she became vice president of news for NBC Connecticut in 2021.
One example is Davis’ involvement in producing “Just Yesterday: Sandy Hook 10 Years Later.” The docuseries, available on NBC Connecticut’s website and Peacock streaming service, focuses on survivors impacted by the mass shooting deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut, in 2012.
“We looked at the lives of people that were impacted that day by that terrible tragedy and told their stories about faith and loss of faith, and grieving and how they wanted to grow themselves,” Davis said. She is proud of the empathy and integrity that guided the news team’s work throughout the project, though she recognizes it took a toll.
“Journalists often push their emotions down, and they don’t like to talk about it because the story is not about them,” Davis said. “But, when you cover negative stories over and over and over again, it really can eat away at you. In our newsroom, we talk a lot about mental health and being aware that it’s OK to need help. It’s OK to talk about something if you’re stressed out.”
Leading a resilient news team on top of all the other pressures impacting the industry can be challenging, but Davis said she stays in broadcast journalism because she has always loved it — even as a little girl.
“My sisters and I had a ‘TV station’ in our basement, and our call letters were LMNOP. And we played and practiced. I mean, it was what I was meant to do, right? I just love telling stories.”
Davis and her husband, Jason ’05, who also majored in journalism, have a son, Theo. They reside in Simsbury, Connecticut.
Republished from Franklin College Magazine, Summer 2023
By Ashlyn Myers ’25, Pulliam Fellow
POSTED Oct 4, 2023