Where Are They Now? - Q&A's With Notable Jenks Grads
Sharon Phillips - FOX23 News Reporter
Each week throughout the 2016-17 school year, the new Where Are They Now? series will feature a Q&A with a notable Jenks graduate. In these profiles, Jenks’ alums from all over the country, from multiple generations, and from a wide array of career paths, will share how their Jenks education set them up for success and how they have become leaders in their industry and community.
Sometimes one class or one teacher can set a course for a student’s future. Sharon Phillips, class of 1995, had her life changed during her senior year of high school when she realized she wanted to tell stories for a living. In 12 years as a member of the Oklahoma media – both in print and television – Phillips has covered everything from education, courts, and crime to devastating weather events like the Moore tornado, and President Obama’s visit to Oklahoma. Since 2008, Phillips has been a reporter at FOX23 News where she contributed to the Emmy award-winning morning show and was part of the team that won an Edward R. Murrow Award in 2014. She and her husband Bobby, an officer with the Bixby Police Department and a member of the Southwest Area Tactical SWAT team, shared a dream to become parents and on June 2, 2014, their beautiful daughter Aerilyn was born. Being a mother to her miracle baby is a dream come true for Phillips.
What are your fondest memories of attending Jenks High School?
Phillips: My fondest memories of attending Jenks High School are the friendships that I made while I was a student there, and the opportunities to be a cheerleader and part of the track team. Jenks is known for its incredible athletes and sports teams, and I am proud to be a part of that.
Was there one particular teacher or principal who inspired you or made a lasting impact in your life?
Phillips: The first day of my freshman year I barely knew a soul at Jenks. I was timid and shy and didn’t have a friend in the world. I sat down in the area in front of the Frank Herald Gym to eat my lunch alone, when Principal Bill Risenhoover came over to me. He sat down next to me and made me feel at home in such a big, new place. I will never forget his kindness that day or the way he made me feel as a new student in a large school district.
How did your time at Jenks High School effectively prepare you for college and career?
Phillips: Being a student at Jenks High School prepared me to be outgoing and to be a go-getter in my job. I took a broadcast class taught by Mrs. Quinn when I was a senior and I knew right away that I wanted to be a journalist and tell people’s stories. That class gave me direction for my future and really got me excited for a news career. I owe my career choice to Mrs. Quinn and that class she taught at Jenks High School.
What does it mean to you to be able to cover news and tell stories in your home state?
Phillips: I am so honored to be able to cover the news and tell the stories of people here in Oklahoma and especially my hometown of Tulsa. Most journalists don’t get the opportunity to work in a market where they grew up, and I am so thankful to be a part of a news team in my home state.
Is there one story or event you’ve covered that is particularly memorable for you?
Phillips: I recently covered the story of a boy who found out he was cancer free. His mother took a video of herself telling him that he no longer had cancer, and the video went viral. I got to meet him and his mother and tell their story to our viewers on FOX23 News. It was an incredible moment to be a part of that and his life story.
What qualities/characteristics does it take to be a successful reporter?
Phillips: Working out in the field in unusual weather conditions and under strict deadlines can be difficult at times. We are often called to be in multiple shows and to turn several stories in one day. To be a good reporter, you have to be flexible, calm under pressure, and be relatable to the viewer. Credibility is everything so it is vital that you always have your facts correct and tell both sides of the story. If you can be active while speaking, that also makes for good television. Viewers like to really be a part of the story, so if you can show them what happened in a demonstrative way, it can be really compelling.
Do you have aspirations to work in a larger market or do you hope to stay in Tulsa as long as possible?
Phillips: Before I got married and had my daughter, I wanted to work in a larger market. Even though Tulsa is my hometown, it’s every journalist’s dream to move up and get better at your craft. Now that I am married and a mother, I am thankful to be here in Tulsa and report in the community that I love.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job? What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Phillips: One of the most challenging aspects of my job is coming up with several story ideas each day that can lead a newscast. We have a large number of reporters at our station who all turn two stories a day, so finding a story that hasn’t been done before or is not already assigned to someone else can be challenging. Also, working in all types of weather conditions can be difficult and dealing with technology can be tricky at times as well. The most rewarding part of my job is telling stories that help people and make a difference. When we do stories about missing children that are found alive, or stolen property that ends up getting returned, those stories bring me a lot of joy and make doing this job worthwhile.
Where do you see yourself in the future both personally and professionally?
Phillips: I would love to eventually anchor the news someday. I love being out in the field, but I strive to be better and to become an anchor would be a dream come true. Personally, I love being a mother to my daughter, Aerilyn. She is my greatest joy and my biggest achievement. I would love to have more children and grow our little family to four.
Sharon pictured with her daughter, Aerilyn, and husband, Bobby.