Northern Michigan sends its love to long-time reporter Diana Fairbanks
Best Broadcast Journalist
The day after the polls closed for Express readers to vote for The Best of Northern Michigan, Diana Fairbanks was starting her new job in Buffalo, New York as the evening anchor for WIVB.
Despite announcing her move over a month earlier, Fairbanks was voted “Best Broadcast Journalist,” receiving an overwhelming number of votes. Along with hundreds of emails, Facebook posts and phone calls, Northern Michigan wanted to show the former evening news anchor of TV 7&4 just how much they would miss her.
MORE LIKE FRIENDS
“Oh my gosh, the support was overwhelming,” Fairbanks recalled over the phone from her home in Buffalo. “You forget how many people watch you when you’re broadcasting the news alone in a room.
When viewers welcome you into their home, they’re welcoming you into their lives. I’ve never felt so loved in my entire life.”
Here are just a handful of comments following her announcement:
“You have been my FAVORITE female news reporter of ALL TIME!” from Laura.
“When I have a bad day I go home and watch Marc and you on the news and it makes my day a lot better,” from Jesse.
“I will miss watching your broadcasts when I come up to Leelanau County,” said Aline.
“I feel like I am losing a friend even though we have never met each other,” said Johnna.
Fairbanks said Facebook has allowed her to stay connected with the folks of Northern Michigan, a group of people who have become more than viewers.
“I really consider them friends,” she said reflectively. “It means so much to get those messages of people checking in to see how I’m doing. It can get lonely out here at times, so it’s nice when people check in.”
A NATURAL TROBADOUR
Fairbanks studied journalism at the University of Maryland, but not before living in places like St. Louis, Maryland and Montana.
“I’m used to living in big cities,” she said, adding Northern Michigan is a unique place to live and work.
“I feel rooted and rounded living in Traverse City. I don’t take that for granted.”
Fairbanks moved to the area in 1999 where she took the job at TV 7&4.
While the decision to take the job in Buffalo was tough, Fairbanks said it was a great opportunity. She made the eight and a half hour drive move just weeks after accepting the December offer. Meanwhile, her husband Brian and daughter Eva remain in Northern Michigan, wrapping up all the details that come with moving (selling the house, finishing the school year, etc.)
So far, Fairbanks has made a point to explore as much of her new home as possible.
“Whenever you move someplace new, it’s your responsibility to find out what makes it special….what makes it great. I love skiing, so I went out and checked out the slopes. Which were great.”
How do they compare to Northern Michigan?
“The runs are a little longer and the pitches are a bit steeper, but Northern Michigan skiing is still great.”
Fairbanks said food is also a great way to get to know a region.
“I’m a big foodie, so I’ve been checking out all the local eats. I’m going over to Lloyd’s Taco Truck today,” she said.
Fairbanks also uses running as a way to explore the neighborhoods and architecture of the town – a double bonus for countering her foodie expeditions.
A NEW KIND OF NEWSROOM
While the pace of her job in Buffalo is similar to that in Traverse City, the environment is much different, Fairbanks said.
“I don’t even know how many people work (at News 4),” Fairbanks said. “That’s probably the biggest difference. There’s a huge number of people.
“At 7&4, there was a period of years where we cut back and there were 15 news people…and that was from top to bottom. So, everybody had to do everything. Everybody reported, everybody shot their own stuff, everybody edited their own stuff.”
Fairbanks credits that type of versatility as not only a valuable trait, but also a growing necessity.
“If you’re not doing it now, you better,” she explains, “because that’s where it’s heading in the news industry.”
In Buffalo, Fairbanks has a complete support team.
“There are people whose only job is to edit.
We have multiple assignment editors, we have a news director, an assistant news director, executive producer, operations manager…a huge anchoring staff, a ton of producers and reporters.”
That kind of support helps eliminate the stress that tends to build when taking on an assignment from start to finish, Fairbanks said.
And while the numbers are fewer at 7&4, Fairbanks said she misses the amount of support generated amongst that tight-knit newsgroup, including her co-anchor of over 10 years.
“I don’t even know how to sum up a decade plus of working with Marc,” she said. “We’re really close friends and there’s a core group of people at that station who’ve been there a long time in the news room who always strive to make it better. I’m just glad to have been a part of that group for a very long time.
“I miss being part of that team because we’ve been though a lot together. It’s nice to have people like that who you can trust.”