To speak with her about her job as a News 10-NBC news reporter and anchor was fascinating. With each bat of her eyes, the sparkle shone through someone who is hedonistically content with the place she created for herself as a journalist. Let’s face it, Lynette Adams is a woman who has been reporting live through our televisions for the past 25 years, in the limelight, as a local celebrity. This wasn’t my first time sitting down with Ms. Adams, except the last time she was the interviewer asking me about local parolee issues, so I already knew what I am now sharing with you. This is definitely a woman who cares about our community.
So often, as Americans we sit glued to our televisions nightly after dinner begging for entertainment. A pretty face, well-dressed to a T, gorgeous smile, up-to-date hair styles, and flawless make-up; a small fraction of the true essence of Lynette Adams, a wife, mother, pioneer, an activist, a role model for youth and a phenomenal woman. Lynette hits the streets in the sun, rain and snow, on location, in the trenches and often at less than pleasurable locations dealing with highly emotional issues. Not everyone is someone she likes and just some are people you work to move mountains for. She is often first on the scene, capturing the moments, the raw emotions and the first look at things we need to know about what’s happening in our community.
Sometimes it’s paying tribute to someone who deserves recognition for their courage, commitment and work in the community and other times it is to capture the grief of a mother who lost her child to senseless violence. All day, every day it is something important Lynette shares with all of us. She goes beyond and in every report she gives, she gives a little piece of herself.
When asked: “What is the most important aspect of being a reporter in the Rochester community?” Lynette impressed even me by the genuine and thoughtful answer; “One story can ruin someone’s life. These aren’t just words”. To recognize the responsibility a journalist has to report the truth and know often at times the truth may not always set everyone free becomes a large burden to bear. To be objective at all times, fair, unbiased despite the personal feelings one has is not an easy thing to do.
Rochester, New York was not always the place Lynette called home. She is actually a Syracuse native. At age 14, Lynette left Central New York to begin
schooling just outside of Philadelphia at a historically black boarding academy for young men and women. It is here that she began to develop her sense of self as an African-American and as a woman and developed some of the skills and characteristics that she uses in her job every day, like recognizing the need for assertiveness; a deep-seeded self-confidence and an unrelenting urge to seek the truth. She has also experienced the ugly face of racism and remembers waking up to crosses burning on the front lawn of her school campus.
After graduating, Lynette left the east coast altogether settling in for her next four years in Huntsville, Alabama, again attending an HBC (historically black college). Lynette wanted to be a lawyer, the voice for the underdog. After three years of school, however, Lynette decided she no longer wanted to be in school. She majored in communications and then added business as a minor. After graduating college, her first full-time news-related job was at the Syracuse Newspapers. She landed what she calls her dream job as a reporter at the NBC affiliate in Springfield, Massachusetts.
After spending 3 1/2 years in Western Massachusetts, Lynette wanted to be closer to family. She first applied for work in Syracuse, but didn’t get the job. An opportunity popped up through a colleague who had a friend in Rochester. The rest is history. Lynette has made Rochester her home.
When asked about what is the most difficult part of her job?
“…Having a front row seat to some of the most horrendous acts of violence, heartache and devastation in our community and seeing the impact it has on families. Despite my personal views, experiences or beliefs, I have to remain objective, unbiased as I tell the stories of the people involved even though sometimes they’re heartbreaking.”
What do you want to be most remembered for as a journalist?
“I want to be seen as a friend. I can talk to anyone. Your skin color doesn’t matter, whether you’re a man or a woman, your socioeconomic status, zip code, none of that’s important. At the end of the day I believe we have more things in common than we do that make us different.”
Lynette prides herself on being approachable. She is in the community. She is on Facebook. People can reach out to her personally. Being seasoned in life-experiences, helps someone have empathy for others. Lynette indicates she came from a diverse upbringing and this shaped her into the woman she is today. Her parents instilled great values and Lynette believes hard work pays off. She is grounded by her belief system. Lynette enjoys a close-knit family life. She is a wife and mother of two children ages 20 and 23. Lynette loves fashion, roller-skating and staying fit. She describes herself as “a Ms. Fix-it”. She loves buying old furniture and refurbishing it. She also sews and loves to create things. Lynette believes she can find the beauty in all things broken.
When asked about her experiences as a woman in the world of journalism, Lynette shares it can be challenging.
“Women are often viewed differently. You can’t be a doormat or a push over. You have to learn to be assertive rather than aggressive otherwise you’re seen as a B—-. This is a male-dominated world. If a man goes after something hard he is seen as a go-getter, a woman, a B—-”.
What about when you add you’re a woman and African-American?
“As an African-American woman, I have for many years was treated in my industry as expendable…a dime a dozen. Many newsrooms reflect the philosophy that is pervasive in our society that if you have one African -American, or one non-white person this is equal opportunity. However, as that person of color, to get ahead you have to work twice as hard and you may have to prove yourself again and again.”
The Rochester community felt more like home when compared to the other places Lynette has lived. She enjoyed what the “flour city” had to offer. When Lynette first started in news she says the “celebrity” status was nice. Becoming a household name and being recognized by people was easy to get used to. However, Lynette said as she began to mature she began to understand the importance of what she does; that it’s not about any of that. She says it’s about not only informing people, but making a difference…helping people. This became the foundation of her existence.
Reporting the news exposes Lynette to all walks of life and in the best and worst of times. In Rochester, she says it appears to be a war between the haves-and-the-have-nots. She sees the effects on a city that leads the nation in poverty indicators intertwined with the social problems that come with it.
For example: If you are hungry you cannot concentrate in school. If you don’t have success in school, you are more likely to drop out. The violence and crime are also connected to the cycle of poverty. Lynette, who has been a single mother, says the challenges families are facing are real!
Lynette however, is quick to say there are many people doing positive things and there are many reasons to celebrate Rochester. Last year she spoke at a GED graduation and says her message was one of encouragement. Yet she says it was the graduates who inspired her.
“No matter what labels others give you, you can be anybody you want to be. My life isn’t perfect. We all have setbacks and failures. We all want the same things; to be loved, security, to be happy and to have a piece of the American dream. You have to say I want something different or something more. You can’t let anything hold you back. You control your future”.
Being a mother has had a profound impact on the way Lynette covers stories. It has helped her to keep an open mind, to be compassionate and leave judgment at the door. She says often her thought is of her own children. “This time it’s somebody else’s child, but it could be mine,” she reminds herself.
Often she says it seems too much of what happens in our city is a result of people not being able to handle their emotions. *Anger is a powerful emotion when it is projected outward and used as a way to handle problems. It causes destruction. People have trouble finding themselves. Often they find themselves facing homeless, resorting to self-medication or in the criminal justice system. If only our systematic way of dealing with things could begin addressing these issues before they turn violent a student being left by the wayside or a drunken-driving accident. ( *please attribute)
Lynette indicates the bar is high for her and Rochester journalists. One of the things she values is her friendship with Janet Lomax over the last 25 years. Recently retired, Janet was the anchor main anchor at News 10-NBC for the last 36 years. Lynette says Janet always extended her a hand and pulled her along with her. Her willingness to serve as a mentor over the years definitely meant a lot to Lynette and she believes she has become a better person and broadcast journalist because of it.
Lynette often tells new reporters starting out, if you can make it in Rochester you can make it anywhere. This is a great place to raise your children and people here care, but make no mistake she says it is a competitive news market. She talks about others who paved the way for her or served as role model like Gabe Dalmath and Wanda Miller.
Lynette returns to her opening statements “I am my brother’s keeper. I have a responsibility as a journalist. That responsibility is to find the truth. What I do affects people’s lives. I have to be concerned about my neighbor. I have to care”.
Lynette then shared a story about a person who committed suicide. She covered a story where a janitor was accused of secretly watching girls changing in a locker room. “I’m not excusing the act, however he was a human being and he took his own life largely due to the news coverage. This taught me a very valuable lesson about responsibility and to remember these aren’t just words. People’s lives are affected by what I say.”
Lynette finds solace in her spirituality. She indicates we forget success is often a life-long struggle. She allows her higher power to order her steps each day. When life becomes overwhelming this is where she turns for guidance. She remembers the admonition of Mary Kay Cosmetics founder, Mary Kay Ash…, “God first, family second and career third.” That’s true balance.
She also notes:
“People do not like to see us (news reporters) coming unless they are the ones who called us.”
In closing, I asked Lynette Adams what stories have you covered that had an impact on you? There were many she could recall. Two were tragic and two were uplifting. Two make us question humanity and two make us happy a little extra effort can change someone’s life. This to me is the two sides of journalism. It is a two-sided coin. The pen and spoken word are dangerous and we should never forget the general principles, Lynette holds dear; We are our brother’s keeper. We must care.
The most tragic stories for Lynette Adams were the shootings on Genesee Street at the Boys and Girls club and a fire on Masseth Street nearly 17 years ago that claimed the lives of four young siblings. She says the community outrage, the devastation and destruction of these young lives will be hard to ever forget.
*On the positive side, Lynette recalls the feeling of gratification when the county installed a traffic light on a very busy section of West Main Street in Bulls Head, after a 9-year- old girl was hit by a car and killed. She was crossing the street with her sisters to buy candy at the store. A car stopped to let them cross, but a vehicle that was behind it, passed it and hit the little girl. People complained about how far it was to cross safely at the nearest traffic lights…so people would take a chance and run across the street. Lynette says News 10- NBC’s stories highlighted the problem and the county took action. Lynette says it won’t bring the little girl back, but at least her death wasn’t in vain.
On a more positive note, Lynette feels a sense of accomplishment when she was able to assist people through her journalism and activism. In one case, Snug Harbor, 100’s of residents were being forced out of their homes after the city of Rochester went after the owner for multiple code violations. The tenants had 2 weeks to vacate the premises. Rochester Housing Authority indicated it would no longer pay the rent as long as the apartments were uninhabitable. Lynette says news coverage brought attention to what was quietly happening to these families and assistance was provided and the city went after the owner.
In another example, a child slipped through the cracks in the Rochester City School District and wasn’t going to be able to graduate. The student never missed school, had a job after school and was doing all the right things, but couldn’t pass a history regents exam he needed to graduate. Lynette brought this case to the attention of then superintendent, Dr. Bolgen Vargas, Ph.D.
Dr. Vargas looked into it and found some school leaders were not adhering to the young man’s , 504 plan. Through the superintendent’s investigation, it was determined that dozens of others students were also falling through the cracks. “As it turned out the young man was able to graduate. I just helped bridge the gap between a frustrated grandmother and a caring superintendent,” Lynette says.
Lynette Adams is a pillar in Rochester, NY, a beautiful, talented, responsible journalist, one who cares, a Rochester Woman, making a difference in our community. She listens. She seeks the truth no matter how ugly it is. We celebrate her.