Hollani Davis: Living Out Her Dream at Channel 7

Hollani Davis on the set at Channel 7.

by Melvin E. Matthews, Jr.

From the time she was a fifth grader, Hollani Davis knew she wanted to be a broadcast journalist.  Vacationing with her parents in Atlanta, Georgia, she visited CNN headquarters, where she watched a taping and, from that experience, was set on her life’s path.  “Everything that I have tried to do with my life,” she says, “I’ve tried to do to position myself to be where I am, and also, to continue to go further.”

The path Davis followed from the inspiration she received in Atlanta has brought her to WDBJ-7, where she now is the full-time anchor of the station’s 11 p.m. news broadcast and the 10 p.m. newscast on My 19—replacing the recently departed Natasha Ryan.

Along the way, Davis attended Hampton University and the Scripps-Howard Journalism School, benefiting from instructors who were real life journalism professionals, as well as interning each summer in places such as El Paso, Texas, and Wichita, Kansas, gaining hands-on experience and learning the true nature of her chosen profession.  With such a background, Davis felt she was prepared upon her graduation.  Then came a let down.

“I did not get into the business right away.  I had a tape.  I thought I was ready to go.  But everyone said, ‘No, no, no.’”  It now became a matter of sheer perseverance and determination.  “I actually went home the year after I graduated and became a permanent substitute teacher at the high school where I went to school.  All the while I would still get up at 6 a.m., I would still look on some of these websites. I would still be sending tapes off, still writing news directors and, finally, it paid off.”

She got a job as a weekend reporter in Abilene, Texas, where, among her other duties, she reported for the station’s Friday football show—despite the fact she was a novice in gridiron matters.  After a few years, she began sending out tapes again.  While she never dreamed of coming to Roanoke, she knew she wanted to return to Virginia. “WDBJ came calling.  I came in for the interview, absolutely fell in love with this place, but I also fell in love with the people right away.  Everybody was so nice.”

Ryan, now in Seattle as a reporter/anchor, convinced her that News 7 was the place for her.  “She pulled me aside and said, ‘You will never find a better station than ‘DBJ.’”  Davis knew “that this is where I was supposed to be.  I didn’t know why – but I knew this is where I was supposed to be.”

She also feels that many factors help make WDBJ an attractive employer:  a sense of pride, long-time employees such as Keith Humphry, Jean Jadhon and “newbies” such as herself— allowing people like her to learn and do things that, as a rule, one likely wouldn’t have the opportunity to do—and News 7’s broad coverage area.

“One day, I can be in Roanoke, the next day I can be in Galax, the next day I can be out at the [race] track in Martinsville.  You get opportunities that, say, another small town/city would not afford you.  Southwest Virginia, Central Virginia is gorgeous, and the people, no matter where you are, (are) always so friendly—different but absolutely friendly.  And that’s just the beginning of what Channel 7 has to offer.”

In addition to her duties at WDBJ, Davis is involved in other roles, such as co-hosting the United Way Luncheon with fellow News 7 anchor Jadhon.  For Davis, being more than “that woman on TV” is important.  During her free time, she works with kids, reading to them, and serving as a mentor to young girls with self-esteem issues, making certain they—especially young African American girls, realize they have options available to them irregardless of their present situation in life.  “It’s important that young girls see that they can do what they set their minds to do,” she says.

Looking toward the future, Davis feels that the viewers will have considerable say in the direction television news takes.  “People want the news of the day, but they want it quick.  People also want those unique feature pieces, and we have always have to make sure that we’re striving to find those pieces that captivate our audience. [Viewers] don’t want just surface stuff. I think we do a good job here at 7 of striking a balance. You’ll continue to see us strike that balance.”

Davis says she’s currently living out her dream at WDBJ: “I don’t know what the future holds but I’ve done pretty well so far. Right now, Channel 7’s stuck with me, and I see the viewers are stuck with me.  I hope that’s OK with everyone.”