Yolanda L. Gaskins
|Yolanda L. Gaskins|
|Born||Yolanda L. Gaskins|
September 8, 1951
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|🏫 Education||B.A., J.D.|
|🎓 Alma mater||Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, Georgetown University Law Center|
broadcast journalist, Television news anchor and reporter, television personality, radio talk show host, television producer
|📆 Years active||1983 – present|
|👔 Employer||CNN, XM Satellite, NBC, Black Entertainment Television, E! KABC (AM) Radio - Los Angeles, 570 KLIF (AM) Radio - Dallas|
Yolanda L. Gaskins (born September 8, 1951) is an American radio and television broadcast personality, writer and producer. In 1993, she became the first African American woman news anchor/show host on a cable news network in America. In 2013, she created Gaskins Media Works, and which currently provides a variety of services to nonprofit organizations to meet their crisis and strategic communications needs.
Early life and education
A native of Washington, D.C., Yolanda attended Western High School, (now Duke Ellington School of the Arts) where she was active in the choir and played lead roles in several musicals and theatrical productions. During high school, Yolanda became interested in radio production and was the only female participant in a training program at a local music radio station WOOK-AM. There she was first introduced to the technical side of radio broadcasting and completed the program just before graduating from Western High in 1969.
Yolanda attended Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) where she majored in English, served as her class vice president and continued to hone her acting skills, taking lead roles in dozens of plays during her time on campus. She also spent time at the campus radio station working alongside D.J. (and future music icon) Gil Scott Heron. Yolanda answered the campus call for cheerleader tryouts and made the varsity squad in her freshman year. She continued as a cheerleader for all four years, serving as captain in her junior and senior years, becoming the first person at Lincoln to be on the varsity cheerleading squad for all four years. Yolanda loved writing and research and spent most of her time in the library. She completed her college course work in three and a half years and graduated from Lincoln with honors in 1973. Within days of returning home to Washington, and with plans to move to New York to pursue graduate studies in theatre, her family was rocked by the passing of her step-father, attorney Alfred H. Collins, Jr. (Lincoln ‘51.)
Yolanda remained in Washington to help the family deal with the many issues resulting from the sudden loss. During summer college breaks, Yolanda had interned at the National Medical Association and after graduation, began working with the organization as a writer full time. While there, the Executive Director of the organization, Alfred F. Fisher repeatedly encouraged her to apply to law school. The following year, Yolanda received a scholarship to Georgetown University Law Center. Never losing sight of her love of broadcasting, in her final year at Georgetown, Yolanda interned at Pacifica Radio and hosted a segment on “Street Law,” a show that addressed local legal controversies and issues of civil liberty.
While working for a D.C. real estate law firm, Yolanda connected with a friend, Wendall Williamson, who was an engineer at WHUR-FM, the Howard University radio station. He suggested that with her resonant speaking voice and legal background she should consider anchoring the news. Together they created a news audition tape that he then passed it on to both the General Manager and Program Director. Within a few weeks, Yolanda was anchoring the drive time news alongside broadcaster Kojo Namndi. She also worked evenings at WHUR reporting the news during the number one show, “The Quiet Storm” with the legendary host, Melvin Lindsey.
After that, things moved quickly into television. Her first TV job was as co-host of the locally produced, “The High School Sports Show” on WDCA-TV. She was next hired by WJZ-TV in Baltimore and in July 1985 was featured in Baltimore Magazine as the city’s best new television talent. She became the co/host of the nationally syndicated show PM Magazine in Washington, D.C. (WTTG-TV) and was the first African American female to do so. It was as host of this show that Yolanda received her first Emmy nomination. On several occasions, Yolanda reunited, this time on camera, with Melvin Lindsey, who would occasionally fill in as her co-host. They were the first African American team to work together as co-hosts on this popular evening show.
Yolanda was named Executive Producer at Black Entertainment Television and created/ hosted and produced the network’s first show with a magazine format, “Going Places.” Yolanda and her crew traveled around the world to exciting locations and featured many African American actors, artists and popular sports figures as guests. Next it was on to Miami, where she joined the NBC affiliate, WTVJ-TV as an Entertainment Reporter. Next stop, Los Angeles, where Yolanda took on the role of reporter/ anchor and show host at E! Entertainment Television. Being in LA rekindled the acting bug and when she wasn’t on the air reporting, she booked parts in a number of commercials, movies and TV shows including E.R., Paranormal Borderline with Jonathan Frakes and a lead role on the TV news drama, “Live Shot.” But, It was her recurring role as nurse Sandra Johnson, on the CBS soap opera "The Bold and the Beautiful" that she says was the most fun to play.
The opportunity to return to radio presented itself when she was asked to join the news team on KABC-AM, the premiere Talk Station in Los Angeles. Although she began as the evening news anchor in 1991, she pitched her own show and became the first African American woman to work at the station in that role. She was on the air at KABC for many years and focused mostly on topical issues and became particularly proficient at covering breaking news.
Being a talk show host on the air in Los Angeles means that you never know who is listening or who you would run into in the station hallway. She was always surprised to discover that nationally recognized celebrities were fans of her show. Also, listening were producers at CNN, who invited Yolanda to be a panelist on one of the morning talk shows. When the host of the show was unavailable, Yolanda was asked to fill in. Soon she signed a contract to work for CNN as a show host/news anchor and was the first African American woman to work in that position at a cable news network in America. While at CNN, Yolanda covered the L.A. riots in 1992, the Northridge Earthquake in 1994, and all things O.J. Simpson from the infamous Bronco ride through the trial and verdict in 1995. Yolanda was reporting at the Olympics in Atlanta in July of 1996 when her hotel room was rocked by the pipe bomb blast in Centennial Park. Yolanda spent most of her time at CNN as host of the multi-platform interactive talk show, TalkBack Live, which aired weekday afternoons. She was the first African American woman to host that popular news talk show.
In 1999, a radio executive from Dallas was vacationing in L.A. and heard Yolanda on the air at KABC. He felt that her talents were just what were needed at his talk station (KLIF) and offered her a position on their weekday lineup. So, after 10 years on the air in Los Angeles, Yolanda Gaskins left to become the first African American talk show host at KLIF in Dallas. Several years later, Yolanda left Texas to return to Washington, DC to be closer to an aging family and to begin a position with the recently created XM Satellite radio. She remained on the air for several years as host of her show “Love & Money” and was featured in O Magazine (April 2005.) She also appeared on several television shows filming on the east coast including a recurring role on HBO’s The Wire.
In 2005, Yolanda left radio to become Director of Media Relations and spokesman for Holy Cross Hospital, the largest nonprofit organization in Maryland. While there she engaged with stakeholders, established and implemented strategic communications plans, developed messaging, talking points, and media statements in addition to securing television interviews for physicians and administrators. In 2015, Executive Producer was added to her title and she began writing, producing and editing videos to support both internal and external communication strategies. During her 12 years with the organization, Yolanda created media strategies on issues ranging from new surgical techniques and services to the organization's response to H1N1 and the Ebola outbreak. After 12 years, Yolanda left Holy Cross to focus full time on her Media Relations business. Today, Yolanda Gaskins lives in Silver Spring, Maryland and is the owner of Gaskins Media Works, a Strategic Communications firm specializing in media and communication strategies for nonprofit organizations.
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