Wendy Ryan: taking action on and off the screen
Local anchor shares how she earned her spot as an invaluable news resource for the community and found success in the journalism industry.
BY REBECCA FORMAN
TAMPA – Wendy Ryan, anchor and investigatve reporter for ABC Action News, has made quite the name for herself in the eight years she has been in Tampa. Ryan co-anchors the 6 p.m and 11 p.m. editions and is perhaps best known for the popular Dirty Dining series.
Ryan grew up in Cleveland and started acting at a young age. She graduated Cum Laude from the University of Arizona with a degree in broadcasting.
“I always knew I wanted to be a reporter because as an actress you’re given a script and I always questioned the writing and I questioned the characters. I asked too many questions all the time, so I realized early on that journalism was going to be my forte.”
However, success hasn’t always come easily for Ryan. She found it very difficult to get her foot in the door.
“I started applying at a lot of stations when minorities were really what everybody wanted. I’m as All-American as they come and if they wanted a Hispanic or an African American I was just not even in the mix.”
Despite this struggle, Ryan gained field experience in Arizona, Illinois, Los Angeles and Miami. It’s when she moved to Tampa that she founded the Dirty Dining series – a weekly investigation that goes behind the kitchen door to expose the restaurants that fail their health inspections.
“When I first moved here, my husband and I started ordering and picking up food and I would always walk in, not always, but many times horrified.”
This prompted the research into who regulates restaurants in Florida. She brought it up in a news meeting and the idea took off. She gives credit to the viewers because often they will have a bad experience, notify her and she will pull the report.
A new requirement of her job is to keep up a Facebook page. She was a little afraid of it at first but she has really taken to it. As a mother to a newborn, it has allowed her to stay connected to the viewers.
“These are people who care about you and it really allowed me to have a whole different relationship with them. When I go out on the field to interview different people, it’s a much different feel. I think it’s a great news source. It’s also a great news gathering tool.”
So what advice does she give to those trying to follow in her footsteps? “Make sure this is what you want to do, because it’s not an easy business. If it is what you want to, don’t do anything else because you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Stay focused. Remember if it’s in your heart there’s nothing else you should be doing.”
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