Popular WTSP-TV (CBS) news anchor Dion Lim is a rarity in the Tampa Bay area news market and in Florida. While competing Tampa Bay area television stations are loaded with mostly Caucasian news anchors and reporters with a handful of African-American, Hispanic-American anchors or reporters on their staffs, Lim is the first Asian American television weekday evening news anchor at a major local network affiliate in the St. Petersburg-Clearwater-Tampa news market ranked #11 in the country.
Before arriving at Ch. 10 in St. Petersburg, Dion was a very popular news anchor at the NBC affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina. She started her television news career in a small market and worked her way up to an anchor position in Kansas City. Lim also is Taiwanese-American and speaks fluent Mandarin. She is genuinely friendly–and herself– outside and inside the newsroom. Lim also blogs about what her life and career in her blog, “Life During the Commercial Break.”
Lim graduated from Emerson College in Boston. “Broadcast Journalism was my major and I minored in science of all things,” Lim tweeted about her education.
It’s never a dull moment for Lim, who co-anchors the Monday through Friday 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. local newscasts in St. Petersburg.
She recently had some time to do an online interview with us during the busy May ratings period. The month of May also is national Asian Pacific American Heritage month.
What made you decide on a television news career? How did you get started in television news?
Dion: “Growing up in an Asian-American household, there was always this pressure to be a doctor, lawyer or a profession that could be quantified based on salary and bragging rights. However, years of listening to audio books, watching Saved by the Bell and 20/20 to learn English, I decided I had to create my own path and try reporting. Multiple internships and job shadowing opportunities helped me get my foot in the door, and before I graduated from Emerson College, had accepted a job as a reporter in market #109 (at the time, it maybe be market #111 now) and the rest is history!”
What do you like best about your job? What do you dislike about your job? Any challenges you faced during your path to television news anchor?
Dion: “Every day is different, and you get to meet some really incredible people. Being able to connect with a large audience also gives me the ability to champion causes, and do some giving back.
For example, I met a woman named Rosie, who takes part in Best Buddies Tampa Bay, an organization that fosters friendships for those with developmental and physical disabilities. She reached out to me via Facebook after seeing me on the news, and as I got to get to know her, have partnered up with Best Buddies on several community projects, and have been able to bridge a news partnership with the group.
Outside of my “assigned” duties on the anchor desk, I also use my voice/perspective to mentor young people, and do motivational speaking for female professionals. That’s also my passion.
Since the media industry is evolving so quickly with the presence of social media, I feel not everyone in the newsroom (everyone, from managers to staff) gets the same message on how to execute it correctly. I think there’s this pressure to meet quotas and be the first to Tweet, etc. and sometimes we forget to have an authentic self. Nobody wants to see you turn on your “TV voice” when you’re live on Facebook. The whole point of social media is to be social. For news people, it’s about finding that balance between being social, and telling the news in a way that’s like having a conversation with a friend.”
Who do you credit for your success?
Dion: “A lot of people who believed in me along the way, before I believed in myself. The first that comes to mind, is the TV teacher I had in high school who accepted me into his junior-level class as a sophomore after I pretty much begged for weeks. He helped me put together stories and helped me submit them to a student-run news program at a local affiliate in Hartford, CT. I ended up getting a significant scholarship from that experience.
Later on, a VP of news who gave me my first shot anchoring at the #1 ABC affiliate in Kansas City. This was with no anchoring experience, and just 1 year of reporting experience under my belt. Watching those videos back today makes me cringe! But he saw something in me and gave me a chance.
There are a dozen people I attribute my success to! In a roundabout way, I thank my social media followers (about 20,000 on Facebook to date) regularly for their support on a daily basis. Without them getting to know me, rooting for me, and sharing my work/voice I wouldn’t have the viewership or support I have now.
Bottom line though, I firmly believe you can have all the mentors and believers in the world. But you are the only person who can determine your success and destiny. You have to wake up each morning, ready and excited to make something of yourself and help others. That’s the only way you’ll have success.”
What’s a day like for Dion Lim?
Dion: “Boy, things have changed since I got into the business! Back when I was a morning anchor, the anchors would go to work, then after cut-ins with Good Morning America, be able to go home! That was it! Maybe there was a promo shoot, or a story shoot on occasion, but your day ended when the clock hit a certain time.
Nowadays, I tell people my day begins the minute I wake up and never ends.
8:30/9:30am: Wake up, scan news websites and Twitter/Facebook for what I missed during the night. Eat breakfast, return emails/set up stories and work out.
midday: I try to have my personal appointments during this time before going into the station. This could be a doctor’s visit, hair/nail salon appointment, or having a lunch meeting with someone I am working on a story/community project with. This upcoming week, one of my mid-day events includes mentoring professional women in partnership with Uber and Working Women of Tampa Bay.
2:30/2:45: Some days I get to work early to shoot promotional spots or to work on a project, but this is my usual time in. The first thing I do is scan the wires and the daily rundown to see what stories the dayside crews are working on. I formulate my pitches for the afternoon story meeting leading into the 11pm newscast.
3:15 Editorial meeting to discuss nightside reporter stories.
4:00: I try to get into the newscast to edit scripts and talk with our producers. If there’s a story I have a question about, I call the reporter in the field to get clarification/new details. During this hour before the newscast, I also record audio for promotions and for stories used within the early newscasts.
6:35: 6pm post-show meeting with managers to discuss what worked, what didn’t.
6:45/7pm: If I don’t have a school group or station tour to conduct, I’ll try and grab dinner somewhere or run home to eat dinner with my husband and take the dogs out for their evening walk.
Certain days of the week, I have public events at night, like greeting viewers at a restaurant the station has partnered with, or I try and shoot part of a story with a photographer.
8:00 days I am not shooting a story or doing the above, I’m participating in online Tweetups. My favorite is one based out of Chicago that discusses all things travel and food! It’s something I personally enjoy, and helps my social media presence.
8:30 I’m back at the station, writing stories for the newscast and logging video I may have shot with my photographer in the evening.
9:15: With the increase in Facebook Live reach, my job is to also go live with viewers to discuss what stories are coming up in the 11pm newscast, and have a conversation with them. I try to be as “real” as possible…and not appear to be doing the news, but rather talk about stories I am genuinely interested in.
9:45: I answer emails/Facebook/Twitter messages
10:00: Prep for the 11pm newscast. (Similar to preparing for the 5pm/6pm shows.)
11:40: wrap up with producers, discuss what worked/what didn’t work, check emails one last time and head home by midnight!
Rinse, and repeat 🙂 ”
Lim enjoys time with her husband, a professional poker player and their 2 dogs. She also likes traveling, bargain-hunting and good food.