Broadcast legend Carole Simpson reflects on shaping history
The first Black woman to helm a major network newscast talks breaking barriers.
In the midst of Black History Month, as the nation celebrates the leaders who helped shape the country, broadcast legend Carole Simpson is opening up about breaking barriers in the broadcast industry.
In 1988, Simpson made history as the first Black woman to helm a major network newscast when she became the face of ABC News' “World News Tonight” weekend edition, which is a role she held for 15 years.
The three-time Emmy award-winning television journalist spoke to ABC News' Linsey Davis, who now holds the Sunday night anchor slot that Simpson once commanded, about paving the way for others in a male-dominated industry.
Simpson told Davis that she was proud of her for securing the position as she's had high hopes of seeing more African American women follow her lead.
“Women can do the impossible ... if you want something, you’ll do it,” Simpson told ABC News on Sunday.
In 1992, Simpson became the first minority to moderate a presidential debate, which included President George H.W. Bush, Gov. Bill Clinton, and businessman Ross Perot. She recalls working tirelessly for days prior to the debate in preparation for the historic moment.
In her memoir titled "NewsLady," she details how she overcame both sexual discrimination and racism before reaching the top ranks of the industry.
The 79-year-old, who reported during the height of the civil rights movement, which includes covering and meeting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., believes that America’s racial reckoning last June following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police was short-lived.
“Just look at where we are now,” Simpson told ABC News. “We are so divided and I think the race question is right back here. ... we’ve had many Black men killed since George Floyd.”
As someone who reported on politics and frequently worked at the U.S. Capitol building, Simpson says that the deadly riot last month was something that “really shook” her.
“I think the damage that was done by Donald Trump to the nation is not insurmountable, but it’s going to be hard ... to put all the pieces he tried to shatter,” Simpson said.
Simpson, who grew up as a curious child on the South Side of Chicago, said that it took “sheer determination” to carve out her own path and follow her dream of working in news.
After attending the University of Michigan, she went to graduate school at the University of Iowa. After college, she quickly went on to leave her mark in her hometown of Chicago by becoming the first woman to broadcast radio news and the first Black woman to anchor a local newscast.
After working in the business for 40 years, she retired in 2006 and taught journalism courses at Emerson College in Boston for 13 years.
Today, Simpson is still making a difference in the industry by offering scholarships to journalism students and mentoring youth across the country.
Additionally, she offers advice to women through her vlog titled W.O.W. (Wise Old Woman) –– a platform where she's become a one-woman production band by producing digital content from her home.
“I want my legacy to be that she made a difference,” Simpson said.