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Beverly White: Telling L.A.’s stories on television

LOS ANGELES — There are general assignment reporters and then there is Beverly White.

She is one of the most recognized and respected faces on Los Angeles television. A mainstay at NBC4 for 27 years, White takes journalism seriously and considers herself a journalist for the viewing audience. Their trust, she said, is an important part of her job.

“My job is to tell fair stories,” White said. “To tell balanced, objective stories.”

A consummate professional with a refreshing frankness, White is known for not just reporting the news, but feeling the stories she tells.

“Writing can be taught. So can presentation,” White said. “But if you don’t have a sincere interest in the human condition, you’re not going to make it.”

Her passionate, straight-forward style is what has endeared her to the masses and involved her with worthwhile endeavors around Los Angeles.

“There are a lot of worthy causes out there that I involved myself in,” White said. “I can’t sing or dance — much — but I can talk on a microphone. That’s my lane, my give back. I work nights on purpose. I love to give nonprofit kids my daytime. It’s part of my public service. I love to read to the kiddies.”

White unapologetically spends a lot of time doing speaking engagements in the black community.

“The black community expects things from me and I’m happy to deliver,” said White. who has a soft spot for black children.. “It’s special to me because I used to be one. I see them, I see myself.

“There are black kids who don’t think they can do this. I’m here to tell them they can do this. I want black children to know there is more to them than being victims and villains. We can be bosses.”

White is that trusted face with integrity and heart that comes into Los Angeles homes on a daily basis. Audiences have come to rely on her to accurately report what’s going on in their communities.

“I’m a general assignment reporter who is here to bring fresh eyes and a different angle,” White said. “I cover what blows up or burns down. Whatever story I cover, my job is to report the facts. I have to swivel and endear myself quickly.”

Since joining NBC4, White has been reporting on the touching, as well as the tough stories. She has covered the Northridge earthquake, floods, wildfires, the theater killings in Aurora, Colorado; the salon mass murders in Seal Beach, the death of Prince in Minneapolis and, most recently, the death of Kobe Bryant.

“Sometimes you have to cover weeping, grieving family members,” White said. “My humanity comes before journalism. I have to be respectful of sources. I’m not the reporter with the sharp elbows. I can’t always put the mic in a grieving person’s face. I will work around you.”

One of the most difficult parts of her job, White said, is “remembering it didn’t happen” to her.

“Whatever it is, I have to focus on the subject,” White said. “You can’t help but feel when a child dies in a fire, a house burns and you hear the wailing of a family. It can wear you down and knock you to your knees.

“I’m here to present what happened to them. Let it be their story,” she added. “I’m just the messenger. I can’t internalize it. I wipe my tears and focus on my deadline. You feel it. If you don’t, it’s time to quit.”

Each weekday, White hits the newsroom around 3 p.m. for what she calls “the second shift.” There are editorial meetings around a table where they stand-by for breaking news.

“L.A. never disappoints when it comes to breaking news,” said White, who is seen weeknights at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. “I’m on the breaking news bandwagon. I like not knowing what’s going to happen.”

 By the way she talks about her profession, it’s clear White loves what she does. Journalism is her thing. 

“Being nosey and getting people to share their stories is my thing,” she said. “The joy of storytelling can’t be denied. It’s intoxicating.”

She’s been the president of the National Association of Black Journalists LA, the local chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, on several occasions and loves to take the time to mentor neophyte journalists.

An award-winning journalist whose accolades are too vast to mention, prior to joining NBC4, White was a reporter at WTVJ, an NBC affiliate in Miami. She anchored the morning weekday newscast for WKRC-TV in Cincinnati. She began her career in her home state of Texas at KCEN-TV, an NBC affiliate in Temple/Waco, and KENS-TV in San Antonio.

She might have started off in all those places before coming to L.A., but an Angeleno she has become.

She is proud of her longevity in the business and the impact she has made on Los Angeles television, but she is still very much concerned about inclusion as it relates to the newsrooms.

“We really have to make newsrooms more inclusive,” she said. “I would love to see more of my people everywhere I go. I may not see a black person in the field all day.”

White noted that there are no African-American male reporters in the field except for Leo Stallworth of ABC7 in Los Angeles. 

“I’m aware that in the industry, representation matters, but I don’t see enough of it in the street, in ownership, or management,” she said. “Journalism is in a freefall. I expected progress to be faster.”

Born in Germany and reared in Texas, White, a self-described “Army brat,” grew up with three siblings, attended the University of Texas where she started off in business but changed to journalism her junior year. After she got an internship in San Antonio, and after 15 job interviews before she got her first gig, White was hooked.

White, who has been married to Xavier Higgs, a fellow journalist/photographer for 27 years, is also a stepmom who has no limits. She has crisscrossed America and ventured into international territory because she wants to see “as much of the world as I can.”

She and Higgs have traveled to Africa, Norway, Jamaica, Alaska, Hawaii and Canada.

“We love to travel,” White said. “We’ll jump in the car and go anywhere, anytime. I’m blessed to be able to travel. I want to see the world. I don’t want to close my eyes without enjoying a piece of it.

“We’ve taken a chopper to a glacier in Alaska, flown over a volcano in Hawaii. We’ve seen the wildebeest migration, the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben. I have memories.”

There was no Plan B for White. When she thinks back on it the only other thing she would have considered is social work or teaching. “This is grace,” White said. “A lot of what has happened is heaven sent. My relationships, my jobs. The joy has carried me to places I never dreamed of. My eyes are opened and my heart is full. I never saw this coming. I found what I was supposed to do.”