Tuning in with Taneisha
Updated: Feb 15
Taneisha Cordell - News 5 Cleveland Reporter
Taneisha Cordell credits her childhood passion for writing as the driving force behind her career in reporting. “I loved the storytelling, fantasizing, romanticizing, and getting lost in words,” she told us. In the form of letter writing, she found a way to express her feelings and put her thoughts on paper. This passion drove her towards English classes in high school and through college in Miami, Florida to write for magazines. In the course of her communications degree, she came across broadcasting, and finally – it all clicked as she realized her new interest in news reporting! Taneisha mentioned that “It was a class of just, ‘Here's a video camera, and you’ve got to fill this space. Here are words, but you have to perform and deliver it.” After adding a Theater minor, Taneisha immersed herself into a whole new world of broadcasting and visualized the power that she had to achieve greatness. She reflected that “[It’s] not that I ditched the hard copy and the passion that I had, but it was also filling the void of being able to feel seen and express myself and my personality.” Her initial interest in being an author behind pages transitioned into being a reporter behind a camera, and she is just getting started.
The idea of being relatable and real to a wider audience is what drew her to the role and intrigued her about the profession of reporting. Nearing graduation, having no experience in the field, Taneisha felt called to news reporting and reached out to a reporter with the hope of finding a job opportunity. In this outreach, she found her first connection by being honest, leading with confidence, and saying, “I want to do this, I want to be a reporter, I want to go into news, can I at least just shadow you?” From this leap of faith, she received an associate producer job in Kentucky where she got her first real introduction to news producing and broadcasting. After a year, Taneisha moved into another role in Tennessee and continued to learn immensely about what it takes to persist throughout the process and fight to be in positions that one deserves. She detailed the exhausting experience by saying, “I was told that I was not ready and needed to start at ground zero.” This fueled her drive to show her worth and earn a place on television.
The depth of her fight to be seen as illustrated when she mentioned, “The testament to my entire career in the news has been ironic and as a Black woman in the industry, I fight and push to be seen and heard. I’m seen and heard every day on TV, but that is the constant battle so many women, me included, need to go through in the media for our voices to be heard and to be paid fairly. But it’s been so rewarding at the same time, through the people I’ve met, there have been so many people in the community whose voices I have had the privilege of amplifying."
Taneisha’s favorite part about her job is realizing all that we can have in common, despite our views or opinions. She notes that “My job forces me out of my comfort zone every single day. I’ve been trained to accept and see the good in so many people. It has allowed me to love more and accept myself more.” As with any intense work, Taneisha shared that challenges do arise and that the pandemic certainly had an impact on the isolating feeling that comes with dealing and delivering news that is not uplifting. Despite this feeling, she mentioned that “I have this responsibility to amplify voices but there are often times in newsrooms where our voices as people of color are not seen or heard.” Along with people of color, many women feel as if their career isn’t meant for their success. To such women existing below a glass ceiling, Taneisha talked about the advice that she would pass on: “In it all, in the journey, in the challenge, in the fight, never lose your voice. You have a right to feel, you have a right to fight and push the envelope. Stand firm for what is right and what’s not. If you see that a balance is off and not fulfilled, you owe it to yourself to fight for it.”
She talked about how it can be intimidating to go up against perceived “rules” and ask for things you deserve, while remaining professional. She stressed the importance of standing one’s ground and demanding respect by highlighting, “If you won’t do it, no one else will. You can’t help others if you don’t help yourself.”
Women in television are seen via certain lenses by their colleagues, peers, and the public. It is no secret that women often face workplace harassment based on numerous reasons (i.e., appearance) and when that workplace is news reporting, women are exposed to an entirely new level of scrutiny. Being in the public eye, Taneisha has certainly experienced this and even cited a vivid memory of a hateful comment made publicly online during her first month on the job:
“You’re scrutinized if you don’t wear enough makeup, you’re scrutinized for your weight. People always question, ‘is she pregnant?’ It weighs on you and your confidence. You even hear a specific line so often ‘You look prettier in person.’ I don’t know how to take that! Just that phrase is so heavy, it is so loaded. I don't think it’s just a gender thing, but I think women do hear it a lot more.”
On top of the outside view, women in news broadcasting have a different set of rules when it comes to their attire and appearance among coworkers. Taneisha mentioned that “if a woman came in with the same swagger as the men, with sneakers or kind of dressed down, it's looked [down] upon.” But her advice on overcoming this unsolicited scrutiny certainly puts it all into the right perspective: “There’s going to be ignorance. But you can fight it with dignity and just keep on keeping on. If you are authentically you, that is all that matters.”
Among all the other pearls of wisdom which Taneisha offered throughout our chat, one that stood out the most was the following: “Stay true to yourself. Whatever your core values are, your mission, and what you believe in, stick to that. Because you can get lost in that as well when you have so many people telling you how you should be, how you should look, and what you should do. All paths are different but what guides you, whatever your goal is, whatever your dream is, whatever you believe in, let that lead you.”
Taneisha is motivated by sharing the struggles, successes, motivation, and grief of those she interviews to give everyone a sense that they are not alone in their journey. She shared some of the most interesting and impactful stories that she has encountered so far in her career. One story in particular that stands out to her is an assignment in which she interviews the teammates and coach of a young basketball star who suffered a surprise heart attack during practice and passed away. During this interview, she was reminded that although it is easy to become jaded and desensitized to horrible news, it is even more important to allow yourself to feel and express feelings to share the story in the manner that it is meant to be told. She told us that “It reminded me that it’s ok to feel and be impacted by the stories that we tell. So often, being a reporter, you're supposed to remove yourself from the story. But this reminded me that I am human, I can feel, and I can be impacted and moved by stories.”
Among the many people that she has met and spoken to, Taneisha remembers the inspiring and ambitious stories the most. She highlighted that “Anything that's inspiring, anything people related, I am there.” She recalled an incredible story about a local man in his 80s who owns a bike shop that takes in abandoned, stolen, and donated bikes to repair and resell at low price points for the families in his area to afford. Taneisha stated that “He is retired! He could kick back and chill, but he is still so motivated and filled with so much life and light.” She loves being continuously inspired, making people feel special, and letting them know that everyone has a story to tell.
Taneisha’s dedication to her work and infectious energy makes her one of a kind and a role model to all women. She is an inspiration and a mentor to us, and we are lucky to have her support as Woman Up Cleveland continues to grow and develop. She is an ideal reminder that there are so many people in the world who are willing to listen to you, help you, and cheer you and your beliefs on. She preaches the importance of connections that go beyond the professional realm and also offers sisterhood and support when you’re at your highs and lows. We are honored not only to know her but to feature her in our first spotlight interview this year.