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Janet Lomax-Smith: From four decades as a journalist to residing as one on the RIT campus.

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

After settling into her new position as a Journalist in Residence for the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Division for Diversity and Inclusion, Janet Lomax-Smith looks back on over 40 years of experience in the field, with 36 of them occurring within the city of Rochester.

“My mother, in particular, would always say, ‘Remember you’re a Lomax.’ She meant remember who you are and who you represent,” Lomax-Smith explained. “As a broadcast journalist, I always kept that thought tucked in the back of my mind, remembering that I am “representing” the people who have entrusted me to tell their stories or share information that impacts their daily lives.”

Her career began back when she was involved in a professional children’s theatre group as a teenager in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. After her group was asked to tape one of their productions at the television station for WAVE-TV3, she had become fascinated with how the production crew were setting everything up.

“Positioning cameras. Stringing cable. Setting audio levels and clipping on microphones, The director, in charge of it all,” Lomax-Smith explained. “I thought, ‘This is what I want to do!’ I could marry my love of theatre with television production."

Lomax-Smith also loved to write as she majored in Radio and Television Production, so she decided to also take a series of courses in the field of journalism during her academic tenure. There, she was taught on how to be impartial when reporting by not inserting her opinion and just letting viewers and readers to make up their minds based on the facts presented.

“One day, my journalism professor asked me to anchor the newscast. I loved it. That’s how I ended up in front of the camera instead of behind it, Lomax-Smith explained. “I was able to continue to ‘write’ for that newscast and from time to time, the campus newspaper. As fate would have it, when I graduated, my very first job was as a reporter at that very same TV station in my hometown.“

She was quickly hired as a reporter and photographer for WAVE-TV3 after graduating at 21 years of age. But in a newsroom full of seasoned professionals with years of experience, she had to work hard and prove her worth as the “new kid on the block.”

“I recall once, the political reporter who had been at the station for more than two decades,” Lomax-Smith explains, “balked at the idea that I was going to be his photographer for the day. He thought I would not be up to the challenge. I did my job and proved my worth and we became good friends after that!”

Lomax-Smith would continue working with the station for four and a half years before moving to Rochester, New York to become an evening newscaster for WHEC News10NBC. This position would remain with her for 36 years before retiring in 2016, a time when fake news and misinformative stories started gaining traction.

“The very idea of purposefully dispensing misinformation—fake news— goes against the core principles of journalism including fairness, impartiality, and accountability, “Lomax-Smith explained. “I stand by my personal professional journey. My colleagues and I kept integrity in the forefront as we did our jobs. I believe most mainstream journalists do as well.”


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