News 12 Westchester and Long Island reporter and weekend anchor Ty Milburn spoke about being a Black man reporting news on television, and what 2020 taught him about telling stories in a new way. Credit: Newsday / Reece T. Williams/Reece T. Williams

In the midst of a historic news year, News 12 Long Island quietly made a little news of its own late August: Ty Milburn was named weekend anchor, becoming only the second African American male anchor here since the channel launched in 1986.

A veteran TV news street reporter, this Baltimore native joined News 12 in 2011 after a decadelong run at network affiliates in Saginaw, Michigan, Detroit and Milwaukee. He's reported on both Westchester and the Hudson Valley for News 12 (and will continue to).

Then, 2020 happened, and for Milburn — as for everyone else — the world shifted. He launched a new series ("Luxury Living" — think personal tours of very nice area homes) while co-anchoring Westchester-focused specials on the fallout from George Floyd's death in May.

How well do you know LI?

I'm figuring out the towns as I'm reporting [on them]. I know the Hamptons [from 'Luxury Living'] and I love the North Fork [but] part of this journey for me is getting to learn the communities.

2020 was clearly a banner year for you. In what sense?

Prior to this, you do stories and you think that they matter, but in the age of COVID, you see the impact of your work. I [also] did three half-hour specials that aired in Westchester and the Hudson Valley [including one called] 'Injustice for All' in the aftermath of George Floyd. [We] wanted to make sure that we heard these voices on these issues in our community.

Had you ever done anything quite like that in your career?

No, but I felt that as a Black journalist, living in this moment, it was important that we spoke up, important that we made sure that we told different stories about the community that we served … In our newsroom now, there is greater acknowledgment of that [and] an emphasis on making sure we find people who we wouldn't normally go to. We're just being more aware of the folks we cover and what that coverage looks like. Those are the blessings coming out of this year.

"Every day, I'm going to use whatever power or influence...

"Every day, I'm going to use whatever power or influence I have to try to tell stories that we haven't always told," says Milburn, only the second  Black male anchor on News 12. He is pictured at his home in Yonkers, Dec. 2, 2020. Credit: Reece T. Williams

Meanwhile, this was the year that changed how you envisioned your role too?

No question. Being a Black reporter, you try to keep yourself out of the story [but] this year I felt a part of the story. COVID, the Black Lives Matter movement was affecting my life. It was hard to be impartial in these stories in the way that we're required to be [but] I also think it made my reporting much better. I had a stake in all of this. The biggest lesson for me this year was I had to be the change I wanted, and once I switched, literally my universe shifted.

What clicked?

You can only cover so many fires and bank robbers, right? … So I purposely took on projects where I could think more about them — 'Luxury Living' was part of that [and] it also got me off the streets [as a reporter] one day a week.

Did you ever want to be an anchor?

I never thought I'd be good at it [then] thought, maybe I can bring something to this. It's allowed me to connect to viewers a little bit more and for them to connect back to me. I hope other kids of color can see me [and] I hope they can maybe see themselves [someday] doing this.

"Being a Black reporter, you try to keep yourself out...

"Being a Black reporter, you try to keep yourself out of the story [but] this year I felt a part of the story," says News 12 reporter and anchor Ty Milburn at his home in Yonkers, Dec. 2, 2020. Credit: Reece T. Williams

You are only the second African American male anchor on News 12 over the years — Joe Moskowitz, the first, has long since retired. Do you see yourself as a trailblazer in your new role?

It's not something I consciously think about, but it's certainly something I'm proud of. I'm coming into peoples' living rooms in a way that I never have before and if it's for the long haul, maybe people can think about race differently.

Who inspired you growing up in Baltimore?

I always loved the news and knew that I would be doing this job from a very young age. There was a male anchor in Baltimore at WBAL, Rod Daniels [who retired in 2015] and Carol Simpson of ABC News where I interned in college.

What career advice did she give you?

Don't take no for an answer [and ] just because you can't be in the front door of someplace, well, maybe there's a window [or] a backdoor!

And she was outspoken about institutional racism and sexism.

We're in a different time now. You can speak up in newsrooms and we can talk about representation and diversity and the need for it, and I think the culture is now hearing that with a new set of ears. I try in a way that's respectful and constructive [but] I also realized that if I'm not the one pitching this special on crime and justice in the Hudson Valley through the lens of George Floyd then maybe it won't get done. I'm not shy about it.

Why'd you get into reporting?

I was working in public relations in New York during 9/11[which] brought me so much clarity in the same way that 2020 has. I packed everything up, went back to Baltimore, and made an [audition] tape …[After several small markets] I worked in Milwaukee for three years [and] cannot tell you how traumatizing that weather is! I'll never forget the story when it was 26 below zero, and the producer on the morning show said to me, 'on your next hit, I need you not to look so cold.' [Laughs] … I knew I had to get out of the Midwest.

Ah, to the relative warmth of NYC! You worked for a while at NY1?

I loved it because the newsroom looked like New York — there were Muslims and gay people, Asians, South Asians, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans. It was the first newsroom that I went to that reflected the community it served [and] that's what I love about News 12 — I feel like we're in touch with the community we serve.

Long Island very much remains a place divided by race. How will you address that in your anchor role?

Every day, I'm going to use whatever power or influence I have to try to tell stories that we haven't always told. That's certainly my challenge and something that I'm looking forward to. I think 2020 has been a clarifying year for our company and you're going to see a lot of changes on our air and in our coverage because I feel like they get it now. It's exciting to be a part of that.

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