Black History Month: Highlighting two of the first Black women in their roles as anchors at WITN

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – As we round out this Black History Month, we want to honor some trailblazers who once sat at our anchor desk.

Many of you will remember these names. Lynnette Taylor and Nicole Jenkins were some of the first Black women in their roles here at WITN. Both paved the way for others like them and showed young people of color that they, too, can do anything they set their mind to.

Lynette Taylor became a household name in Eastern Carolina over two decades ago. You might remember her for her poise, fashion and sense of humor.

Taylor started at WITN in the late 90s – working her way up from behind the scenes to the evening anchor desk.

“I was an associate producer when I first started so I was editing video the whole time,” said Taylor.

“I started reporting, pretty much a year after I started working at WITN, and I had very little experience, and they took a chance on me. And some people probably thought, why did they hire this little girl?” she explained with a smile. “But I was so thankful that I got the opportunity to learn and get in front of the camera and be a role model for other young black girls.”

She was one of the first Black female anchors ever in her role at the station, and Taylor didn’t take it lightly.

“Whenever a child would come up to me, and they’d looked to me as a role model, which I just thank God for that, I mean, honestly. But for me, I just said, I’m gonna pass that same feeling down because I want them to believe that they can do anything. And if they see someone who looks like them, they go, ‘It’s possible for me to do the same.’”

Lynnette thanks others who made her time in her role so memorable.

“I really loved being next to Dave Jordan because he’s such an educator and is a leader, and he is one of the greatest journalists I have seen in this market ever, and I really thank him for a lot of the things he did for me and he made it so comfortable, so easy,” Taylor said.

Nicole Jenkins started working at WITN a year before Lynnette – in 1996.

“We all grew up there honestly,” Jenkins said. “I was there for six years, before moving on to Tampa.”

Jenkins was eventually promoted to morning anchor – a position she held for four years.

“The morning job came open, and I kind of was like, ‘C’mon, let me try it,’” Jenkins explained.

She says she didn’t take the role to be one of the first Black women to fill it – she did it because she wanted the job, despite the challenges it presented.

“It was definitely a sigh of relief, and I can say that it probably was a little more difficult in those years to get that position, but I had been there long enough I hope and just kindof proved myself,” said Jenkins.

As we round out Black History Month, both women say it’s important to continue the mentality we have in February – all year.

“Black History Month is so important for people to just really sit down and recognize the contributions that Black Americans have had,” Taylor said. “All the way from times of slavery. It was not a pretty history, but it has to be taught, and it has to be something that people realize so it’s never repeated.”

Jenkins said, “It means that everybody can learn what we’ve gone through, our ancestors and what we’ve had to fight through and overcome in order to be in positions like yours or like mine.”

They each have advice for anyone trying to break through racial barriers today.

“Just be good at what you’re doing, and be open to some criticism and take it, sometimes with a grain of salt or as something, okay I can work on this. Because you can make it, it’s doable,” explained Jenkins.

“When you see or are faced with adversity, you have to be poised enough to understand what it is. Many times it’s ignorance. It’s nothing more than that,” said Taylor. “And so if you understand it and know that you can’t go toe-to-toe as an educated person with someone who’s ignorant, you just have to let it go.”

Both Lynnette and Nicole have since left the television news industry, but they say the skills they cultivated while working in the business still help them today.