News 12 Westchester’s Tara Rosenblum Wields the Power of the Microphone
The record-Emmy-winning anchor sits down to talk competing with herself, using her role to help Westchester, and finding ambition here in the county.
Photo courtesy of Tara Rosenblum and News12 Westchester
Few local reporters manage to engender as much respect and admiration as News 12 Westchester’s Tara Rosenblum. Fewer still rack up as many Emmy wins and nominations. None, in point of fact — she recently broke the record, which she herself set.
The Turn to Tara host, News12 anchor, reporter, and producer has led a storied career and shows no sign of slowing down despite putting down roots here in Westchester nearly fifteen years ago.
The native Floridian attended George Washington University in that nation’s capital and interned for the White House press office and CNN’s White House unit before landing production and on-air posts with both CBS in D.C. and L.A. and a local NBC affiliate in Iowa. This led to a couple years as an anchor and host upstate in Elmira, NY and, ultimately, Rosenblum’s first post with News 12 Westchester in 2004.
“It’s funny, I thought I was going to be in Westchester for six months, maybe a year,” Rosenblum says. “I was climbing a ladder and that was my trajectory. I had moved to so many markets before coming here and I thought that this was a stepping-stone. Little did I know it would become the bedrock of my career and my foundation. I think I fell in love with this community and I didn’t expect to. I’m not just saying this to be cheesy — I don’t think there is a better county in America to raise a family. Everything that you could want when you are putting down roots and establishing a place to grow old in, we have in here in Westchester. From the beautiful parks to the career opportunities to the programming, they have everything in Westchester. Where else am I going to go that has all this? I wouldn’t dream of leaving.”
She adds with a bit of a smirk, “But it also helped that I fell in love with a born-and-raised Westchester guy.”
And while one would be forgiven for thinking of the anchor’s work in provincial terms, Rosenblum has the uncanny ability to find the local angle within a national story: She’s investigated Florida-based sham opioid addiction centers preying on local residents, she basically lived on Canal Street for two weeks after Hurricane Katrina, and she’s pursued segments on commercial space flight — a personal passion project for her.
This past March, Rosenblum scored an exclusive on-camera interview with Hillary Clinton in which the former secretary of state and first lady publicly declared for the first time she would not run for president in 2020. “Within fifteen minutes of that story airing it circled the globe and aired on every channel on planet earth. Next thing you knew we were on Jimmy Kimmel.”
While we might not be Jimmy, we still broke out the interview couch and invited Rosenblum to stop by our offices after her most recent spate of Emmy wins.
Westchester Magazine: So this year you were nominated for nine New York Emmys as a writer/reporter and another ten as a producer for your work at News 12 Westchester, and you won a record eight. Last year you pretty much broke your own record with only twelve nominations. What’s that experience like? Do you feel like you’re sort of in competition with yourself to grow as a journalist?
Tara Rosenblum: [It] was awesome because they were some really big categories. I got Best Investigative Reporter, which was amazing because it was up against some of the journalists that I have admired all of my career. It was very cool and humbling. I got journalistic enterprise, which is another big category against a lot of the big network names. Best Writer with Scott McGee, Best Features Reporter, Best Specialty Assignment Reporter … basically all of the Best Actor awards. I got a beautiful letter from the Emmys.
I had set a record when I got eight. After that year they kind of changed the rules against double dipping — you can’t enter one story more than once. So this was really shattering all of my previous records because these were all individual. I just was like “Oh I think there needs to be a recount. Is this right? Is this happening?” It was one of those proud, memorable nights of my career for sure.
I think that is the secret of my success. I don’t look to the left or right of me. I don’t look what this person’s posting or what that person’s producing. I look behind me because I compete against myself and I want to top my last story. And then I’m looking forward like setting my own goals and fighting to the death to achieve them. I stay in my own lane.
Needless to say it was a magical night at the #nyemmys!! So many people on the i-team to acknowledge...lots more #bhs pics coming your way tmrw! Special congrats to the better half of our unit @adflamenhaft along w @jeans1012 @scottmcgee12 and many more! #investigativereporting #tvnewslife #emmywinner #journalists #blessed #news12 @news12wc @news12hv #8emmys @nyemmyawards
The lines between traditional TV news journalism and opinion or agenda-driven journalism have become more and more blurred over the last few years. Are there any individuals, current or past, on TV that you look to for examples of how to maintain a sense of fairness and journalistic integrity?
I pride myself on never offering my opinions in my stories, because I think that dilutes the trust factor [in] the type of journalism that I practice. And that’s not what people turn to me for. It’s a fine line.
I think it’s more important than ever before that newsrooms define who they want to be and what their mission is. Are we “newstainment” or are we there to provide news? I think News 12 does a really good job of staying away from opinions. Our brand is hyper-local. We’re going to tell you what politician won your primary. There’s really not a lot of space in there for opinion writing.
You’ve spoken to us previously about how supportive your family was in encouraging your career, especially your stepmother, but what first made you want to pursue journalism as a career? Were you a big Harriet the Spy fan as a kid, or was there a point where you were just like, “No no, I’m going to be an astronaut”?
[Laughing] Astronaut was definitely high on my list but if you look at my elementary school yearbook that my mom has somewhere, this is what I’ve always wanted to do. It’s not my job; it’s my life’s passion project, literally. For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a TV reporter.
People go into journalism for different reasons. Some people want to be on billboards, some people want to tell stories. I’m the latter; I love telling stories, and I think I have always been naturally inquisitive. I used to go and chase the stories around my block and hand write on the little paper you used to learn handwriting and write my own newsletters. It’s just always been a part of me. I don’t think I’d know who I was if there wasn’t journalist before Tara.
It's a wrap! Alan and I just finished the taping of the first episode of our new half-hr political show #powerandpolitics ! Our inaugural guest is NY's glass shatterer and the state's first female senate majority leader. We got to see a side of ASC we never saw before! So excited to help bring this new content to our channel. As many of you know, I'm a massive political junkie!! So much more to come....show kicks off first week of June! @news12wc #womeninpolitics #historymaker #takingthelead #politics #albany #yonkers #Westchester #closeup #1on1 #onlyon12
Your Turn to Tara segments are pretty iconic to local viewers, and is consistently what seems to get clicks and traction. Was that desire to help people always part of that same drive?
I feel like if you know the Turn to Tara unit, everything in my career was leading up to that. I can honestly say I’ve never been happier professionally doing these types of things. The Emmys are great, but that’s not what drives me. When I’m able to change lives of people in this county where I live, who are my neighbors, there’s no price that you could put on that, and I mean that with all my heart.
Half the time I’m just helping people and you never even see it on the newscast. But the power of a microphone is an incredible responsibility and an incredible tool; when you can use that to help people it is the best high you can every achieve professionally.
Some of our most watched [content] — you think of snowstorms you think of big crime — our most watched story last year was our sex trafficking Turn to Tara special. We like to take on not only helping individuals and going micro but going macro and taking on the big societal ills that exist here that no one else is really shining the light on. We did one on domestic violence that comes to mind a month or two ago, with some really insane loopholes in the state law.
Well, Turn to Tara stories air across the network and they air internationally; they’re not just airing in Westchester anymore. Someone saw it in New York City, a lawmaker, and is sponsoring a bill to fix it, named after the woman we highlighted. I said “That’s it. That’s the essence of what we’re about.”
You’ve lived in White Plains for the last few years, right? Being a local who gets to experience so much of the county — not to put you on the spot but totally putting you on the spot here — what are some of your favorite local places to grab a bite?
[Laughs] I have a five-year-old, I mean, so we’re going to Rye Playland, we’re going to pools, there’s just so much to do when you’re raising children here.
I love the authentic places. I mean chain restaurants are great, but I think we have so many great mom-and-pop restaurants here and I love to patronize the local businesses. La Bocca in White Plains is one of my all-time favorites. You go there and you feel like you’re in Italy. And I love the new restaurant Gigante because before if you wanted to feel like you were in a supper club you had to drive to Manhattan. There you can go and you can get dressed up and you can put your little black dress on on a Saturday and there’s music playing and the food’s great.
And I love the little tiny hole in the wall places. What’s the little place in Hartsdale? We go there all the time … The Copper Kettle. I love places like that.
How do you relax? (We imagine you relax at … some point?)
Yeah, I don’t turn off often because I’m on emails responding to viewers. I’ll get like a hundred viewer emails a week and I’m responding to these people. I might not tell their story but I send them back a personalized letter to every single one of them explaining why I can’t or when I’m going to be able to. I do that until the wee hours of the morning sometimes, or I’m up at 4 a.m. emailing people.
I’m off Friday, which is a weekday, so oftentimes some of my data is coming in and lawmakers are calling in on my day off, so I work. Really my down day is Saturday, because I work Sundays, and on Saturday I’m [on] mommy duty. I think my time to really unwind — my sacred me time — is like between 9 and 12 on Friday, when my daughter is at school … if I’m not responding to work emails.
Ha! That’s when you finally sleep?
That’s when I just Zen out and I watch horrible reality TV or American Idol (which I loved this year).