Interview: Local Spotlight on Emmy Award-Winning News Anchor Tracy Kornet

Check out the interview.

By: Apr. 09, 2024
Interview: Local Spotlight on Emmy Award-Winning News Anchor Tracy Kornet
Enter Your Email to Unlock This Article

Plus, get the best of BroadwayWorld delivered to your inbox, and unlimited access to our editorial content across the globe.

Existing user? Just click login.

Interview: Local Spotlight on Emmy Award-Winning News Anchor Tracy Kornet

BroadwayWorld readers know the theater is blessed with talented people who not only perform on the stage but also manage operations behind the scenes. From tech crews, producers, directors, and writers, to publishers, instructors, and dramaturgs, these folks have their own “stage presence” that leans toward the creative side of this craft. You know them when you meet them. They stand out. They have a passion and a purpose. And they are inspiring. Some stay in the performing arts for a lifetime while others transfer their arts acumen into other careers.

One such person is seven-time Emmy Award-winning news anchor Tracy Kornet who delivers the news to Middle Tennesseans via WSMV4 Nashville at 3, 4, 6:30, and 10 p.m. Born in Chicago and raised in Tampa, her TV news career began in her husband's hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. After finishing college her first break came as the morning anchor at WLEX-TV.  Tracy says, “After 8 years of learning everything I possibly could in this local TV world, we moved the family to Phoenix for a dream job: to launch and host my own morning magazine show. Sonoran Living won dozens of Emmy awards—and much respect as the Valley’s premiere morning magazine show. On September 11, 2001, the first anniversary of Sonoran Living's premiere, I was summoned to the news desk for breaking news and knew I could never leave it again. I started anchoring morning news, in addition to my hosting role, and enjoyed the wonderful balance of both”.

Graduating from the University of Kentucky, but considering herself a Vandy girl, Tracy spent her first 3 years at Vanderbilt University in Nashville studying French & International Relations, pledging Tri-Delta, singing with "The Original Cast," and dancing with the Vandy Pom Squad. While at Vanderbilt University, she spent intermittent semesters working in Japan as Cinderella at Tokyo Disneyland and singing backup for the Japanese pop star, Anri. Tracy earned her MBA in 2002, which reignited her passion for international affairs, and was selected as one of 6 U.S. journalists for a 10-day U.S.-Korean journalism exchange in 2023.

Tracy graciously took some time from her bustling schedule to answer a few questions for her fans and followers.

You originally had plans for a career in the performing arts. Please share your background in the entertainment industry.

I was raised with several built-in accompanists. My mother, father, and aunt all played piano, which allowed me to belt out Broadway and pop tunes whenever my heart desired! I started in dance at age 4, won the 5th-grade talent show, performed in school plays, and sang in choirs my whole life, long culminating in my 9th-grade dream-come-true: making Chamberlain High School’s supercool pop group, Act 1. We performed on local TV shows and professional events and toured all around the district – DURING THE SCHOOL DAY. I thought I was on my way to the big time! When I learned that Vanderbilt University had a Broadway group, The Original Cast, I could barely wait for the second semester of freshman year when auditions were first allowed. Making that troupe and performing at that level was the most fun I’d ever had. I was smitten with showbiz. And then this happened:

The year was 1988. I had dropped out of college for two semesters after a fighter-pilot-older-brother-of-my-high-school-friend told me he "saw Americans working" at Tokyo Disneyland. "You should go do that, Tracy!" he said, standing in my family's Tampa, Florida kitchen during Christmas break of my sophomore year. I called nearby Disney World the next day, tried out the day after that, and by April was flying to LA to be Cinderella at Tokyo Disneyland and meet my fellow cast mates.

We would spend the next 6 months dancing, waving, and smiling in parades and in person. I was cast as a "face character” playing Cinderella, Princess Aurora, and Mary Poppins for literally millions of the Asian Disney faithful. I was 18. Once that contract ended, I moved in with an American military family I had met at church. I auditioned for random modeling jobs, English audio recordings, and just about anything that required a Caucasian voice or face. That's when I had a fateful encounter with a fellow American named Raymond. He was a trained dancer and had done multiple contracts with Disney. He had moved to Japan full-time, learning the language and immersing himself in the culture. We happened to run into each other one day on a Tokyo street. He remembered that I was a singer and suggested an opportunity that would change my life forever. "There's a Japanese pop star looking to add a blonde American to her entourage. You should audition," he said. "Meet me at the Roppongi subway station on Thursday at 2 pm." I followed and nailed the audition. It was one of those "I got this" experiences when not only do you feel confident, quickly learning the dance steps that become part of your DNA when you start lessons at age 4 and easily harmonizing to the lady at the piano but when you legit know you're the best (wo)man for the job. And it didn't hurt that my resume read: "Cinderella." As a news anchor in Dallas in my late 30s, a group of fellow former musicians-turned-colleagues agreed to work up a few songs at our company Christmas party. We all loved playing together so much that we ended up touring clubs and performing at festivals for two years! So, I was able to scratch that itch as lead singer again and get it out of my system for good. Last year returned to Japan for the first time in decades. I brought my daughter along and reunited with the pop star, Anri, who is back on tour and better than ever. You can read all about that at

Do you have a favorite Broadway performer, play, or musical?

I’ll forever be partial to Laura Bell Bundy in Legally Blonde, The Musical. She went to my husband’s high school in Lexington, Kentucky, so I’d heard people talk about her. But when I saw her embody the role of “Elle” with such empathy, humor, and heart, combined with her outstanding dance skills – plus that incredibly clever and catchy score – I was hooked. My daughter and I must have seen that show six times on Broadway. A close second is Shoshana Bean in Wicked. What an outstanding talent.

You are a trusted news source with believability and composure. What inspired you to go into broadcast journalism and what steps did you take to pursue that career path?

I can only describe the opportunity as a real-life miracle. I had always admired journalists and loved to write. I was editor of my high school yearbook and an English PRIDE award winner in Florida. When it came to performing on stage, the bigger the crowd, the better. I simply loved it; it’s where I felt most comfortable. When I was 6 months pregnant with my second child and finishing college at UK, I auditioned for local commercials to stay busy and have fun, while my husband was still playing professional basketball. One day I got a commercial gig for a local eyeglass doctor, which happened to be taped at the local NBC affiliate. As the commercial was being edited, the general manager walked by the editing suite and asked who I was. The employee gave John Duvall my number. He called me the next day, took me to lunch to talk about future opportunities at his station, and at nine months pregnant offered me a job as the morning news co-anchor of Kentucky Sunrise. I just celebrated 30 years on local television last month!

You have covered so many interesting stories over the years. What was the most heartwarming story you have covered? What was the most heartbreaking?

My answer to both questions is one and the same. I had the honor of doing weekly profiles on children with special needs in need of adoption. The series was called “Thursday’s Child.” Every week these stories broke my heart open. One little girl was raised in a dog cage on her parents’ back porch. Another set of siblings was found duct-taped to chairs, and their parents were found with needles in their arms in the other room. Yet every week, I knew I was helping change the world. I’m thrilled to say, every single child whose story we featured was adopted by a loving family!

Share a story or interview you have yet to do that is on your wish list.

I have had the most amazing access to people I deeply admire throughout this career journey. In my first job in Kentucky, I was sent behind the scenes of Saturday Night Live and interviewed Will Ferrell in the costume closet, not to mention Molly Shannon, Anna Gasteyer, Norm McDonald, and Tim Meadows. On my morning magazine show in Phoenix, I got to sing with Donny Osmond and Dennis DeYoung, play Nurse Tracy twice on General Hospital, fill in for Barbara Walters on “The View,” and interview my teen idol Rick Springfield. When I went back to news full-time in Dallas and Nashville, I had the privilege of interviewing three U.S. Presidents – George W. Bush, Donald Trump, and Jimmy Carter--and pinched myself hosting an event with the legendary newsman Bob Schieffer. But I’ve also learned I’m an absolute weirdo when I interview certain celebrities or people I am crushing on. I couldn’t even say hi to Adam Sandler with my daughter at their own cast party for the movie Hustle. I was too starstruck and knew I’d make a fool of myself. And I had already met Adam in his own backyard! Kathie Lee Gifford was on my interview wish list for 25 years. I longed to tell her what her presence on TV meant to me as a young mom. I would literally roll off my tall, mahogany-carved rice bed onto the floor and into the sitting room, where I would turn on “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee” to hear their host chat. Those two made me laugh and cry and not feel so alone in the world. Kathie Lee would gush over her husband Frank, their kids, and Jesus. She proved to me that one can work in television and still have values. A few years ago my wish came true. Kathie Lee had left Today and moved to Nashville. I not only interviewed her for a piece on WSMV4, but I found a fan letter I had written her at age 24. Once again, the totally UNCOOL interviewer, I read part of it aloud to her and thanked her for the difference she made in my life.

Please share an experience or story where your background in the performing arts provided an advantage or unique insight into your role as a news anchor.

I believe I use my background every day, especially when the teleprompter dies or during breaking news. I was particularly grateful for my arts background when I auditioned for my first big hosting job in Phoenix/Scottsdale. It was my dream to work in a major market and had no idea what to expect. The executive producers sent me a list of topics ahead of time and told me to be “ready to speak at length” about three or four of them. I flew to Phoenix and the station looked like the Taj Mahal. The building has won multiple awards for its architectural brilliance. The station executives had me stand in front of a thick black curtain in front of a studio camera, handed me the list of topics again, and said “Ok, start talking.” All I remember is weaving stories, facts, figures, and talking points about menopause into stories about meeting Charles Barkley. I must have gone on for at least 30 minutes, if not a solid hour. Just me and the camera. Eventually, the producers came around the corner and told me I could stop. I knew I had found my sweet spot. I knew how to produce shows just like the one they wanted to launch. I knew I was the right woman for the job. The one-year anniversary of Sonoran Living was September 11, 2001. As I prepared to leave my house for our anniversary show, our world changed. We did non-stop breaking news, and my show went dark for several weeks. I had offered to jump on the news desk and knew I would never leave news again. It’s too important in a time of crisis. I feel like I’m able to help, disseminate information to the public in their greatest time of need. Anchoring during COVID felt like an honor. I still feel that way today.

Wanting to be the first to report a breaking story, some news sources have lost their integrity over balancing timeliness versus the need for accuracy. What strategies do you use to engage viewers and maintain their trust in an era of widespread misinformation?

I wish more viewers understood the process we undertake to vet stories and sources before we put them on-air, post, or tweet. In our social media world, anyone can write a blog or submit an article and people will believe what they read! It’s dangerous and infuriating. I am constantly questioning sources and have trained my children to do the same. When it comes to maintaining the trust of viewers, all I can do is live my life worthy of their trust – in my words and actions every day. I’m extremely proud of my company Gray, which has strict policies in place for balance, accuracy, and accountability. I just completed a one-hour-long tutorial on AI and how to ensure our work as journalists is held to the highest standards. I will say, that it is never lost on me how every story I report involves real people. I don’t take their suffering and loss lightly; I get choked up sharing stories of joy and redemption. The day I stop feeling for the people affected by the news I report is the day I need to say goodbye.

With the evolving media landscape, broadcasters seem to have replaced many investigative reporters with “talking heads” who read stories scripted for them. How do you see the role of television news anchors changing in the future?

It’s been changing for years, exponentially of late. I’m not sure most people know how much and how often news anchors write and report alongside producers. Every anchor I know, at least those who have lasted more than a quick spell on the desk, has spent years in the field writing, researching, working overnights, whatever it takes to earn their spot. As for the future, I can only imagine news anchors doing more and more. There are just a handful of national, network anchors with million-dollar salaries and full-time makeup and hair people. The rest of us are hustling with more newscasts being added, digital responsibilities, social media expectations, and participation in community events.

You wear many hats in your public and private life. You will be emceeing BrightStone’s 25th-anniversary celebration in April. What is your connection to BrightStone and other charities or nonprofits you support?

Something about BrightStone has touched me from the first time I stepped into their building. There was a male student in his 50s or 60s who reminded me so much of my older brother. I kept tearing up the whole time I was shooting my story. I was just so touched. My older brother is just 18 months older than me. He weighed only four pounds at birth, had developmental delays, and by the time he was 9 or 10, became a severe stutterer. I remember him being teased and bullied by some of the boys in my class one day. I ran out to the PE field ready to fight! To this day, I am drawn to organizations and individuals who give a voice to the voiceless and fight for the underdog. People who show love to those they’ve never met. It’s my honor and privilege to use my TV platform to shine a spotlight on these angels and non-profits. Here in Nashville, I spend most of my free time emceeing community events, moderating panels, and volunteering with and serving on the boards of the Sexual Assault Center, UpRise Nashville, Habitat for Humanity, and the Nashville Rescue Mission.

From time to time, we all need to relax and refresh. What is your favorite getaway? Hobbies?

Traveling is my favorite pastime, especially if it involves my children. In this chapter of life, my husband and I are often on the road watching as many Boston Celtics basketball games as possible, for whom our youngest child currently plays. The kids now live in different states, so if I’m not driving or flying to them, I’m on the beach near my Tampa hometown, meeting siblings and friends for concerts, or on a plane for an international adventure. I love trying to speak the foreign languages I’ve studied through the years-- Italian, Japanese, French, and most recently Spanish. I completed a one-week Spanish Immersion course in Valencia, Spain a few years ago. I’m determined to never stop learning!

Are you writing a book?

Yes. But who knows if I’ll ever finish it!

Awarded Best News Anchor multiple times by the Tennessee Associated Press, Tracy is a passionate non-profit board member, emcee/speaker, and community volunteer. Her heart is as big as her career. A member of the 2018 class of Leadership Nashville, Tracy serves on the state board for Habitat for Humanity and the Advisory Board for UpRise Nashville, a career training program helping pull people out of poverty through education and job placement. She is a member of the U.S.-Japan Council in Washington, D.C., and the President's National Advisory Council at Asbury University. Tracy is also a former co-chair and long-time board member of the Sexual Assault Center of Nashville. In April alone Tracy will be emceeing BrighStone’s 25th-anniversary celebration, the Go Red luncheon, and the keynote for the Sexual Assault Center's Safe City Breakfast. Tracy and her husband Frank met as undergrads at Vanderbilt, where his Milwaukee Bucks jersey hangs in the basketball hall of fame. Their three grown children all played college basketball, including 7'2" Luke who now plays with the Boston Celtics.


To post a comment, you must register and login.

Vote Sponsor