Lee, Brandon Lee

Written by Editorial Staff Category: Web Extras Issue: June 2015
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Go behind the scenes at the photo shoot for this month’s Spotlight and see the paintballed progression of 3TV anchor Brandon Lee’s original artwork . Plus: extended Q&A.

Brandon Lee: Extended Q&A with the 3TV evening anchor
By Alejandra Armstrong

With so many years of experience, what do you love most about journalism?
I enjoy field anchoring on big stories and being out in the field more so than being behind the news desk... Seven months after I got here, they promoted me to the 5, the 6, the 9 and the 10. I’m grateful for that, but there’s nothing like reporting live from a big story and telling the stories of the people who are affected by it, aside from the nuts and the bolts and the facts of what’s going on. There was a woman whose son died from playing the “Choking Game.” And I did a story about her son who was a straight A student, a superb athlete. People thought he committed suicide and nobody wanted to listen to her... To be able to give that mom a voice is what fuels me to come in and do the day-in and day-out of news.

Boston isn’t the only place you’ve lived. You actually have quite the background. Mind running us through it?
I’m from Orange County, California. I used to watch the nightly news with Tom Brokaw in our house and local news all the time. I always remember telling my parents that’s what I want to do when I grow up. I went to NYU and double majored in political science and journalism. When I was at NYU, I was interning at the Today Show – back in the time when Soledad O’Brien and David Bloom were there. I became an associate producer at Today New York. I lived in New York City for almost 8 years. Then did the climb. I went to a very small market in Hagerstown, Maryland – one of the smallest markets in the entire country. I honestly don’t think it gets smaller than Hagerstown, Maryland. I carried my own camera. I shot all of my own video. I edited my own video. And I anchored to morning show and even ran my own teleprompter with a foot pedal. I did that for a year. I went back to New York City, worked for a small cable news network, and carried my own camera, my own tripod. I was lugging around the camera equipment on the subway trains of New York City as a one–man band covering City Hall. From there, went to Hartford, Connecticut as a reporter. From there, went to be a weekend anchor in Boston. Then, I went to be a street reporter in Los Angeles... did the crime beat for about a year. Then, took the morning anchor job in CBS Atlanta and was there for almost 4 years. And then came here.

You were living in New York City Sept. 11, 2001. Do you remember that day?
I was heading to work, as an associate producer at NBC New York, that morning, and I was on the subway coming from lower Manhattan where I lived. And suddenly, the train stopped. It came to a screeching halt and NYPD officers came running down the subway stairs on to our car and were telling everyone to get out... and at first, being in New York, we thought, at least I thought, maybe they were chasing a suspect, trying to arrest somebody. But we all exited the subway and went up to the street level and only noticed that there was a lot of chaos and people running around. At that time, I still did not know that a plane had hit the tower. And then more officers were telling us to run up the street, so we’re running up the street and we turn around and realized that both towers were hit. And I remember running up to 30 Rockefeller Plaza and I was in the newsroom and the cellphone lines at that time were down so I used my office phone to call my mom in California. And she said, “I’ve been trying to get a hold of you.” And as I’m on the phone, with my mom, I say, “It’s okay,” and she said, “No. Something’s not right here.” And that’s when we started to realize that those planes were purposefully put into the tower. I hung up the phone with her and I was in the newsroom and that’s when I started to look at the live feed from our assignment desk and we watched the tower go down. And the second tower came down. I was never able to go back down to my place where I lived. The asbestos, everything. So many of those buildings were destroyed. And so I stayed in a hotel in midtown for a long period of time. But I used my press pass and I used some of the equipment from the NYU journalism school and went down there and videotaped. I was walking around – in some points – knee-deep in ash and soot. We worked non-stop. We were working in the newsroom 18- to 20-hour days. And maybe about 4 or 5 days after my mom said, “You really need to go to church. You really need to go take a break.” And so I remember walking over to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and it was very quiet in there and that’s when, a good four or five days after the towers were hit that I broke down. That’s when it hit me.

You’ve been in the news industry for a while now and held different positions. Have your perceptions of the business changed at all?
My perceptions of the business have changed drastically since I’ve got into it and where technology is today and where the news business is going in the digital landscape. Here’s my philosophy: Some people say that news is going away because we are in this digital era and people go online. I wake up in the morning and I go to whatever news publications that I go to online and I get the nuts and bolts of day-to-day news... Everyone has access to a computer, so we have to give them a reason to tune in to us everyday and you can only do that if they have a special relationship with the anchors. If there were no relationship, or any chemistry between the anchor and the viewer, why would they tune in to you when they can go online and get their news? That’s why it’s so much more important today to have that connection. My dream is long form journalism – 48 Hours and Dateline are my two favorite shows. I love the long format of news journalism… I came here to be an anchor of a thirty-minute newscast at 4:30 p.m. I did not come here to be the main evening news anchor. Seven months after I got here they promoted me... I’m grateful for that, but there’s nothing like reporting live... When interns come in, I always take them under my wing and I always take them out in the field so that they can see what it’s like driving around in a live truck and they can experience the nit and grit of being a street reporter.