by Megan Leigh Barnard

New Station, Same Yolanda

Many of us have grown up along with Yolanda Harris—and her career.

It’s strange to think that she’s has been on Central Ohio’s TV screens for the past two decades, but if you do some digging—or simply ask her yourself—you’ll quickly confirm that it’s actually been that long.

She witnessed the beginning of Fox 28’s news department, and prior to that, was a fixture on the station’s “Kid’s Club” show during which children could tune into youth-appropriate programming and learn about current activities happening in their city.

Before the lights and cameras though, or even achieving a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Bowling Green State University, Harris’ choice to be a broadcaster was almost edged out by something else.

“I went in thinking I wanted to do journalism,” Harris explained recently, inside the newsroom of her new anchoring job at WBNS-10TV. “I wanted to be a flight attendant, but my mom was like, ‘Go to school first. If you want to be a flight attendant after that, you can do it.’ That’s what I really wanted to do.”

Luckily for her, and for Central Ohio, her experiences at BGSU had her choosing a career as a journalist, but it wouldn’t start out that simply. After college, Harris began looking for a career in broadcasting, leading her to apply to all the major stations in Columbus. Even one that didn’t have a news program at the time.

Eventually, she chose WTTE-FOX 28—then a news-less station, but began as a receptionist. She says it got her foot in the door and began the process of professionally growing while the network did its own expansion.

“I grew with them,” she says. “I was with the TV 28 Kids Club, then we started doing the news magazine [with ThisWeek]. And then they started doing news and as they grew, I grew.” In 1996, WTTE debuted its first standard news program, Fox 28 News at 10, and created an opportunity Harris seized.

It didn’t seem like long before Harris became a Cap City fixture. After years of her work on-air, she became one of the highest-rated anchors in the city. The 10 p.m. slot she helped found did well and had her expanding to the 6 p.m. news after WSYX-ABC 6 and WTTE merged news programming.

Things seemed to be going smoothly, and they were. Harris describes herself as a “homer” and admits that the city she’s called home basically since birth is one she doesn’t want to leave. That’s why longtime viewers of Columbus local news were surprised when she signed off at ABC 6 and FOX 28 late last year at what seemed like the prime of her career. What they didn’t know was that she wasn’t actually leaving Columbus. Far from it.

The always smiling, ever cheerful anchor was just switching desks. After her contract with WSYX/WTTE was up in 2016, she decided to sign on with her now-former network’s biggest competitor, WBNS-10TV.

“It was a really tough decision. I have a lot of friends there. It was kind of an emotional thing for me,” she described. “I just think sometimes you need new experiences and you need to grow. Sometimes you have to go away to be appreciated for what you bring to the table.” Her longtime station’s reaction, according to Yolanda, was nothing less than jaw-dropping.

“It was shock. Probably because, since I’m a homer—I’m from here, I’ve been here, I was happy—no one ever expected me to leave,” she says. “It was a good opportunity for me and I wanted to take it. So sometimes you have to make tough decisions that may be good for you but not great for someone else. Everyone does what’s best for them—that they have to do.

“It was uncomfortable because I felt bad about it.” Harris later explained, when asked about the working environment after she informed the network she wouldn’t be returning, “I felt like a traitor, and then toward the end it was uncomfortable. You can imagine. Nobody’s happy for you when you’re going to the competitor.

“I wish them the best,” she concluded. “All jobs have ups and downs but I had more ups than downs there.”

During her nearly seven month hiatus from the Central Ohio airwaves, a lot happened personally for Harris. She did some traveling, took some time to relax, and even got married to a man she describes as “very supportive.” She also got to participate in local happy hours, which to us sounds like no big deal, but when you’ve been working the evening news shift for a couple decades, it’s something to savor when you’re available for it.

“It was the first time in 20-plus years that I had time off to just enjoy life or get to do things,” she explained. “It honestly was the best six months of my life… I’ve realized how important personal time is.”

She her new gig at WBNS will be her last in television.

“There’s only so old I want to get on TV,” she jokes. “These cameras are too darn good. They show everything.”

Her new job has been a self-described learning curve, but an exciting challenge. Harris says 10TV has welcomed her and her bright personality with open arms. As one chapter of her life comes to an end, another is beginning for her, and she wants Columbus to join her on that journey.

“I’m at a very good place because 2017 has been a year of change for me—both professionally and personally,” she remarked. “Everybody goes through stuff, times of stress, ups and downs, but it’s been a very calm time for me. I’m calm, I’m at peace, and I’m at a happy place. And I think it’s my turn to be in a happy place, and it’s a good feeling for me.”