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News 7 Anchor Ready for “The Big Leagues”

Natasha Ryan on-air in the WDBJ 7 studio.

There’s nothing wrong with staying here in Roanoke to anchor or report on the news if that’s what you want to do, but Natasha Ryan has her eyes set on a larger prize.  To that end the WDBJ television news anchor will set sail from the Star City, leaving the 67th largest TV market behind for top-15 Seattle and NBC affiliate KING-5 in January.

Leaving just short of five years here, Ryan (30) said she has been constantly torn throughout her career between the anchor desk and field reporting, which she does sporadically for News 7. Her main duties are anchoring the 11pm newscast, and the news hour on “My19.”

Ryan, a Penn State graduate and journalism major, worked in Johnstown and Altoona, PA in both radio and television news after graduating from college – pulling double duty for a while – before landing a full time job in television. She eventually became a weekend anchor at WJAC in Johnstown and the Blair County bureau chief.

A parking deck collapse she covered as a part time reporter for an FM radio station while still in college helped jump start her early on. “That day they called me in and offered me my boss’s job,” she recalled, “essentially I became the news director.”

A partnership with WJAC TV in Johnstown led her to a position with the State College bureau (the home town for Penn State). “I was actually working two [media] jobs … and waitressing,” she chuckles. Soon Ryan had a full time gig with an Altoona television station and became a weekend anchor about two years later.

Ryan applied for the vacant anchor job in Roanoke at Channel 7 on her own after the representative agency she was working through went out of business. “This was a shot in the dark,” she said about Roanoke, “but the whole goal was to move up to a bigger market.”

Ryan was somewhat shocked when former WBDJ news director Jim Kent hired her. “I only had eight months of experience on the desk as weekend anchor when I came here. I was floored … I was like, really?”

Over the years Ryan’s friendly, smiling face became a staple in the community, along with other longtime News7 personalities Jean Jadhon, Keith Humphry, Robin Reed and Joe Dashiell.

Ryan said she is one of those people “that is always in a constant torn mode,” over certain decisions – in this case as to whether she wanted to be an anchor or a field reporter. “I feel like I’m always in ‘the grass is greener on the other side’ mode. When I was a reporter I wanted to be an anchor, now that I’m an anchor I’d kind of like to be back in the field.”

The perfect balance for her “would be a little bit of both.” She’s edited, produced, shot video – even covered high school football as a camera operator. “I literally have done every job in the newsroom. [But] I love being in the field. There’s no feeling [like when] you’ve nailed a live shot and put together a great story – that feeling of ‘yes, I did it’. That’s the feeling that’s only felt in the field.”  Ryan readily admits that, “I am definitely an adrenaline junkie.”

“I’m just really excited,” said Ryan about her new assignment in the 13th largest TV market in the country.  She felt at home in the KING newsroom during her interview in Seattle, the same way “it clicked,” when she first walked in to WDBJ. The ethical approach to news and “overall vibe [in Seattle] is a lot like here. I think I’ll be able to transition very well.”

The staff at News 7 has been “completely supportive,” since they learned about her impending career change. “Moving on is part of this business, and [they] understand that. I love Channel 7 – but this is a career goal that I had.”

Ryan, a military brat who went to grade school for a while in the Philippines, has also felt the love from Roanokers over the past four years-plus: “I did not realize how much people get to know you when you come into their home every night. I’m just overwhelmed at how nice people are.” She’s adorned the cover of Roanoker magazine as well, posing with her beloved dog.

Ryan doesn’t necessarily want to aim for a network or cable network anchor slot, but “I never say no to anything. Every word you say is scrutinized on the cable news channels. I don’t know if I want that kind of pressure in my life, but never say never. I could totally see myself doing CNN Headline News [or] entertainment programs. We’ll see where life takes me. I think there’s a plan for all of us.”

For now it will take Natasha Ryan to Seattle. Her last day at Channel 7 is slated for January 7, with her debut in Seattle a few weeks later. “My end goal has always been a top twenty market,” said Ryan. “ ‘I want to get to the big leagues’ is what I would say. Market 13 is definitely playing with the big boys.”

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