Ashleigh Banfield Champions a "Rising Tide" of Mentoring

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On-camera, Ashleigh Banfield is marking the first anniversary of her nightly hour on NewsNation this month. Off-camera, she's celebrating the early success of "Rising Tide," a monthly live Zoom event where people looking to succeed in TV journalism get guidance from leading figures in the field.

"I can't tell you how many times I've had a phone call, or an e-mail, or someone stop by my desk, usually on the younger side and fresh into the business, asking for help and asking for advice," Banfield said while explaining why she launched "Rising Tide" last fall. "[They want] guidance, best practices, tips, anything that can help these young broadcasters get an edge, or at least navigate the very tricky landscape of broadcast TV.

"For me, this is a way to scale the kind of help that our younger generation in the business could use, could benefit from," she added. "Then there's a nice by-product: the craft will benefit as well."

Four months in, "Rising Tide" attracts hundreds of people to each 30-minute session. They check in from all around the country and overseas. Participants are invited to submit questions in advance for Banfield and her guests through her "Rising Tide" website page. After each session, an excerpt is presented on her NewsNation show, Banfield, and lately, the segments appear on the channel's morning news program the following day.

To deepen her mentor capacity, Banfield draws from connections she's made over her more than three decades on the national TV scene. She's had anchorperson and host roles along the way at CNN, MSNBC, Court TV and HLN.

CBS Mornings co-anchor Gayle King appeared four months ago, followed by CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and This Is Life host/producer Lisa Ling. Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski will be in the mentor seat this month, with Shepard Smith, anchorperson of CNBC's The News With Shepard Smith; Sam Champion, ABC's Weather Anchor; and Meghan McCain, Daily Mail Columnist and Political Commentator among the guests on-deck for the months ahead.

In fact, the guest schedule for "Rising Tide" over the next 18 months is all booked up. That's encouraging Banfield, with support from a number of trade organizations, to explore holding in-person events as her schedule permits. Look for the National Association of Broadcasters to schedule a session during one of its upcoming conventions in Las Vegas or New York.

The overwhelming guest acceptance pleases Banfield. "Every one of them said, 'Yes, count me in,'" she said.

By launching "Rising Tide," Banfield wants to give others the depth of mentoring she rarely had access to when her journalism career began. "I wish I had a lot more of it," she acknowledged. "Women in the '80s were [considered by many as] bimbos. I can't tell you the number of times I heard that." Eventually, she did find guidance from a female news director. And that experience is among the reasons why "Rising Tide" holds such significance to her.

Common subjects that pop up during each session include the toughest things people go through in their careers; what makes them stronger or better; journalism ethics, and things they wish they knew way back when. "I'm greatly impressed with the questions and the insight," Banfield noted. "The attendees do their homework. They know the bios and the backgrounds of these people going in. It shows they are serious about these sessions."

What makes a good mentor? Here's a quick checklist from Banfield:

  • Be candid. "You have to understand that everything that comes out of your mouth will likely be gobbled up. A lot of people are sponges. When they reach out to a mentor, they have the desire to be better at what they do."
  • Give advice that keeps up with the times professionally and personally. Media is changing so quickly. Provide insights that relate to "the broader scope of the work we do, as opposed to the myopic aspects of things we no longer do."
  • Be meticulous and charitable with your time. "Calculate the amount of information you can synthesize and pass on what will be helpful."

Down the road, Banfield intends to expand the "Rising Tide" guest list to include TV executives and officials from other industries. "There are so many people who want to help the next gen in this business," she said.

Watch Jack Myers' Legends & Leaders conversation with Ashley Banfield here.

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