Since joining WABC in 1991, Diana Williams has become one of the most recognizable faces in local television news. As the co-anchor of Eyewitness News at 5 p.m. and the host of her own public affairs show on Sunday morning, Up Close With Diana Williams, the veteran journalist has earned a reputation for challenging politicians and probing deeper into stories than the time constraints of her medium generally allow.
Williams readily admits that when she initially took on Up Close, she didn’t really know anything about politics. “I was scared to death when we first started the show,” Williams recalled. “My first interview actually was with Sen. Chuck Schumer, and luckily that was an easy one, because he loves to talk.”
Fourteen years and hundreds of shows later, Williams has come to relish New York politics.
“Some of things that are ingrained now in the system really frustrate me, [like] the backbiting between the parties and how they each go after each other and don’t accomplish anything,” she said. “But then when I speak to some of these young people who are getting involved, and who have the best of intentions, and are sharp and smart, I think, ‘No, it will be okay.’ But I go back and forth.”
Williams, who regards her perspective as a woman and a mother among her greatest strengths as a reporter, is not shy about owing her success in part to her gender.
“That’s how I got my first job,” explained Williams, whose began her career at WSOC in Charlotte. “When I started in the business—I graduated from college in 1980—there were very few women in television. … You had Jessica Savitch, you had Barbara Walters, some of those women breaking through … but at the local level … that wasn’t happening so much. Fortunately I came into a station where the news director recognized that women were kind of the next thing, and so he hired four women … and all of the women have gone on to be very successful, which is great to see.”