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Diann Burns

Diann Burns was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 29, 1958, the daughter of a Methodist preacher. Surrounded by extended family for most of her childhood, she recalls the support and generosity she received growing up. Her immediate family relocated several times when she was a child, briefly living in Pittsburgh and then Cincinnati, before returning to Cleveland, where Burns remained through college and young adulthood. Diann took an interest in theater and acted during her high school and college years. After pursuing a career on stage, she turned to journalism.

Burns graduated from Columbia University's prestigious Graduate School of Journalism, and worked as a general assignment reporter at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. She then moved on to become a sports editor, photographer and reporter at the black-owned Cleveland Call and Post, and later entered broadcasting with the Independent Network News of New York. In 1994, Burns was named co-anchor of the ten o'clock news at the ABC Chicago affiliate WLS-7, becoming the first African American woman to occupy such a position.

Burns is committed to numerous charitable organizations, most notably the Northern Illinois Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Support Group, an organization that assists high school students with school work and home life by providing tutorial and social services. She is also involved in the fight against pediatric AIDS.

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Lincoln Elementary School

Taylor Junior High School

Cleveland Heights High School

Cleveland State University

Columbia University

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McCormick Tribune Foundation



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God will never put on you more than you can bear.

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Macaroni, Cheese

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Television news anchor Diann Burns (1958 - ) was the first African American woman to anchor prime time news in Chicago on ABC’s WLS-7.





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<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Diann Burns interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Diann Burns lists her favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Diann Burns talks about her mother's origins</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Diann Burns talks about her father's origins</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Diann Burns names her siblings</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Diann Burns talks about her earliest memories as a child</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Diann Burns describes the Ohio neighborhood of her youth</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Diann Burns reflects on what it was like being a minister's daughter</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Diann Burns describes her personality</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Diann Burns talks about her personality, her schooling and her sister's death</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Diann Burns recalls her childhood personality and her love for the theater</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Diann Burns talks about her early theater experiences and some of her roles</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Diann Burns talks more about her early theater experiences</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Diann Burns discusses her father's thoughts on her acting career and her decision to go to college</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Diann Burns recalls her decision to transfer colleges and go to New York</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Diann Burns talks about her experiences in New York</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Diann Burns recalls the work atmosphere and racism in her early TV broadcasting career</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Diann Burns recalls her TV broadcasting experiences in New York and Columbus, Ohio</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Diann Burns talks about her early female role models in television</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Diann Burns talks about her news anchor experiences in Columbus, Ohio</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Diann Burns talks about her move to Chicago television</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Diann Burns shares her advice to blacks entering the television broadcasting industry</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Diann Burns talks about how she succeeded in the television broadcasting industry</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Diann Burns recalls her job progression at Channel 7 in Chicago</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Diann Burns discusses how she got the prime anchor spot at Channel 7</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Diann Burns talks about the work environment at Channel 7</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Diann Burns talks about the surprises in her job</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Diann Burns details how she met her husband</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Diann Burns talks about her career and her parents' view of her success</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Diann Burns talks about her legacy and shares a story about mentorship</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Photo - Diann Burns at six months old, Cleveland, Ohio, 1956</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Photo - Diann Burns as sports editor for the 'Cleveland Press' newspaper, Cleveland, Ohio</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Photo - Diann Burns in a fashion photo shoot, Chicago, Illinois, 1986-1987</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Photo - Diann Burns's senior photo at Cleveland Heights High School, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, 1974</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Photo - Diann Burns in her dormitory room at Columbia University, New York, New York, early 1980s</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Photo - Diann Burns with photographer Art Campbell on assignment in Somalia for WLS-TV, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois, 1993</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Photo - Diann Burns's maternal grandmother, Mary Newbern and her uncle, Robert Christian</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Photo - Diann Burns and Pam Rubenstein, Cleveland Heights High School, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, early 1970s</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Photo - Diann Burns performing with the Temptations, Chicago, Illinois, 1987-1988</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Photo - Diann Burns with her roommates Sabrina and Gina while a graduate student at Columbia University, New York, ca. early 1980s</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Photo - Peter Jennings, Diann Burns and Alan Krashesky cover the Democratic Convention for WLS-TV, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois, 1996</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Photo - Diann Burns's class photo from the second grade, Lincoln Elementary School, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1960s</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 15 - Photo - Diann Burns in Somalia on assignment for WLS-TV, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois, 1993</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 16 - Photo - Bill Campbell, Telma Hopkins, Harry Porterfield and Diann Burns host the Bud Billiken Parade for WLS-TV, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois, 1989</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 17 - Photo - Diann Burns with Co-Anchor John Drury, WLS-TV, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois, 1990s</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 18 - Photo - Diann Burns's publicity photo for WLS-TV, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois, 1985</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 19 - Photo - Diann Burns and NBA basketball player, Charles Oakley, 1986</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 20 - Photo - Diann Burns interviewing singer Al B. Sure for WLS-TV, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois, 1986</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 21 - Photo - Diann Burns's husband, Marc Watts, on the cover of the 'National Association of Black Journalists Journal,' September/October 1996</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 22 - Photo - Diann Burns in a Karamu House performance of 'for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf,' Cleveland, Ohio, 1970s</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 23 - Photo - Diann Burns in the article, "Making it on Merit," by Michael Leiderman for 'North Shore' magazine, January, 1991</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 24 - Photo - Diann Burns with her graduating class from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, New York, New York, 1981</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 25 - Photo - Diann Burns in an article by Jane Ammeson for 'Chicago Life' magazine, Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1995</a>







Diann Burns talks about her experiences in New York
Diann Burns discusses how she got the prime anchor spot at Channel 7
Now how was that experience, living in New York and, you know, going to journalism school, and you know and--? I mean, how was that--and what year are we at?$$This is 19--. I moved there in 1980 and there were a bunch of rules. You weren't allowed to work while you were there. I wrote--I'd applied for a bunch of scholarships. I got a good scholarship from Scripps Howard [Foundation], which I'm thankful to this day. And so I went there in the fall of 1980 and since you're not allowed to work, you really have to focus. And there's a lot of things that you're not allowed to do because they don't want the distractions and they're serious (with emphasis). Though, you know, a couple of people I know were asked to leave and, you know, it's kind of a waste of time. So I hung around, and you learn a lot there. You are forced to, because you're not allowed to bring--you're not allowed to use a car. You're not allowed to take a cab--you have to--they give you a map and they give you the schedule for the trains and buses, and that's how you have to get around. And so you learn the city and you're forced to go right to the same assignments as the reporters from the 'New York Times' [newspaper] and the reporters from the TV stations and you have to come back and do your version and they compare them to what the professionals were doing. You weren't allowed to like call in sick or anything. You couldn't be late. There were just all these rules like you had a real job and it was real and you had to do magazine, newspaper, television, radio. You had to do every job there was in every single facet of media and then at the end, you sort of make a decision. So, I hung around this one TV station in New York, WPIX and I went there on the weekends just to see, 'cause I didn't really get it (with emphasis). I came from newspaper and--you know, they were saying all this stuff about the tapes, and, you know, how to put a story together, but I didn't quite--it didn't really click. So, I went to the station, I'm like, "Can I just like, you know, hang around, you know, practice writing and tell me if I'm really getting it?" And there were some people who were great and they looked at my stories and they even sneaked a couple of them on the air a few times, and I was like, "All proud I wrote that story," you know, and after I graduated, they hired me. And I had decided when I flew on the airplane and moved there that I was never leaving New York. I saw the skyline. I saw the people rushing around, the energy, and I just thought, "This is where I am supposed to be." So, it was really easy for me to be there. I wasn't scared. You know, I took your typical precautions, but I absolutely loved New York and so, I got into it, and when I worked at the TV station, I had an apartment. I had roommates and then I lived by myself for a while, and I just--I worked there for--you know, after I left school. I learned a lotta lot about urban life and just careers and competition and ambition. New York, if you don't have ambition, if you're not competitive, it's not going to happen. And you just get the energy from the people there and you just go.$And, so did an agent play a role in this at all or was it [Joseph] Joe Ahern [General Manager at WLS-TV, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois], I mean, what do you think?$$Well, you know--me, talking, I mean I'm not the type--the bragadocious type or whatever, but clearly I was the best candidate at the time. I worked hard--I worked hard when I came there. I still work hard, and my thing is, I don't want there to be a tossup. I don't want to go in and ask, "Can I have that job?"--"Can I apply for that job?" I work hard enough so it's clear that if there's a job open, my name is the first name that comes across your lips and across your mind and there's no doubt about it, and from what they tell me, there was no doubt about it. There was never another option. Nobody was ever in the running. I was never competing with somebody that last two weeks or whatever for the job and I don't worry about it. I don't wait 'til there's a job opening or hear about a job opening and work hard until I get it. I work hard because I love what I do and there are always stories to tell and there's always some interesting issue out there, and if there's something better for me to move ahead, I'll move ahead. I'm not the type who says, "You know, one day, I want to do the ten o'clock [P.M.] news." Maybe not. One day, I'll do something else other than what I was doing. Maybe it was going to network, I don't know. But I just worked hard--I worked hard, and I was, you know--and even up to the late day when it was--what year--I mean we're talking the '90s [1990s], and somebody said to me, "You know, it's gonna be kind of, you know, scary for him, I mean--," the General Manager at the time, Joe Ahern, "--I mean can you really (with emphasis) put a black person on the ten o'clock [P.M.] news?" I'm thinking, "Here it is, the late '90s [1990s], and we're still talking about this." And (pause) "What's that?" and, you know, I said, you know, "Who else did you have in mind?" And in that case are we saying, "I shouldn't get the job because I'm black suddenly (with emphasis)?" You know, or, "That job should really go to a white person." What goes through your mind to think something like that? Of course not. So, I told them, "You know what? When you work hard enough and you're smart enough to run a station, you can pick whoever you want to be on the ten o'clock [P.M.] news. But I'm smarter than anybody that is in the running, I'm better than anybody that's in the running, and that's all there is, you know, to choose from. So, I'm not worried about it." And I guess it forced me to be a little more outspoken about my abilities because after a while you just get so tired of people challenging, challenging, when they can see the work you've done. When they can see the work you've done and--to get there educationally. I mean, I've got more on my resume than most of those people do, combined (with emphasis), so why shouldn't I get the job? Why shouldn't I? I didn't sit at home twiddling my fingers about it and, to tell you the truth, they told me as soon as the job was open, I was gonna get it. So, what am I sitting here worrying about, "Oh, should I go up there and ask?" I've never asked for a job in my life because I was the obvious choice, and that's all. If I know I'm working hard, I'm gonna be the obvious choice and that's why I work hard.