On Tuesday November 26th, I had the unexpected privilege of meeting and talking with News 9 reporter Heather Hope at Urban Roots. We were both attending The Vine Open Mic Poetry Night at the trendy, laid back spot in the historic Deep Deuce district. Urban Roots is quickly ascending in stature as a preferred hangout for culturally aware urban professionals in Oklahoma City. The place was so packed on this night that would-be patrons had to be turned away at the door, and there was standing room only inside, an increasingly common occurrence at Urban Roots due to its rising popularity.
The fact that I couldn’t find a seat on this night turned out to be a blessing in disguise. My impromptu conversation with Heather Hope came about as I was jockeying for position to see and hear the poets on deck for Erotic Poetry Night. With women pressing past me in droves to get close to Lawton poet extraordinaire Obbie West, I ended up standing in front of a friend of Hope’s who was sitting at the bar, which led to a discussion about Culturocity. Upon learning about the site, the effervescent young woman immediately suggested I profile her brilliant journalist friend, who was seated next to her. Heather graciously obliged, and thus began my journey to the discovery of Hope.
Heather Hope is a general assignment reporter for KWTV News 9, the CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City. She generally covers stories on location, appearing on the 5 and 6 pm telecasts, as well as at 10 pm. Hope is new to Oklahoma, having been here since February. She has been a news reporter for the past three years, and relocated here after a stint on a local station in Bakersfield, California, pursuing an opportunity to move up to a larger market.
The unpredictable Oklahoma weather has been among the biggest adjustments for Hope. Also, relocation to the Bible belt has proven to be a major shift for the reporter, a graduate of Ohio State University and the University of Southern California. Her future career aspirations include staying in the news and progressing as a reporter, and possibly hosting a lifestyle show.
One of continual challenges Heather faces is the difficult nature of some stories. She is familiar with the discomfort of having to speak to a parent whose son was just killed. She recalls “I had a bottle come at me from a girl whose father just got shot.” Still, it comes with the territory as a news reporter. “It is obviously a vulnerable time for the family, but they want you to do it” she says, referring to the news station. As a weekend reporter, Heather has covered her share of weekend homicides, shootings, fatal accidents and other tragic events. Among the worst calamities she has covered were the tornadoes that swept through the area on May 19th, 20th and 31st of this year, leaving severe damage to area homes and businesses, claiming the lives of many, including several children.
For Hope, however, whose name is quite fitting considering her optimism and resilience, the tragic side of reporting is balanced by the greater good she is able to serve as a public figure. She relishes covering a good featured story, an “a ha moment” or turnaround story about someone finding redemption, or a good profile story on someone who is making a difference in the community. She feels especially rewarded when she is able to help change a situation for the better for someone who has been scammed, robbed or taken advantage of as a consumer. Her heart truly comes across in her reporting, and her professionalism always remains intact.
Heather cites her mother as a major influence in her life, having lost her father early. She acknowledges God as her foundation first and foremost, a refreshing rarity among personalities in the news. She credits Oprah Winfrey as a role model in terms of career progression and influence. If Hope’s meteoric rise in just three years as a professional reporter is any indication, “O” status is certainly not out of the question for the young journalist, who at just 26 years of age shows no signs of slowing down.
When I asked if she had encountered any roadblocks as a minority in the news business, Hope, the eternal optimist, states that she feels she has been treated fairly and equitably thus far in her career. She does realize, however, that there are some unique assignments and events that she will be tasked to cover, likely due to her affinity to the African American community of which she is a part. She is very aware of her presence in a market with a conservative majority, and she proudly embraces her heritage without carrying a chip on her shoulder, a balancing act few are able to accomplish. Indeed, her mere presence at Urban Roots on a poetry night is a nod to her grounding and sense of community, an observation I shared with her, which she simply brushed off as a part of who she is, an everyday person and a member of the community she serves.
She is aware of her responsibility as a role model, which comes with the territory when in the public eye, especially as a member of a rarely represented minority. She takes her responsibility very seriously, and acknowledges those on whose shoulders she stands. She offers her own advice to young people wishing to follow in her footsteps, admonishing them to avoid distractions at all costs. She stresses the importance of getting a plan together. “It’s easy to be all over the place and have wayward goals, but it’s important to stay focused on that one path.”
Heather is a person of many hidden talents. She played alto sax in the band at Ohio State. Both of her parents were Gospel Jazz musicians. She describes herself as versatile, optimistic and determined. Her love of poetry drew her to Urban Roots.
In a city such as ours, the news can often be bleak, depressing and chaotic. Fortunately for all of us, there is Hope.
Welcome Heather Hope to Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter at @HeatherHopeTV. Visit and like her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/HeatherHopeNEWS. And tune in to News 9 to see her in action.
Brian C. Scott