TV 5's Danita Harris - Her Career and Key to Success
She stepped out of her fears and in front of the camera. Now, at age 32, TV 5's Danita Harris has found real meaning and purpose for her life, but only after circumstances forced her to exchange her plans for God's.
By Shirley Tracy
If you're up early, you can catch Danita on "
News Channel 5 This Morning," a morning newscast that runs weekday mornings from 5:30 to 7:00 AM, or you can see her at ten o'clock on "Today's Morning Exchange," along with Robin Swoboda, Mark Johnson, Fred Griffith, Loretta Paganini and others. Danita is bright and bubbly and very down-to-earth. It's been said that her smile is contagious. She has known the Lord Jesus Christ since eighth grade, and her love for Him spills over into everything she does. "I don't go around beating people on the head with the Bible," says Danita candidly, "but I don't make it a secret. I think that people who know me or come in contact with me know that I love the Lord and that I believe."
Danita was born and raised in Chester, Pennsylvania. She grew up in a neighborhood where everybody knew everybody else. An only child, she is very close to her parents and places a high value on family.
After high school, Danita attended the University of Maryland at College Park, starting out in journalism. She gained some experience writing for her college newspaper. But she was too much of a people person to be satisfied with just writing. She wanted something that would allow her to interact more with others. Then, in her sophomore year, she took an interest in broadcasting.
"So I went into broadcasting and actually liked it," Danita explains. She didn't want to be on television, preferring to stay behind the scenes producing and being creative. "I wanted to know how to do it all--news, sports, music, entertainment."
While in college, Danita found a church and began singing in the choir just as she had done in her home church. But the way she puts it, "I believe God takes you to different levels as you grow." A very expressive person, she wanted the freedom to say "amen" or raise her hands whenever she felt like it. It was time to move on. She found a non-denominational church that met on Saturday evenings for people who worked on Sundays. They were more in to praise and worship. There, she began to grow in her faith.
"You could really feel the presence of God, and I liked that. So I visited for a month and a half, and then I joined."
Soon, she was on the praise and worship team, and The Lord started giving her songs to write. She also wrote Christian poems. She says the Lord opened up things she didn't know were inside of her, and she began to love God even more. She stayed at that church the rest of the time she lived in Maryland. Danita graduated from college in 1988 and went to work in 1989 as a production assistant for Black Entertainment Television, a cable network in nearby Washington DC. According to her, she had a very low self-image, far too low to allow her to be anywhere but behind the scenes. Before long, however, she grew discontent with production.
"I didn't want to do it anymore, but I didn't know what else to do. I was really in a funk."
Although her father encouraged her to try working on the other side of the camera, Danita says she dismissed the idea because of her low self-esteem. "I never liked how I looked."
One day a position opened up at BET for an entertainment reporter. Her friends encouraged her to try for it, but her fears held her back. Besides, she failed to meet all the qualifications for the job. Months passed and the position remained unfilled. Danita waited until the very last day before finally auditioning.
"Nothing beats a failure but a try," her father had told her. "At least you can say you tried it."
But along with all the encouragement came discouraging words from others who told her she couldn't do it. Even the man who would be her future boss asked why she was signing up, saying that she would never get the position.
She recalls that some of her coworkers who auditioned wore new clothes and had their hair and makeup done professionally. In contrast, she wore a suit that she already had, did her own hair, and wore very little makeup.
"I remember getting the script and just right before it was time to audition I said 'Okay, Lord, here we go. If you want me to have this, it will happen. If you don't, at least I tried, and I'll never have that question in my mind again about whether or not I can do this.'"
Afterwards, she looked at the tape and decided she hadn't done badly. But most important, whether she got the job or not, she had conquered her fear. Two months later, Danita was told she had the reporter position.
"That just opened so many doors. It was a breakthrough, not only professionally but also personally. It doesn't matter if people tell you that you can't do something. You've got to step out there and try."
God opens doors and sometimes He closes them. Last year, the show was canceled and, after working for BET for 8 years, Danita found herself unemployed and wondering about her future. Her parents had previously moved to the Cleveland area. Now they urged her to come to Ohio. She headed for Atlanta instead; but as she looked for a job there, she was dismayed to find that all those doors were closed. Disappointed and full of questions, she finally drove to Cleveland.
God's timing is perfect. Danita quickly got an interview at Channel 5 and was hired. She confesses, "My being here is truly of God, cause I didn't want to come here," adding, "but even though I've only been here a year, this is the best job I've ever had."
When Danita submitted to God's will, when she told Him, "Okay, Lord, it's not what I want, but it's what you want," He opened all the right doors and poured out His blessings. One of those blessings for Danita is the fact that, for the first time, she and her mom and dad are able to worship together as a family. All three attend Mount Zion Church of the Brethren, located on Northfield Road in Cleveland. Dr. Ron Williams is the pastor. Danita sings in the choir and enjoys worshipping and getting into God's Word.
Certain that God put her here for a reason, Danita says she thinks that reason is to make people feel good, to give them something to smile about. There is so much negative news out there, always some crisis, she feels a commitment to encourage others.
"Before I go on the air, I always say, 'Lord, let people see you and not me, because it's not about me.'"
What she likes best about her job is meeting people. What she enjoys least is getting up at 2:30 in the morning in order to be at work by 4 A.M. When asked about the Morning Exchange team, she says they are all great people to work with.
"Robin makes you feel like you've known her all your life. I think she and Mark work well together, and I love Fred Griffith. The way he is on television is the way he is--very genuine and warm."
For the new year, Danita says she wants God to continue searching and examining her, bringing to the surface those things that she needs to work on. She calls it a "strip search."
"Sometimes we confess to God those surface-type issues, but we don't talk about those really deep-seeded things that He needs to deal with in order for us to get to the place where He would have us to go. God wants to do that. And it's gonna cost you something, of course."
With Danita, "What you see is what you get." She admits to being human, and therefore imperfect, but she continually draws on her faith, keenly aware that God is the source of her strength.
"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."
(Prov 19:21 NIV)