The South Fulton Resident Who Shows Up in Everyone’s Home
She’s a familiar face that visits your home via FOX 5 television on weekend evenings. You often catch her with a serious, professional demeanor anchoring the weekend prime time newscast but today she’s cool, light-spirited and full of smiles.
For the past decade Deidra Dukes has anchored the news at WAGA-TV. From breaking news to national triumphs and tragedies, she has witnessed it all first hand. Working in the demanding 24/7 television news industry can be extremely stressful and haunting. But today, Dukes strolls into Camp Creek’s Ruby Tuesday Restaurant with a glow and a sass that projects confidence and calmness. When asked about her calm, collected demeanor, Dukes, quickly responded, “I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff. Things that were important to me when I was younger, are just not a big deal anymore. You re-evaluate as you get older. Experience gives you a better perspective on life.”
Dukes, a television veteran of more than 20 years, was a reporter for WSB-TV and a reporter at WPXI-TV in Pittsburg, Pa., before landing at WAGA. The Oceanside, CA, girl got her first break as a reporter in Fresno and Redding. She has covered political scandal, high profile criminal cases, and the infamous Atlanta courthouse shooting. Her most memorable experience is covering the 2008 DNC when, then, Senator Barack Obama was running for president. “I sat down with former President Carter and his wife Mrs. Carter and Ambassador Andrew Young and so many others, it was incredible. As a journalist you live for those moments.”
But the stories that affect young people in her community are the ones that really impact her. “People are always telling me about their problems with gangs, drugs in the community and as a journalist and a member of society I am always searching for answers.” Dukes, a South Fulton resident, says this area keeps her attracted because of its growth. She attends Zion Hill Baptist church on Campbellton Road where she’s involved in the women’s ministry. She credits her success to her unwavering faith in God. But she admits, juggling her career, motherhood, social life and volunteer commitments can be challenging.
She recalls the excruciating stress she endured when applying for middle schools for her son. “Applying to middle school was like applying to college,” laughs the single mom. “All these entrance exams, from private schools to charter schools, it was hard trying to find the right fit. So I know that getting him into college will be a breeze after this experience.” After all the stress and pressure, she and 12-year-old Mike were thrilled to be selected to attend Woodward Academy. Dukes successfully co-parents her son with her ex-husband. “We just made a decision to put him first. We have an unspoken rule, no matter what is going on with us, we focus on him and that’s why I think he’s so happy and well balanced.” Dukes beams with joy and pride when discussing her son and adds that she couldn’t do it without the support of her mother, Marion Dukes. “She’s a godsend,” she says.
While Dukes and her mother have a tight bond, she easily recalls how her mother ran a ‘tight ship’ when she and her young brother were growing up. “My mom was strict. She demanded a lot and set high expectations for school,” says the Chicago State alum. “My parents didn’t attend college so that’s why it was so important for me to excel.”
Dukes’ father died in 2013 from ongoing health issues. He suffered from diabetes and was frequently in and out of the hospital. “It was very difficult. He was sick for so long, you just keep thinking the person is going to pull out it,” she reflects. The death of her father gives Dukes inspiration to eat healthier and exercise. “I try to do something. Whether it’s walking, or getting on the treadmill, I have to make the time,” she says while munching on her salmon Caesar salad. “Diabetes and heart disease run in my family. I saw the effect it had on my dad. His health deteriorated because he didn’t take care of himself. So I get tested for diabetes once a year. Often times people take care of their kids and their spouses and focus on getting their jobs done that they neglect themselves. We have to take care of ourselves.”
As we find ourselves right in the middle of the holiday season, where Dukes is busy hosting family and friends for dinner (complete with all the trimmings), she is vowing to focus more on her health and wellness in 2016. “I want to be a better person, and I want to be better about taking care of myself.” She encourages others not to be afraid to take risks in 2016. “When you stumble and fall, get back up. Learn from your mistakes and always give it your best.”
Tenisha Bell is the president of Perfect Pitch Media Group, a media consulting and public relations firm. She served as a CNN executive producer for nearly 12 years and is the immediate past president of the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists. She teaches journalism at Kennesaw State University. You can find her on Twitter @TenishaTBell.