“When you come to Washington the pressure’s on,” said Alison Starling, Alexandria resident and co-anchor of ABC 7’s “Good Morning Washington.
Starling, 34, was the keynote speaker at the Alexandria Rotary Club’s weekly luncheon Tuesday, regaling Rotarians with her illustrious career in the TV news business.
After graduating from college, Starling earned a Cultural Ambassadorial Scholarship from Rotary International to study in Tours, France for six months in 1995. “It was an eye-opening experience attending these Rotary meetings which were open only to men and French was the only language spoken,” said Starling, who lives in Old Town. “The world came open to me…What an impact that had on me as a person and as a journalist.”
Starling awakens each day at 3 am and is at her desk in Rosslyn by 4 am — a life rhythym she’s adjusted to given her passion for TV news. “I love the morning format,” she said. “It’s the best local news market in the country. This was the job I wanted to do.”
Since the 2006 departure of longtime anchor Kathleen Mathews, Starling has been pulling double duty, anchoring from 5-7 am and then from 5-6 pm on ABC 7. She also took over the long running ABC 7 series, “Working Woman” after Matthews departure.
What began a dozen years ago continues as Starling profiles accomplished, respected area women who contribute to their communities, their jobs or their families in unique ways. As for her, Starling said she found her professional stride once she moved to the area. “I’m really happy here…But who knows, it’s a fickle business.”
In a bid to capture the most news-hungry eyeballs possible, Channel 7’s owner Allbritton Communications has been vertically integrating its different news platforms, including a network affiliate (WJLA), 24-hour news channel (News Channel 8), Web sites and newspaper (The Politico). “It’s a great mixture of minds,” Starling said. “The reality is you have to have it all. And we have some brilliant experts right in our newsroom. That’s the future.”
Her five-year run at ABC 7 is Starling’s third turn in the DC area. She lived here as a child while her father worked for the U.S. Trade Representative and later spent a summer in D.C. as a Congressional intern. A native Floridian, she graduated from the University of Florida and calls herself a “proud Gator.”
Despite the pulls on her time, Starling plunges into charity and community involvement on the weekends, volunteering for Old Town’s Campagna Center (she was Grand Marshall of Scottish Walk in 2006) and serving on the Board of Directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the National Capital Area. She has had three Little Sisters over the past decade, and now spends time with her current Little Sister, Awilda.
Asked about the ratings perils of CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, who lived in Old Town for a decade while she built her career at NBC, Starling said, “I’m thrilled because as a woman she made it as an anchor. But the style and format of an evening news program is different from a morning program. It may have been a question of perfectly adjusting and finding that balance.”
Starling said her only vice in the studio is an occasional “laughing fit” with co-anchor Doug McKelway and meteorologist Brian van de Graaff. “Alison’s the best,” said McKelway recently. “We have a lot of fun, and she’s a total professional.”
After stints at WDEF in Chattanooga, TN. as a reporter and anchor, and then at KIRO-TV in Seattle where she covered the Seattle Earthquake, Starling joined WJLA in 2003, and a year later became co-anchor of Good Morning Washington and ABC7 News at Noon. In 2005, Washingtonian magazine named her one of the area’s rising stars in local television news.
Asked whether morning news programs had become overloaded with “fluffy and frivolous” stories, Starling didn’t miss a blink. “No question the line between news and entertainment is blurring every day,” she said. “Our goal has always been to deliver news that’s relevant to people’s lives…We banter, but not at the annoying level.”