Reggie Selma is a former award-winning CNN senior photojournalist, based in the renowned network’s Washington, DC Bureau for more than 30 years. Reggie became CNN’s Washington, D.C. Bureau’s First African-American cameraman assigned to the White House. Reggie has now stepped in front of the camera, as an inspirational international speaker, to give a unique, behind the scenes peek into the world of the White House, prominent global leaders, as well the inner workings of the media and celebrities, a rare glimpse that very few get to see.
As a former CNN Photojournalist with decades of experience, he gives you a unique behind the scene look at every U.S.president from Regan to Obama. Reggie Selma also had unparalleled access to some of the most iconic figures in history, such as Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and Mother Theresa, and he has the stories to prove it.
Reggie’s stories will inspire and add value to any group or audience.
Listen to Reggie’s Podcast: http://aninspiredlifepodcast.com
- Website: ReggieSelma.com
- Email: email@example.com
- LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/reggieselma
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Legendary CNN Camera Man Reggie Selma Shares his Remarkable Journey
Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of underdog. Today I am beyond honored to have the truly incredible Reggie Selma, here with me today. For those of you who don’t know Reggie, Reggie is a former legendary CNN photojournalist. Who’s just out of this incredible world and has the most incredible stories. He grew up in the civil rights era and just has the most contagious energy of anyone. That I think, I’ve ever met in my life. So Reggie, with all ado, I welcome you today to the underdog show. How are you, my friend?
I am doing so well. Pam, thank you for that intro and I feel the same positive energy from you. I think you’re amazing. You have a woman story. And I’m just so honored to be here today.
I’m so honored to have you. You have so many stories and last time we talked it was just like, I felt like I was talking to an uncle of mine. Like somewhere like it was just so awesome. And you have so many amazing stories and I can’t wait to get into it. But the first one I’ll start off with is basically. What or where inspired you to where you are today?
Well, my story always starts with my family. My mom and dad were my heroes. As you alluded, I grew up in the civil rights movement. I was a child of the civil rights movement. It’s very ironic. We’re talking today, yesterday was the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Where Alabama straight state troopers met peaceful black protesters, Ashley marching to register to vote. And you can imagine that and I was only eight years old as a day before my birthday, in fact, and our church. My father was a Baptist minister and our church was a mile and a half from this. This vicious attack.
And as word spread throughout the community of this attack. It just emboldens my parents and my older brother, I can remember that. My parents always said, never let anyone make you feel inferior. We’re going to win this battle and we’re going to win it fair and square. And growing up in that kind of household with that support and love. I couldn’t fail, I just had to follow in my parents footsteps. As I said, my dad was a preacher and my mom was a saint. She told me she loved me every single day of my life. You can imagine hearing that every day. Of course, when I was bad, I think I heard it right away.
But my parents always tried to get a great education and the world is your ticket. So with that in mind, I just knew that my mission would be trying to inspire people by trying to uplift people. And believe it or not, I did that through my photography at CNN. I started a local TV station in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama for five years and we all have that inner voice. When we know it’s time to move on from another city, perhaps your hometown or a job or whatever, or even a relationship. And five years doing local news covering Alabama football and politics and these things really taught me how to cover news.
I was an intern, I started as an intern, historically black college, then Birmingham communications department. And like I said, five years it was time to move on and as fate would have it. One of my college classmates told me about her uncle who was a legendary cameraman in Washington DC at NBC. So I called him and we met over the phone and cameraman, they can tell you how great they are. But they have to show it, so I sent him a videotape of my work in Birmingham. And Harry Davis’ late great Harry Davis was his name and he said, Reggie. I tell you, you can shoot man, you’re a great photographer, but there are no openings at NBC, Washington. But there is a brand new cable network called see him in and I said see him in, he said it doesn’t sound right.
And I said you mean CNN, he said that’s it. So he put in a word for me, a gentleman named Sheldon Levy. That he worked with when they both worked in New York. And here I am, I was the first African American cameraman assigned to the White House in 1982. I just had that inner drive to just show people what was going on. Through my lens, I always looked at myself as their voice, their eyes, and their ears. Because I was recording history. It wasn’t just for me. Anytime I put my eyes in that viewfinder, I always envision a family in Arkansas or California, or Mexico. Watching that footage has been informed and enlightening. It just meant the world to me, I never took it lightly, It was always an honor. Especially when I was on the road with the Presidents that I’ve covered.
Incredible. You’ve had such an amazing journey at CNN and have run into some of the biggest names in history. And you told me about a few of them to ask you again because there were so amazing. Now, you had mentioned that before you had run into the Dalai Lama. So tell me that story. How did that shake out?
Meeting him when you’re in the presence of His Holiness, you feel holy, even if you’re not religious, this is the aura that he has. It’s such peaceful energy, peace, and love. And we were doing this three-camera shoot interview, when he came to Washington, probably 20 years ago, Wolf Blitzer. Our anchor was going to do the interview and we were going to do it at a downtown hotel. The four seasons and those are some of my favorite interviews. I have been working at a studio. We rent a suite, we take it out well, we have the staff take out all the furniture. And we turn this suite into a portable TV studio, magical. I work with some of the best technician.
So we’re setting up and one of his representatives comes and says the Dalai Lama is walking down the hall. We all stand and he comes in, he just puts everybody at ease. And one of my colleagues puts the mic on him and we do a very great interview. I just feel like I’m just ingesting all this great knowledge. So when the interview ended, he wanted to thank us all and wished well. There’s a group shot that he wanted to take as well. He says to me, what do you think? And I’m thinking, Wow, he’s addressing me, like, what do I think is he asked me about world peace are? What’s the meaning of life? I’m starting to get a little nervous and I’m starting to sweat and he asked again. What do you think?
And I can feel like every eye is on me like I am tongue tie. How many times you’re going to get to talk to the Dalai Lama. So I’m just nervous and he says it again. But on closer inspection, he raises up his ceremonial rope. And he’s pointing at the floor and I look down and he says. I just bought my first pair of Chuck Taylor red high-top sneakers. What do you think? We all laughed and I said. They’re great, I mean, I wore those as a kid and I think what he was doing was just showing that he’s a person. He’s a humble person. I didn’t have to try to think of the meaning of life. He’s trying to show me a pair of Converse sneakers.
That amazing. Oh, my gosh. And then another one was Mother Teresa, you read into the saint herself.
She is a saint. This was President Reagan bestowed on her the Medal of Freedom, the highest award, you can give a civilian. And it was a beautiful ceremony in the Rose Garden. First Lady, Nancy Reagan was there and I filmed it. And it’s very emotional for her. You can see it in her face. So after this grand ceremony was over and the next assignment was for the camera crews and the White House press corps. We were going to film her departure with the band and President Reagan and First Lady NASA.
We’re all going to be there and whisk her off on a limousine motorcade with the security and I’ve done that many times. So now it’s a break, so we have a two-hour break ourselves, so my producer says, Reggie. Why don’t you go to lunch, you know? What do you have to do when you come back? Just get ready for her departure. So I go and have a nice life. And an hour or so later, I’m walking down the White House driveway heading towards the west wing. I see this little old lady walking out of the door, the West Wing and that’s the door.
Well, you always see the marine standing. When the President in the Oval Office. The Marine is always at guard at the store. So I say to myself, that little old lady looks like Mother Teresa. I’m thinking it can’t be because she’s all by herself. There’s no entourage, no security. So I get closer to her and it is Mother Teresa. She walks right over to me and she puts her hand on my arm and she says, Can you tell me how to get out of this place? And I say what? What do you mean? You’re mother Teresa? Who is your entourage? She says her entourage. I say your people, and she says, white people.
I feel like I can’t say no to Mother Teresa. So she puts her arm in my arm and we start walking down the driveway. Because she’s saying, that’s Pennsylvania Avenue, isn’t it? Isn’t that the way out? And I say Yes, ma’am. So here I am walking arm in arm with Mother Teresa. It only lasts for about 30 seconds, because now everybody sees Mother Teresa out of place and my other colleagues are getting their cameras. And everybody the reporters are getting their pins and pads and they’re circling her like pub rice. They’re shouting questions at her and of course. I have to let my arm go and grab my camera.
Now they’re all circling her. And I can see people from the White House press room running like she’s escaped. So they come and they kind of park the waters and they get between us and go, Mother Teresa. What are you doing? You’ve got a big ceremony for you can’t go and she’s like. All right, so they take your back end like they’re hurt. This is our grandmother, like your grandmother got away from your sons, right? So as we’re filming the departure from the south lawn and the band and the president. The First Lady saying goodbye and all of us camera crew members, we kind of look at each other. And we say this might be the official departure for what he did was a lot more fun.
Oh my gosh, that is hilarious. Because that’s, you know, she’s obeying it. And I’m obeying into. I know, like my grandmother’s when they say they want to go, they want to go. Oh, so like the fact that she tried to get away is so hilarious.
Oh, once again, another person who I think in 2014 was named a saint. Once again. She doesn’t care about all that she wants to get out, so she can go finish saving the world. That’s what she wants to do. Do the ceremony. Another thing.
I love that. There was another one with Nelson Mandela, which is incredible. Yes, you met him? Oh, my goodness.
Yeah, I’ve been blessed. I tell you. This was Mr. Mandela’s victory tours we were calling in he had been released from prison. 27 years for just wanting equal justice as a human, they put him in prison. And the thing about Nelson Mandela, he didn’t come out bitter. He always said if he had would have killed him, so he forgave his jailers. And that’s what kept him alive, knowing that if he could get past this physical pain, he could get on the other side. So he’s now in America victory tour came to Washington, of course.
And the first event I found of Mr. Mandela was at the Library of Congress. Sort of an intimate situation, where we have a lot of our history, America’s histories, artifacts is very fitting. And then the very next day, we were going to do a press conference at the South African embassy and that was very poignant. Because all through the 80s, I would go there and film. When he was in prison under apartheid. There was I forget what day maybe Friday, perhaps but there every week, there was a protest. You’d have activists and celebrities coming to the South African embassy to protest for Nelson Mandela’s release.
So now I’m finally in this building and all those years. Were just a monument to racism to me. But now we are physically in the building. And he was doing a press conference in his international press. The press that followed him from South Africa, as well as the American press. But I got there really early on, I got a really good spot and it was a very low-key setting. It was just a tabletop interview press conference, as we call it. Where you see the mics on the table and he’s less than six feet from me. What we will now call social distance and this man is such a monumental figure to me.
And I’ve heard him speak on Selma and Birmingham, where I’m from and the civil rights movement, I just cannot believe it. I’m sitting there in his presence less than six feet away. And normally the press corps we have a reputation as we should be unbiased and we don’t ask for autographs. I’ve filmed a lot of famous people. But with this man, I don’t care if I get into trouble. I am going to ask for an autograph. So what I did the day before, I bought the magazine cover, I think it was time magazine. I went to an arts and crafts store and I got a marker with the white ink, I am planning this thing. He’s going to get this, I’m going to get this autograph suitable framing and it’s just going to be great.
So we do the press conference and I’m right there by him and I put out my trusty Time magazine and my marker. And he stands up and I say, Mr. Mandela, I would love it if you would automate with your autograph. He turned and smiled and I had the whole spiel ready for you know, I am Sam, I’ve heard you talk about Selma. You know, my name is Salma. We’re going to talk for an hour. This is in my mind. So he turns and he smiles and I am about to extend the marker and eight of his young woman. Young African American woman says no, we can’t do that. We don’t have time for that, we have a tight schedule.
And he turns and I’m just kidding. He can sit in my face. I am getting ready to say, but your Nelson Mandela, you can’t listen to her. But I didn’t say it, I think he saved me because he said, she is the boss. Whatever she says goes and I said, Okay, I understand. Thank you anyway and at first, for the longest, I was upset with this young woman. Because I was going to have a conversation that went longer than an interview.
But as I thought about it later, especially on International Women’s Day. He empowered this young woman in front of this entire international press corps. Because he could easily say to her, stop, I am going to do this. I am Nelson Mandela, he empowered this woman. I’m sure she remembers this in a different way than I do. But just the fact that Nelson Mandela called her the boss and I listened to what she said. So kind of as the years went on, I didn’t get my autograph.
But I think I got something a lot more important. And here is this great man, empowering this young woman, and who knows. I don’t know her name, but in my mind, in my heart, I always felt that she went on to higher things. Because she was endorsed by Nelson Mandela.
That’s amazing. And I love the way that you framed that. That he empowered her when he said that because it’s true. Words are very powerful.
Yes, yes. He could have diminished her. But he looked at her up.
Which is amazing. Oh, my gosh, what an experience. You’ve had it. I know. There’s many, many more. Now, here’s my big question. What did you want to be Reggie, when you grew up?
I think I’ve gotten that question more. My dad was a preacher. And I always thought I would fall in his footsteps. I would get when I was 10 years old, I was just talking to my sister free to the other day. We were talking about this, I did this, probably maybe not every Sunday, but a lot of Sundays. You always want to emulate your dad, If he’s a preacher, you want to do that. If he’s a cop, you want to be a police officer, I would get a little table and I would gather all of my neighborhood friends and I would get the family Bible.
And I would preach a sermon, I would read from the Bible. In fact, Mrs. Patterson, my mother’s friend next-door neighbor, just like family. She would pull her chair on her front porch to listen to me. I didn’t know this until one time she called Mrs. Patterson called my mother and she said, Mr. Solomon, I just want to tell you, your son is in the front yard. And he is preaching. Like I’ve never heard an adult preach before. But I did not go that path, because I just felt I could do more through the media telling my story that way.
So my message was the same. It’s all about uplifting. You know, especially now, during a pandemic, we’ve witnessed so much loss. And if you’ve had that loss, you’ve suffered it. You’re afraid, you’re depressed, you’re worried about your future. And I think that my message of motivation and inspiration is what we need. I can humbly say that I’ve done that my whole life, I’ve spoken this way. So I’ve just carried it now, into this next phase after saying in.
That’s amazing. And who or what means, it could be more than one person. Who has influenced you the most in your upbringing? Would you say?
My mother and my father, of course, my two grandmothers I believe in the ancestors. Is all about who raised you and who came before you. I’ve also been influenced by some of the people that I’ve covered. Congressman john lewis, who was on that bridge. That he was the first one to get attacked by the Alabama State Troopers. If you watch that footage, he has a white trench coat and he almost died. Because they hit him with such a force on his skull. We didn’t call it concussions back then. But I’m sure that’s what he had and he said he almost died.
And I was able in my career center to speak to him, telling them my story and he really appreciated that. So a lot of people like my former college communications teacher. My professor Dennis Morgan, who was the first African American reporter on the air in Birmingham, Alabama. And he retired from TV and want to give back and he was my professor at miles college. He pushed me because I think he saw something in me. I think he saw himself in me and he pushed me he would always say. You’re special, but I’m going to rely on you harder than I do the other kids. Because I know what you have inside of you.
So I came from a very close community in Birmingham. It takes a village was not a slogan, It was how we were all raised. I was blessed, I still am blessed to have had people in my life. Who have supported me and uplifted me and have taken the time with me.
That’s incredible. And I mean, now throughout the years, I mean. You mentioned that you grew up in the civil rights era. What was that? Like, because I know like, I cannot imagine what that was like at that time. Because like to me it just feels like reading history books and all this, like it feels so far away. And when you say that you live through that, like, I just can’t even process what was that? Like.
My childhood had a lot of domestic terrorism in it, because that’s what it was. The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing where a lot of girls were killed by the Klu Klux Klan, right. Denise McNair lived one street over from us. So when we found out that she was killed and I was in the first grade. Death you know, when you’re young, your parents are alive, probably your grandparents, your aunt and uncle’s. But now, we’re told that one of our playground classmates was killed by a bomb and a terrorist attack. So there was anger throughout our community and also fear. That if you can go to church and we were church-going people.
We went to Sunday school, these follow girls who kill while attending Sunday school, so that really touched my heart. The firehouses. I had cousins who attended that march, which was kind of like the people’s young, people’s March. That Dr. King was inspired by Gandhi. Because they felt young people were given a different look to the nation. You know, adults were arrested to bury something about young teenagers being fired, posed. Having police dogs on them, while they’re protesting just for their rights.
This the thing, we were just protesting to go to vote, we were protesting to eat at a lunch counter. Or not to sit getting choked up on the back of the bus. So these things were part of my childhood. But it was also a part of our dedication to get beyond this, we’re not going to let them win. That’s what my parents and all of my friends, parents always preached. We’re not inferior, we’re going to win. And we’re going to win fair and square. So it was legalized racism. That did not defeat us. We went on to have great lives. And racism is such a part of the fabric of this country, as we know, we have come a very long way.
Right? And like, it’s crazy to think, and thank you so much for sharing that. Because I know it’s never easy to talk about the moments that weren’t so fun in our lives. But to see how far things have come, don’t get me wrong. There’s still a lot of work to do without a doubt. But fast forward to 2008 when the first African American president came into office, like, did you cover that?
Oh, you got to talk about that. That’s amazing.
How is it there in that 20-degree temperature? And that’s the thing. The inaugurations are always in Washington, DC, January 20 is the coldest day of the year. Like it’s like some contract and hasn’t been. It’s a 20 hour day, it’s a twin hour day. Because you’re filming for the early shows, the seven o’clock am show. When my day started, I would rise at 233 o’clock. And we all stay at the Bureau, I was a proud member of the CNN, Washington bureau and they’d have bunk beds and whatnot. You will get up and you start your day in this bitter, bitter cold weather. Because press from all over the world are there and you want to get in and get a good position. Your position has been marked, but you still want to get in and test your equipment out.
You don’t want any foul-ups happening. So I covered that. But I have to tell you, I also have a private conversation with Barack Obama. This took place when he was Senator Obama, but everybody knew he was going to run for president. And the thing about this was when he was Senator Obama and it was getting close to being announced. If he was going to throw his head in the rain to run for president. Every way that the press follows. And he gave a press conference at the speech. Actually got at a press conference, he spoke at the National Press Club, ironically, just around the corner from the White House.
So of course we were all there and all our glory made it live erratically. Like he’s not going to do it like that. We all knew that he’s not going to interrupt a normal speech and say run for president. He’s going to do it the way he did it, with his family and all this. But still we went and he gave a great speech. It was always this soaring message, so the speech is over. And I’m breaking down my gear and equipment and I was always very meticulous. You saw my colleagues would make fun of me and say I was slow. But I wanted all my cables to go where they went and all the lights, so I took my time. I knew what I was doing, I’d done it forever and this really paid off. So I’m putting my gear on my cart.
There was a little secret that all the camera crews in Washington. If you did an event at the National Press Club, you go through the kitchen. And you take the freight elevator down because you didn’t stop. You just went right to the first floor and you’re on your way. So I’m getting ready for the freight elevator to come and I push the button for the first floor. And just as the elevator door is about to close, I hear that unmistakable voice. Yeah, man, can you hold that door? I put my leg to my arm, I am not gonna let that door close, okay. Because that’s where Barack Obama gets on with his staff, maybe two people, he says. Thank you for holding that door and I say, of course, you’re welcome.
And obviously, he can see what I’m saying and I have my camera and all my lights and everything. He asked me, how did I think he did in this speech? I mean, this man will go down in history as the world’s greatest speakers. And it wasn’t a joke, he really wanted to know. How he did and you know, how they always tell you to run. When called upon to have that elevator speech in case. You need it for some famous person or somebody you’re trying to get a job from or whatever. It’s a famous 32nd elevator speech? Well, all I could think to say was, I think he did great.
He laughed and his staff laughed and he said, okay. Make sure you tell your boss, as seen in that I said, to give you a raise and once again. We all laughed and the elevator eventually went down to the first floor. And he said. Thank you for your encouragement, young man, and thank you for yours. And he got off the elevator and I like to say and he walked into history about becoming America’s first black president.
That’s so incredible. It just gave me chills. Oh my god, that’s so amazing.
And when he was sworn in, as I say, there’s always a tradition when you American president is sworn in. They have the cannon brigade and they shoot the cannons and ceremonial cannons. And I say, I was so proud. I don’t know what was beating louder. Those cannons on my heart.
I just got chills again. Because I can just as you were saying. Your parents, your mom was saying we’re gonna win fair and square like right there you witness that.
I thought about them. In fact, I said a prayer, I said we did it to both of them. My father was looking down on us from heaven, my mom was still alive. But I think they both knew.
Oh my gosh, that’s beautiful. That’s absolutely beautiful and thank you so much for sharing that. Thank you so much for sharing, you know. You’ve been through so much and you’re so positive and like your energy’s just so amazing. Reggie, truly, I love it so much and the fact that you’ve been able to pivot and go into and see all these events like transformative historical figures that you’ve spoken to. And the really amazing thing is that at the end of the day, they’re just human.
With Obama. It wasn’t sarcastic. He wanted to know, because I was a caring man. And he thought, maybe I might have some insight. He’s actually asking me, how he did and that’s the theme. I’ve kind of had with most of these iconic figures. They’re just people and I think they take that in with them. Of course, you have to have some ego, if you think you can lead people, right. But they keep that human touch within their soul. They don’t lose it. And I think it transfers into their persona, their public persona.
Well, it’s so crazy because when you think like the Dalai Lama, you would never think he’d be asking you about it. Like I would never think, even knew what that was. Floating in the air somewhere and then, like President Obama to think like he too is human. And he’s asking for feedback. One, like literally you watch him and he’s probably like the greatest speaker I’ve ever seen in my entire life. That he still asks for feedback and then, Mother Teresa was just a saint. But she’s trying to escape to go out and save the world.
And Nelson Mandela, one powered through those words like it’s just so remarkable to me. What you’ve been able to experience and those life lessons and I can assure you. And I’m sure that this comes across to you too. These people are just human and how inspiring must it have been. To be where you were sitting watching all this happen. Incredible throughout your 30 years.
A seat to history, I mean, I never took it lightly. I always felt that my old news director wanted to hire Debbie Vitti on the childcare Team 13 NBC affiliate. So I got my start, he would always say that. He didn’t feel smarter than his neighbour, but he should have got a better view.
That’s amazing. And you’re saying to CNN for 30 years, yeah. 32 years
So how did you shift from the initial station that you started at? And get into CNN, you kind of talked about it a little bit. But I think I mean, because you got like the prime time cameraman position. Did you just jump into that from the very beginning? When that was the position that was open? Or did you kind of climb your way up?
It was a jump jump. Schultz, who was the first bureau chief at Santa Ana, Washington, was just a great man. He passed a few years ago, we became great friends and travelled all over the world. I’ve been at CNN doing what we call general assignment. Which is not very general, If you’re at the capital of the Pentagon. You know, the State Department is pretty impressive. I’ve been there for a few months and he called me into his office and you can’t call a man. It’s kind of like getting called into the principal’s office vibe, but not really, he said. I’ve heard a lot of great things about you. Everybody around here really loves your work ethic, your creativity, and you’re just a great person.
And I want to know if you would like to join the White House press corps unit. I’m speechless, because of your camera man in Washington, that is the ultimate position. Like I say they all are. Because if you’re covering the Congress or state department or whatever, that’s, that’s very important. But it’s an honour and it is a matter of you believing in that person’s oath of office politics. You’re there to cover the office. This office of Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy just gives you chills. So of course, I said yes. And we hit the road running.
The first trip was to Ohio, a domestic trip with some of these legendary cameramen from the other networks. But I have to be honest, we were the new kids on the block. And I can remember a high level official from NBC saying this, CNN and at this point. We’re at CNN and are two years old, he said. Reggie, you’re a bright kid, I want to tell you something. This CNN thing, it is not gonna work. Only three networks, NBC, ABC, and CBS and that’s all the people want. And that’s all there is well, I think he was off by 40 years. Saying is growing strong, if I could tell you, Ted Turner, such an iconic figure in American history and visionary.
Now, when I was growing up, this official was right. There were only those three networks plus the PBS station. And no one ever thought you would want to look at TV for 24 hours. I mean, who would want to do that? You’ve got to go to bed. That’s how the world thought. It’s midnight, you’ve got to go to bed. Ted Turner thought that no, if I gave people news, sports and weather 24 hours a day, they’re gonna watch it. And he was right. Now just think about it, you can turn on the TV. If you get up at three o’clock in the morning to get a glass of water, you can turn on a TV. I don’t know how many hundreds of stations there are. But he was the first to think that it is not just the three networks, it is people wanting knowledge.
And at the CNN 40th anniversary reunion here in Washington, DC, at the National Press Club. The same place where President Obama spoke and I’ve only had one conversation with Ted Turner. People thought, you know, he would be up all the time. And that’s another thing. Every time he would come to Washington, I would be out of town or on assignment. So I never got a chance to meet him, so that’s fine. Because he’s at the head table in a banquet type setting.
everybody’s coming to talk to him and I kind of let everybody do that. I just wanted to have my moment. So I walk up to him and I say, Mr. Turner, my name is Reggie Selma. I’m a cameraman from CNN and I just wanted to tell you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to travel all over the world covering history. And he looked at me and said, we did it together, brother.
Can you imagine and that just melted my heart. He didn’t say Well, yeah, of course. I’m smarter than him. But he said we did it together, brother.
His Biggest Piece of Advice To Someone Who Wants To Get Into The Media World
I love that. And now like throughout your years and your experiences. What would be the biggest piece of advice, maybe someone looking to get into the media world or just in life in general, that you would give?
I would say it is almost easier now. When I got into it, you had to have a TV station and network around you now on my phone. This thing, that’s your camera crew, that’s your producer, that’s your recorder. You go on YouTube and you can see some really amazing things. In fact, you cannot watch a nightly newscast where the nightly newscast produces reporters. Who has not used someone’s cell phone footage. And I would dare say, one of the most powerful pieces of video that has ever been seen. Was the young lady filming George Floyd being murdered. A young lady just as a cameraman.
You know, besides the significance of what she did, she wasn’t shaky, she wasn’t talking. She held that camera for those eight minutes and 46 seconds. And that moves the world. Cell Phone footage shot by a camera crew, camera couldn’t wasn’t there, citizens were there. So I would say you still have to perfect your craft. You still have to have a written message in your head or in your heart. What you want to do is work hard at it. Asking questions, I was telling this to one of the first speeches that I gave was to her school. I said take out your phone, go interview your grandmother, go interview your mom. Ask your mom how she met your dad.
You know, I said that’s how you become a journalist. Because that’s what was told to me. Max Robinson, who was the first African American network news anchor on ABC in the 80s. Told me in an interview with my school. He was speaking at North Carolina a&t and Miles college. Along with other black universities throughout the south and Northeast, there’s a huge banquet. I kind of finagled myself this is when I knew I was really good. And you made me think about this. My professor Dennis Morgan, we had a radio show and he said, Go and just grab as much sound as you can from Max Robison. So I had my little college microphone and tape recorder and I got it from Radio Shack.
My good buddy Erskine Brandt and we walked down past all these other local camera crews. And I said to an aide of his that he was on the stage and been introduced yet. I said, I would like to interview Max Robinson and someone from the university. No, no, like, Get away from here, young boy. So I go back to Dennis Morgan, my professor and I told him, I said he won’t let me interview him. He told me to snap my time. Like, there’s an interview after he speaks with the local press in North Carolina. And perhaps I can ask a question in there. Well, we didn’t have time to do that. We had to get on our own school bus and drive back to Alabama.
So I’m telling Dennis Morgan this and he says, Hmm, maybe you don’t have what it takes. After all, you took that now, pretty easy. But he said that and I just, I said to myself, okay, so I thought for a second. And I said, Follow me. So I go up and I get a napkin from someone’s table and I write on this napkin. My name is Reggie Selma. I’m with the Miles College communications department. If you could give me 30 seconds, right after your speech while you were on stage, I would appreciate it. And I didn’t give it to someone from the school on aid. I walked behind the stage, I poured on his pants, I gave him this note with the napkin. He looked at it, folded it and put it in his pocket, he said like he enjoyed that gumption that I had.
So now I’m elated, so he finishes his great speech. And I didn’t go back to sit with my class at their table at my microphone. As soon as he finished, somehow I could tell the president of the university. I could just try to block myself or something. So my buddy Earthscan kind of blocked him and I got on stage. And I said, here’s the 32nd interview, Mr. Robinson and he said, Go ahead, young man, I asked him. How did he get into the business and yada yada and one thing always remember. He said, be curious, any person that wants to be in the media or journalism, they have to have a curiosity. That was the byte that I use on our radio station.
And of course, everybody was just high fiving me and hugging me. So you made me think I’d forgotten about that story. But Max Robison played a huge part, because he saw that I was eager. Maybe he saw the president shoo me away early, I don’t know. But for me to sneak up behind him and yank on his pants leg and hand them a note. Maybe that reminded him of himself. I don’t know, but that was my first interview. First big interview with somebody other than my classmates.
Amazing. That’s amazing. And with that, now, with your years of experience and everything that you’ve been through. What would your older self tell your younger self, based on what you know now?
Just keep at it. Don’t listen to the haters, don’t listen to the haters. Because that’s the thing you will find a lot of people and I’ve seen this. I call it the old world 2020 with the pandemic, we were all forced to reinvent, reflect, evaluate ourselves, our relationships and I found my circle. It got smaller, now I still love my friends. But you can tell in that old life, overall, as I call it. You had to put up with a lot of stuff, to get along with people that perhaps you didn’t like.
Now we have this new wisdom, this new knowledge. Because if you’re at home for a year, I mean. I know we baked a lot of banana bread. Some people learn new languages. But if you were forced to be with yourself and I’m blessed, I have a beautiful loving wife, but you know what I mean. There are times when you’re still alone, your thoughts. And unlike when we were working, you’re going through traffic. You’re talking to people, you’re dealing with people.
Now, you are just with yourself. And I saw that a lot of things, a lot of people still friendly with them. But if they were not there to love and support me and encourage me, they’re not a part of my heart. And I think a lot of people realise that caring. Leaving that in the old world, family, friends, colleagues, you have this new power. Because my Lord, we have surpassed, we have survived something that has not happened in 100 years. We’ve never been tested like this.
And to come out of that on the other side. You are special, you are strong, you’re stronger than you thought and to do that. You’ve learned lessons you didn’t know you had. So I just feel it. My older self would tell my newest self you love and you are kind to everyone. But you value the people that value you.
Amen. And now Reggie, you’re up to some amazing things in the world now post CNN and your motivational speaker and all of this amazingness. So can you tell us, what’s up in your world? What’s coming next? Because I know you’re working on a podcast. So tell us what’s up in the Reggie world?
An inspired life, motivational and inspirational stories. That’s the name of my new podcast. I’m working on it with an amazing marketing legend Wendy Stevens and her excellent guerilla PR team. Someone who believed in me and we are working on a podcast and our podcast will be for people, who feel depressed they’ve lost hope. Perhaps they’ve lost a job or career they’ve been taken off course, my podcast is for you. Because together, we’re going to lift each other up and I promise. I will try every day in this podcast to do so.
And we’re going to get back to that love. Once again, we’re going to get back to that love again and I think it’s going to be a deeper love. Because now we see how much we missed. I mean, I have missed that I’m sure you can attest to this the human touch. I’m a hugger. I’ve always been to a country bar from Alabama, I love to hug. And who would have ever thought, we could live without hugging our loved ones for a year. So I just feel that is my mission. Now with my podcast. I think people are gonna like it.
I think so too. And post COVID world I’m sure you’ll get back into the speaking world and keep continuing to be amazing. Where can everybody find you and your awesome self?
Well, you can go to ask ReggieSelma.com just like my name. That will be the site of my podcast and all the information. You can also go to my website, ReggieSelma.com. If you want to see some of my speeches from Tokyo and London and Amsterdam and Ireland. So I’m really excited about this new chapter. And once again, I had to reinvent myself when COVID hit no one who was going to give an in-person speech. We’ve all survived and thrived through zoom and I think that’s the thing, that’s here to stay. I think we will still at some point get back on stage. But to come into someone’s home the way we’re doing now, I think that’s here to stay. So once again, we’ve learned new wisdom. And I think that’s going to help us make it.
Amen. Reggie, you are such a legend. Truly. Thank you. Such an honour to have you here today. I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for sharing your story and I can’t wait for your podcast to launch. I’m going to keep everyone updated on that for sure.
Thank you for playing on. I’m honoured to be on your great show.
Tune in to the episode to hear the rest of my incredible interview with the amazing Reggie Selma.
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