Kerry Charles' Homecoming
The NBC4 anchor returned to his birthplace to report on life in Columbus during tumultuous times.
Halfway through this nightmarish year, Kerry Charles landed his dream job back in his hometown. In June, as the coronavirus spread and the country grappled with a racial reckoning, the Columbus native returned to co-anchor NBC4’s news desk next to Colleen Marshall on the weekday evening broadcasts. The upside for Charles: There is no shortage of newsworthy topics to tackle.
Growing up in the Linden area, Charles was innately curious about current affairs. His foray into journalism came as a Crestview Middle School student in the 1990s, when he hosted the weekly WCBE 90.5 radio show Kids Sundae. He also served as an anchor and reporter for the Kids News Network, which aired on 10TV. The Linden-McKinley High School grad has been an anchor, reporter and producer in Cincinnati; Greensboro, North Carolina; Shreveport, Louisiana; and most recently in Atlanta before returning to Columbus, where he previously worked for the ABC/Fox affiliate.
At NBC, Charles sits in the seat once held by Mike Jackson, who left the station to focus on his recovery after a massive stroke in early 2019. Marshall, the evening broadcast’s mainstay, compares the co-anchor relationship to a marriage, saying she and Charles are a good fit because they share a similar work ethic. “He’s very driven and very passionate about the stories he wants to tell,” she says.
Charles says he pushes for coverage that promotes understanding. When his work takes him to his former stomping grounds in Linden, he strives to provide context for headline-grabbing events.
“We can’t just say, ‘There’s a shooting in Linden.’ There are systemic issues,” Charles says. “We need to address that.”
When reporting on crime there and in other communities, news outlets should describe the underlying historic and socioeconomic causes, he continues. “You talk about redlining and white flight, and you talk about the crack epidemic and the opioid epidemic. When you add that amount of stress and you add on the pandemic, that’s a lot of socioeconomic factors.”
His longtime friend Orie Givens, a Spectrum News 1 reporter in Ohio, also lived and worked elsewhere before returning to Columbus. Givens, who started out with Charles on the Kids News Network, says their reverse migration offers a unique perspective on local news.
“We’re at this space where we’re able to reflect on how far we’ve come, being on TV as kids and now being on TV as adults—as Oprah says, those full-circle moments,” Givens says. “I can tell stories about Columbus because I’ve seen the changes from afar. Kerry has that experience, too.”
Though Charles visited Central Ohio throughout his itinerant career, the region has progressed since his childhood. “I remember growing up when Columbus was a ‘cowtown,’” he says. “It was interesting to come back and see how the city has grown.”
The population boom and the city’s expanding diversity are the most noticeable changes. Charles has also been struck by how the broadcast market has evolved in the decade since he left, with a fresh generation of news directors and on-air talent who increasingly reflect that diversity. Shortly after joining NBC4, he and African American colleagues Matt Barnes and Darlene Hill co-hosted The Conversation, a series of hourlong specials about race and inequality.
The program shows people are really interested in discussing race, Charles says. “I never thought I’d see that in Columbus.”