When it comes to reporting news in New York, Lisa Evers does not shy away from hard topics. As a reporter for FOX5, Lisa regularly covers breaking news, community issues, crime, and counter-terrorism. She also serves as the go-to interviewer for the likes of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. In addition to her work on television, Lisa is widely known for hosting radio station Hot 97’s popular news and community affairs program Street Soldiers. On the show, she addresses topics ranging from hip hop lyrics to gender to drug use, with a guest panel of music artists and community leaders. Earlier this year, FOX5 brought Street Soldiers to television, where viewers can now tune in to Lisa and her guests in the studio on Saturday nights.
6sqft recently spoke with Lisa to find out how she approaches her work, the experience of bringing Street Soldiers to FOX, and what she’s learned about the city through her reporting.
When did you realize you wanted to be a journalist?
I was doing a lot of work substituting for radio and and doing guest appearances on television and radio. I wasn’t really interested in giving my opinion, I was more interested in seeing what was out there and presenting both sides to the listener/viewer.
You began your reporting career on 1010 WINS and are now on FOX5. What are some of the differences between reporting for radio and television?
With TV, you have the pictures, which is a tremendous benefit because you can see somebody’s emotions and set the scene for people without having to use words. In radio, for example, I had to tell a story with two sound bites from somebody who was involved in the story, give my name and my location, all in 40-45 seconds. I learned how to boil things down to the essence.
Radio is pretty much an independent, solo type of reporting because you get yourself to the story, report on the story, and turn the story on a very fast deadline. I would literally get to a scene of something that had just happened – whether it was a crime, a press conference, something at an airport – and be on the air within 20 to 30 minutes of getting there. So you have to get it fast and accurate. For 1010 Wins, I was all over the city, all five boroughs, Jersey, Long Island, Westchester, Connecticut, Rhode Island. It’s like boot camp for reporting, which I think gave me a leg up in terms of TV reporting because I had that experience and I knew the city.
How do you prepare for a story?
It helps to know a lot of people, and one of the things I do as a reporter is regularly stay in touch with a wide range of people; not just when I need them for a story or information, but just “Hey, what’s going on? What’s happening in your community?” If you just come into a story cold and you’re depending on what you can get verified officially on something that’s breaking, you’re going to be behind the curve. It’s going to take a while for the official version to come out, but if you have good sources to corroborate something, then you’re ahead of the game.
I always think of myself as the advocate for the listener and the viewer. You can ask the tough questions, but a lot of times people will react more to your demeanor than to the actual substance. You can ask super, tough, critical questions, but if it’s done with respect, you’re probably going to get an answer to that.
FOX recently began airing Street Soldiers. What do you think being on camera is bringing to the show that wasn’t there before?
One of the things that’s so much fun is that we’re able to bring the other guests’ reactions. It’s expanded our audience because hip hop, even though it’s huge right now and Hot 97 is a major station, is not everybody’s music choice. Also, the issues that might be familiar to someone who lives in say Bed Stuy, may not be so familiar to someone who lives in the suburbs, but the person in the suburbs is probably going to be interested in it if they understand what’s going on and the story is set up.
The thing I like about doing Street Soldiers for FOX5 is that we’re able to do a setup package where I can basically say, “Listen, this is why we’re talking about this particular issue and here’s some of the key aspects of it.” And then we get into the discussion. It’s given us a broader platform and in some kind of way, it’s kind of brought people together and brought generations together too.
When you’re driving around, do you sing a long to hip hop lyrics?
I always loved hip hop music. If you hear a hip hop song blasting and some awful voice singing it, it could be me. But not when anybody’s in the car; the only time I can sing along is when it’s in the club and the music is really, really loud and you can’t notice my voice. If I had a singing voice, that’s what I would be doing. I didn’t think it was possible to have a news and issue role in that whole sphere.
You have interviewed a wide range of individuals. Are there any interviews that stand out?
I know a lot of people, I’ve interviewed a lot of people, and I’ve had some great milestones like when 50 Cent did his first TV interview with us on FOX5. It was when Get Rich or Die Tryin’ came out and he gave me the interview because I had interviewed him for Hot 97, so he felt comfortable with that. I’ve had the opportunity to interview Diddy a number of times exclusively and LL Cool J a number of times.
Through your extensive reporting and interviewing, what have you learned about New York and New Yorkers?
I think the most incredible thing about New York and the thing I love about it the most is that it’s like a living ecosystem; it never stays the same. You can go back to a neighborhood that you were in six weeks ago, and there’s new construction or the whole energy has changed. And I really feel because I’ve spent so much time on the streets that every neighborhood has a vibe and every time of day in that neighborhood has kind of a different vibe.
After 9/11, a lot of people were like, “Wow, New York is done.” Businesses were leaving, things were shut down, the nightlife really dried up, and then Rudy Giuliani got us through that time and Mayor Bloomberg helped to rebuild the city economically and bring the life back to it. And I think that’s the amazing thing about New York, it’s just grown and gotten so much better.
The thing about New Yorkers is the absolute resilience and the big heartedness. New Yorkers get a bum rap for being cold and busy and always in a rush, which a lot of times we are always in a rush, but the best thing is that we’re constantly evolving. We’re changing and we have big hearts and we can move fast, and people understand what’s real in New York. You can’t fake it here.
What can viewers look forward to this spring on Street Soldiers?
The show we just did was about the drug epidemic and music. We took a look at pop culture, pop music, hip hop and the number of songs that have dominated the billboard Hot 100 chart. The number of songs about drugs and drug use is staggering. For adults that’s one thing, but for pre-teens and teens, does this create a climate where people think drug use is okay? I think we’re going to be doing more shows that ask: Are we looking at drug abuse in a real way? In a realistic way? It’s spring time, too, so we’re going to be looking at relationship issues and having some fun segments. Our show is like New York, it’s always changing.
Street Soldiers airs Saturday evenings at 10:30 p.m. on FOX5 and Sunday mornings at 7:00 a.m. on Hot 97.
[This interview has been edited]
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All photos courtesy Lisa Evers/FOX 5
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