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Ukee Washington reporting from Wildwood for CBS3 Eyewitness NewsQ&A

Veteran broadcaster Ukee Washington considers himself old-school,” and hes proud of it. His approach to broadcasting (and to life) is that we are family and all in this together.”  

Over 33 years in the Delaware Valley media scene, Washington has covered some of the regions most momentous events: the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Pope Francis’ historic visit in 2015 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012. He switches gears often, going from a prison interview with a former classmate on death row to guest hosting CBSThe Talk” to cameo appearances in movies – some starring his famous second cousin Denzel Washington – where he always plays the newscaster. 

Washington isnt ready to turn in his mike any time soon. They always say, if you love what you do, youll never work a day in your life,” he says. Ive been on vacation almost 40 years.”    

Q: In your 33 years in Philly, did you ever consider moving to a larger media market?  

Over the years, weve had a couple offers, but Phillys my home. I was born and raised in West Philadelphia and I went to school in Dover, Delaware for 7th through 12th grades. Theres no place like home. This is where I feel most comfortable. 

Q: What has been your most challenging news story? 

The one story that has affected me the most was about a dear friend of mine. His name is Eddie Fountain. He, unfortunately, was involved in a homicide and was given life in prison plus 180 years. I did three parts on that story over a five-year period knowing that this guy I went to high school with could have been the president or CEO of any organization but for one moment of time when he snapped. I wanted to do that story justice.  

Q: How did you become a broadcaster? 

I played basketball in college and knew what the chances were of making it to the pros as an athlete, so I wanted to do something that would involve people. I love people, always have – thats the way I was raised. If I couldnt participate in sports, I could talk about them, so I pursued journalism in college. I worked at the CBS affiliate after basketball practice. I ended up hosting our college basketball show, and during my senior year, the person doing the weekend sports left. They were looking for somebody cheap, and I put my hand up. Toward the end of my senior year I became the weekend sports guy. 

Q: What’s the premise of your ongoing news segment “Brotherly Love?” 

These are always uplifting stories about people doing great things in the community. We try to tell stories that are bold, original, optimistic and meaningful and get away from a lot of the negative news thats on TV. A lot of people tell me they dont watch news because its too negative. If you can add something a little different that will keep them there, make them smile and inspire them, thats what Im all about. 

Q: When people recognize you, what do they say?  

Sometimes it takes me a while to get across the parking lot because people will stop and beep the horn and will want to say hi. Sometimes its about whats going on in our world or our city or they want to know about me. They like to keep it personal, like theyve known me all their life and Ive known them. Ill talk to anybody and everybody, and thats what has helped me through the years. 

A couple years ago a bus driver pulled his bus over and opened the door and said, Ukee Washington, you did a great job on the ship in the middle of the Caribbean.” He was talking about a cruise my wife and I took seven or eight years ago when I won a talent show. The bus driver was in the crowd and he said he loved it. That made me feel good and told me Im having some kind of effect on people.  

Q: How has social media changed your job? 

It affects our job when it comes to the instantaneous way we present the news. Information is transferred to us in a heartbeat whereas it took some time, back in the day, to get the information. Social media is very powerful. It can be very positive or very negative. Personally, I try to stay away from the negative issues. I keep my Facebook and Twitter directed to good vibes. Im old school. When I retire, Im probably going to retire from social media. 

Q: Tell us about how you developed your golf game in South Jersey.  

My mothers aunt had a place in Rio Grande, and I was there every summer as a child. I loved Wildwood and Cape May. Im not really a shore guy, lying on the beach or going into the water, even to this day. But thats where I started playing golf, at the little putt-putt games as a child. I used to be a 14 handicap but after my full hip replacement seven years ago, I stopped keeping it. But the hip replacement actually helped my game. I might be down to single digits one day. I love the game. 

Q: What is your relationship to actor Denzel Washington?  

We are second cousins, once removed. We didnt meet until 1990. Were not the kind of cousins who call and say, Hey, are you going to the family reunion.’ I only see him when its time for work. But I do get extra time at the junkets – everybody else gets four minutes and I get eight because were family [he says with a laugh]. Hes such a role model and a positive guy. I wish I had more time to get to know him even more but our schedules are just so different. 

Q: Did you ever consider a career in acting? 

So far, Ive always played myself, a newscaster. Ive been blessed to have been in five of M. Night Shyamalans films, and then Denzel put me in one. I told M. Night I want to be a newscaster who is covering a crime scene, but Im the one committing the crime. Maybe put a little twist on it. I like the little bit parts but thats the extent of it. Being an actor is a lot of hard work. When I get out of this industry, I just want to kick back and take it easy and hopefully enjoy the fruits of a wonderful, blessed career. 

June 2019
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