Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
First off, while you could easily make the mistake of thinking KARK news anchor Jancey Sheats is one of those tiny women, maybe even pixie-ish, she's taller than you'd think. Even 31 weeks pregnant with twin girls — a member of Central Arkansas TV's recent newsroom baby boom — she might even be called “willowy.”
The second thing is her eyes. In person, they're a surreal, crystal-ball blue; a color that just doesn't translate well when broken down into millions of tiny fragments, run up a broadcast tower and beamed through the air.
Sheats said she has known she wanted to be a newscaster since 1983, when Hurricane Alisha devastated her childhood home of Baytown, Texas, just outside Houston.
“The newscasters came into our neighborhood,” Sheats said, “and I remember sitting out there — my mom let me go out there and watch them do their live shots — and I was just fascinated. I thought, it must be such a cool job to be able to go out and cover events like this.”
By the time she got to college at the University of Texas (“You don't have to print that,” she laughed) she was more sure than ever. Of all her friends, Sheats was the only one who never changed her major: broadcast journalism. After school, Sheats took a job producing the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts at a small station in Sherman, Texas.
“It was hard. Tough,” Sheats said. “They weed out those who want to be journalists and those who want to be on TV. … I think I was making $16,500 coming out of school, and I was working 50-something hours a week. I remember my dad said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?' ”
After six months, Sheats was promoted to reporter, and found that she “absolutely loved it.” Since then, she said, she has worked at stations all over Texas. Three and a half years ago, she came to KARK, and has quickly developed a following in the market — including her husband, Rob. The couple met in Little Rock, and married last October.
The next challenge for Sheats: motherhood. In the spring, Sheats was one of four local television news personalities who found out they were expecting. For Sheats, however, it was a double surprise. She and her husband went the first 18 weeks of the pregnancy with doctors telling them they were only having one baby. A subsequent ultrasound to determine the child's sex found twins. “Our first ultrasound showed one, our first fetal heart monitor showed one,” she said. “The lady kind of looked at me funny and said, ‘Do you know there's two?' I started crying.”
“My husband was crying too,” Sheats added, laughing, “thinking about financially supporting two.”
Due the second week of August, Sheats said that she plans to stay on the air until her maternity leave begins a week before that. The station has asked her to be back in the anchor's chair Nov. 1.
Asked if she'll encourage her girls to follow her into journalism if their talents are bent that way, Sheats laughs and says: No, no, no, no. She reels off a list of reasons why: It's hard on family life and your personal life. Every two or three years your contract comes up and you're looking for a new job — usually in another city. The only woman who ever made a good living at it is Barbara Walters. All that, and paying your dues as a reporter means years of trying to look poised, coiffed and professional on live TV in the dark, heat, wet, wind and cold, often while being pelted with ice, snow, rain, mud, the occasional insult, assorted bugs and hail.
But still, she admits, there's something to it.
“It's a tough career,” she said. “But if you love it, it's also an adrenaline rush, kind of like a natural high.”