TV Journalist’s Award-Winning Path Got Its Start at St. John’s

Aziza Shuler ’15CPS

From a foster home to the anchor desk—sometimes the notion confounds even Aziza Shuler, a 2015 graduate of St. John’s University and an Emmy® Award-winning broadcast journalist.

Born to parents with addiction issues, she was raised by foster parents and, later, her grandmother in Washington, DC. However, blessed with a hunger for knowledge and a diligent work ethic, Ms. Shuler overcame difficult circumstances and is now an on-air reporter and weekend anchor at the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia, the fourth stop in her professional journey.

Together with her news team in Yuma, AZ, she won an Emmy® Award, television’s highest honor, in 2020 for reporting on the living conditions of migrant families along the southern border. According to Ms. Shuler, the challenges she faced during her childhood make her a better journalist.

“Some people say it’s a story I should share more,” she said. “I will say it helps to develop a more common sense of trust with the people whose stories I try to tell. My background helps me relate to what they might tell me. I can completely understand what they are going through.”

Born in the nation’s capital, Ms. Shuler endured DC’s gritty foster care system until her grandmother was able to provide a stable environment. Ironically, it was her parents who first recognized her potential as a journalist.

“When I did see my parents, they would tell me that I was destined to be a strong, independent woman who could tell the stories of people like them,” Ms. Shuler recalled. “It was my father who first told me I was going to be a journalist.”

She enrolled at St. John’s as a third-year transfer student after two years at UCLA in Los Angeles, eager to return to the northeast to a more intimate and diverse college experience. Ms. Shuler found that at the school’s Queens, NY, campus, where a sports broadcasting class led to an internship at the Manhattan radio station WINS-1010 AM.

Hired for a first job at KECY, a Fox affiliate in Yuma, she returned to Los Angeles in 2020 to work for Spectrum News, which later relocated her to Washington, DC, to cover Capitol Hill. In October, she moved to her current position in Philadelphia, PA.

Ms. Shuler credits the University’s internship program with inspiring her to pursue a career in journalism. “The 1010 WINS internship was instrumental for me,” she said. “It was so interesting to hear the voices of people and let them take me on their journey. There, the elements of newsgathering and storytelling were instilled in me. Once I started, it was the only career I ever saw myself doing.”

Ms. Shuler’s path to an Emmy® Award began with a seemingly routine assignment: Head 25 miles south to Arizona’s border with Mexico and spend time with migrants seeking political asylum in the United States. What she discovered among the groups of migrants, however, was not a one-size-fits-all solution to a divisive issue, but something far more nuanced and Vincentian.

“Not all were illegal immigrants climbing border walls; some were people fleeing for their lives,” Ms. Shuler said. “They were turning themselves in at the border, waiting in shelters for months to get a court date for an asylum hearing.”

“We as a society have to be aware of the overlooked,” she continued. “It’s a Vincentian thing to do.”

It’s also good journalism, Ms. Shuler said. Whether in Yuma; Los Angeles; Washington, DC; or Philadelphia, her character-driven stories give life to the time-honored adage that the reporter’s job is to comfort the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable.

“At the border, we told stories of immigrants and humanized them,” she explained. “That’s what I have always tried to do. Everyday people might not follow the news 24/7, but real journalism is important in an age when information can get to the public in so many ways.”

To that end, Ms. Shuler has partnered with Brown Girls Dream, a nonprofit that provides support for women of color eager to establish media careers. Recruited by former ESPN broadcaster Cari Champion, she serves as a mentor to women ages 18 to 27 who, like her, aspire to be 21st-century storytellers.

Since its establishment in 2018, the organization has helped dozens of young women with internships, mentorship advice, leadership training, and more. “It opens doors for young Black girls,” Ms. Shuler said. “Creating those opportunities is very important to me.”