Blazing the trail in television news
Starting in an administrative support role over 30 years ago, Emily Neilson is now president and general manager for 8 News NOW, the news organization in Southern Nevada that is part of the CBS affiliate KLAS-TV for Las Vegas. Before being promoted to general manager, she served as news director and led a staff of 100, producing approximately 40 hours of local news each week and continuous online coverage. During her tenure, she launched the first local television website in Nevada, the first investigative unit and the first high-definition newscasts. Through Neilson’s management, 8 News NOW has been awarded numerous local, regional and national awards for excellence. In 2009 and in 2012, the station’s I-Team received a prestigious Peabody award.
“I have always joked that I am an accidental journalist,” Neilson admits. After moving to Las Vegas in 1980, newly married and looking for work, she saw an ad for KLAS-TV and accepted a part-time assistant position in the sales department. “(I) then moved to accounting, where I had some experience. But I found myself drawn to the energy and activity in the news department. When the newsroom secretary position opened up, I talked the news director into giving me a try. I discovered I really loved broadcast journalism. I was lucky to work for a company that was willing to give me a chance, promoting me several times until I became news director in 1992, and then general manager in 2004,” she said.
Her mentor was Bob Stoldal, the news director during that time, who gave Neilson a chance despite having no background in journalism. “He believed I could handle more responsibility even when I wasn’t so sure,” said Neilson, “He championed me with upper management, at a time when there were very few female managers in the company, and even fewer female news managers in the industry. I was also very lucky to work closely with Ned Day, who guided me through my first news management job and with Dick Fraim, who helped me prepare for opportunities outside of news.”
As for other women looking for a career in broadcasting, Neilson advises, “Working in news can be very challenging. It’s a 24/7 profession and there is always a deadline. It’s not like you can stay late to finish your story for the 5 p.m. news. But it’s extraordinarily rewarding. We can make a difference with our reports.”
As for striving for a management position, Neilson said, “My advice for new managers, regardless of the profession, is to learn from others but don’t try and imitate their style. Be yourself. Avoid the trappings of ‘being the boss’ that might set you apart and hurt your ability to get the information you need. Respect every position equally. You are not more important than others in the organization.”
Neilson serves on the board of directors for United Way, the United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council, Three Square and the Children’s Advocacy Alliance. She is the past president of the Las Vegas Executives Association and the Las Vegas Chapter of The Society of Professional Journalists. She has received the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce Community Service award, the Broadcast Manager of the Year from Women in Communications and has been inducted into the KLAS Hall of Fame and the Nevada Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame. She has also been inducted into the American Red Cross Tiffany Circle.
Neilson has been married to husband Brad for over 30 years, with a family of three children and two grandchildren. “The values instilled by your family flow over into every aspect of your life. Nothing is stronger,” she said. Neilson demonstrates those values every day as a Fearless Female.