The first time WCVB Channel 5 news anchor Maria Stephanos ’88, MA '93, took the stage at the EVVY Awards, it was as a host. Thirty years later, she’ll step up to receive this year’s Alumni Award of Distinction.
“Maria Stephanos has been a prominent journalist and news anchor in Boston for over 20 years, covering major world events and personal stories from around the community,” said Joey Lyons ’19, Alumni Award of Distinction producer for the EVVYs, the largest student-run live awards show in the country.
“Throughout all her work, Maria is a passionate and dedicated storyteller, embodying the creative spirit of Emerson College,” Lyons said.
The EVVY Awards will be held Friday, May 11, in the Cutler Majestic Theatre.
Stephanos said winning the award is “an honor” and that Emerson prepared her for her career in journalism “in every way.”
“It truly was a magical place where I could go and just be me,” Stephanos said. “And Emerson embraced that and I was able to learn everything about journalism and television production.”
Stephanos majored in Television as an undergraduate and got a master’s degree in Mass Communication. She started her career as a State House reporter for local radio stations, including WBUR. She made the move to television at WJAR-TV in Providence, and then spent 18 years as an anchor/reporter at WFXT-TV in Boston. Two years ago, Stephanos joined WCVB, where she shares the anchor desk with fellow Emerson alum Ed Harding ’75.
In her two-plus decades of reporting, Stephanos has covered stories with enormous local, national, and even global impact. She covered the Worcester Cold Storage fire; the 2000 presidential election Florida recount; the 9/11 attacks from Boston and Washington; the deaths of John F. Kennedy Jr., Sen. Edward Kennedy, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino; Patriots Super Bowl wins; and the James “Whitey” Bulger trial.
She said while all of those stories were moving or exciting, two stories “linger” in her mind, for good or for ill.
The 2004 Red Sox World Series win (and the 2007 one too) was “magical and exhilarating and amazing,” she said. “But the one that will always hang with me deep is the Boston Marathon bombing.”
In 2013, Stephanos was standing near the finish line as a spectator when the bombs went off. She and her husband were O.K., but the experience left her shaken. That afternoon she went back to the station at FOX 25 and anchored the event.
Stephanos credits Associate Professor of Journalism Marsha Della-Giustina for pushing her “to the brink” and giving her the tools she needed to become an outstanding reporter.
“I will love her forever,” Stephanos said. “I would not be sitting in the anchor chair at WCVB, the news leader, if it weren’t for Marsha Della-Giustina.”
To the future journalists who will be sitting in the audience or receiving awards Friday night at the EVVYs, Stephanos has some advice.
“Listen,” she said. “You can ask the most brilliant question on the planet, and if you’re not listening to the answer, you’ve blown it.”
It’s better to come to an interview prepared with solid research than with a set list of questions, she said. If you listen carefully to the answers, the next questions will unfold naturally and it usually works out beautifully.
Stephanos also said even if your ultimate goal is to be a news anchor, it’s important to learn everything you can about what happens behind the anchor desk, especially how to report and tell a good story.
“At 52 years old and 25-plus years in the business, that’s the stuff that still moves me,” she said.
Tickets to the 37th Annual EVVY Awards are still available at emersontheatres.org.