Media Arts and Design

Inspired at 15, Julie Bragg Back Where She Started

Julie Bragg was 15 when she applied to “For Kids Sake,” a WTVR-6 program that gave children from Richmond experience working in front of the camera. She was one of the oldest children there, which led to more responsibility than the other kids.  
Her first story was about a teen dance club in Richmond.
“What questions would you ask the owner?” the producer asked Bragg. It was a valuable experience that taught her how to report the story herself. She soon stood in front of the camera, and as she reported the story realized this was what she wanted to do.
“It became just my station,” Bragg said. “I remember walking around the halls as a kid even now.”
Now, nearly 25 years later, Bragg anchors the 5 o’clock news at the same station. She has been there most of the time since she graduated with a mass communication degree from JMU. After graduating in 1994, she worked in Martinsville, Virginia, at a small TV station, but soon made it to Richmond and has been there ever since.
Marilou Johnson, Bragg’s broadcast professor back then and now JMU’s vice provost for academic development, helped Bragg get her start.
“Julie has this bubbly, positive personality that you just knew when you met her, if she sticks with this, she’s going to be an on-air personality because she’s serious but she is so personable and she works really hard,” Johnson said.
Bragg understood the broadcast journalism business differently than other students because of her experience with “For Kids Sake,” Johnson said.  
At her first job in Martinsville, Bragg was the lone anchor on the air, and most of the show was unscripted. She would spend the beginning of the show giving details of the local news in a city that was smaller than Harrisonburg, and then she would turn it over to the phone lines for viewer comments.
“I would have no idea what was on the other line and no other anchor to go back and forth with,” Bragg said. “It was a new level of comfort.”
One day, the teleprompter and the printer broke just before the show, so there were no scripts. Bragg and her producer had never seen so many technical problems in one moment. Eventually, they were able to print out part of the script but had to coordinate to make sure Bragg had the same script as the producer.
Bragg transitioned from this small-town environment, where she could stretch out news segments, to a much larger market at WTVR-6 in Richmond, where she has to crunch most stories down to 25 seconds.
“Now that I’m a mom, stories impact me differently,” said Bragg, who has a son in preschool. “I can get emotional about some stories. They can be happy or sad. I’ve always cared and been impacted but now it’s been more challenging.”
One of these stories was a recent segment about an 8-year-old girl named Marley. Bragg found out on Facebook from Marley’s mom, one of Bragg’s sorority sisters, that Marley was teased at school because of her new glasses. Bragg asked if she could share Marley’s picture next to one of her own. Both of them wear glasses with wide, dark lenses. The original Facebook post now has over 55,000 likes, 7,000 comments and 600 shares.
In the photo, Marley smiles behind her dark glasses and long blond hair. Bragg is juxtaposed next to the younger girl in a similar pair of glasses, in full makeup and short brown hair.  
Bragg teared up on the newscast the day the picture was posted. “Everybody has those moments when you feel self-conscious, so I just thought, come on everybody, tell her that,” she said on air. “It takes a ton of good comments to forget the bad ones.”
Marley was flooded with support. She talked to the boy who made comments about her glasses and realized he never intended to hurt her feelings.
The story reminded Bragg of her own childhood.
“Of course, we didn't have social media when I was kid, but I thought about how wonderful it would be to have lots of strangers encouraging a child that age,” Bragg said.
She could relate because that’s what happened when she was 15, roaming the halls of WTVR, and starting a career in journalism.
by Morgan Lynch ('16); Photo Courtesy WTVR

Published: Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Last Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2018

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