“Ms. Vickie, yoouu, you got what we nee-eed … ” sings a chorus of elementary school children performing their rendition of Biz Markie’s classic “Just a Friend” record. The little voices won the heart of WWJ-AM’s Vickie Thomas, who was visiting Clippert Academy Elementary School in Detroit.
The longtime radio news reporter has made countless visits to schools influencing the minds of the future, and this group of children voiced their appreciation in unison – and made her blush.
Having been heard on WWJ Newsradio 950 since 1991, Thomas has what the Detroit community needs: Her voice, which she uses well. “Being a voice to somebody who won’t speak up,” she says, is her calling.
She helps vocalize issues that are seldom heard and gets at the heart of the issues that listeners want to hear about, such as a recent one-on-one conversation with Gov. Rick Snyder about his thoughts on several school closures in Detroit.
Thomas’ job is not an easy one; as city beat reporter, she covers urban stories that might get overlooked elsewhere. Having made so many connections, it puts her in the position to give back. “It’s almost like public service in a way,” she says, “and service is something I love to do.”
Like most journalists, she works around the clock and places deadlines at the top of her priorities. But despite her busy work schedule, Thomas wears many hats that go beyond that of your average news reporter. She is frequently called on to host or organize charitable events in the region – maybe even both.
Thomas also advocates on behalf of her fellow journalists. She has previously served as the union steward at WWJ, as well as holding membership in the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Where her passion lies, though, is working to maintain diversity in the media. Thomas has been affiliated with the National Association of Black Journalists for as long as she has been in the field, seeing as the organization helped start her long career with WWJ. She currently serves as regional director of the student and professional chapters in the Midwest.
She dedicates a lot of her time to NABJ, in many ways paying forward what she has gained from the organization. “I want to have helped somebody get to where they need to be,” she says. She faithfully tells people in NABJ about job opportunities, internships and opportunities for growth, whether in radio, television or print.
One of Thomas’ proudest accomplishments came when she and the Detroit chapter of NABJ successfully lobbied the organization’s national board to bring NABJ’s national convention to Detroit for 2018. In 2006, the national board had voted the convention be held in Detroit, but it was overturned.
“I wanted to right that wrong,” she said – and she did. NABJ’s annual convention brings in upward of 4,000 visitors to its host city. “The drive to make a difference is what motivates me to do so much,” says Thomas.