On a windy Wednesday morning, Trina Creighton exclaims into the phone as if the answer could not be more obvious. “Just get up and go! You can’t be lazy!”
Creighton has over 19 years of experience as an associate professor in broadcasting at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, but the professional career she had before that is proven to be much more significant than this. Going back as early as 1980, you can see her face plastered on a promotional poster of WHO-TV along with her colleagues. She became the first-ever Black woman news anchor to make it on Des Moines televisions before moving to Omaha and reaching new heights as a reporter, news director, news anchor and producer at KMTV News for 15 years. You would think such an achievement is something to be proud of, but Creighton isn’t. In fact, she admits that she never really thought about being “the first whatever.”
Known for her flamboyant manner in instructing her classes, Creighton began her career at the university by leading a series of broadcasting performance classes and a class that produced Star City News, the college’s twice-weekly live news broadcast. Creighton has had enough students under her tutelage to discern the qualities which contribute to a student’s successful future.
“I’ve seen enough kids who are laid back and didn’t want to work hard,” she said. “Well, you’re going to get run over by those who did.”
As fascinating as her professional career may sound to the others, Creighton said that she did not miss a thing about her previous jobs at all.
“I don’t miss one thing. I don’t want to get recognized,” she said. “Which is funny – I still get recognized on campus by students.”
She adds that she doesn’t want to be criticized by the public like she did when she became the first Black woman news anchor on regional television back then. Being a professor doesn’t mean that she wouldn’t be critiqued anymore, but it does happen on a smaller scale.
In fact, one of the reasons she thinks she can never go back to being a news anchor is that it’s a “younger person’s game.”
“It’s so stressful and grueling,” Creighton said with a heavy sigh. “Ugh. I don’t miss anything about it.”
It’s a good thing that she had found “the best job ever” then. She loves seeing the kids she teaches learn and develop. It surely wasn’t easy for Creighton back then as a news anchor.
“I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve thought about it much,” the former news anchor said and admitted that she did not even realize that she had been the first Black woman to make it on TV news until people started telling her about it.
She has had so many horror stories while doing her job she did not even know where to begin. After all, her philosophy when it comes to dealing with unpleasant memories is to “get over it.” Dwelling on the past is never a routine she entertains. There’s rarely a time she would moan over something she did and say that “I have to do better.”
Another interesting story Creighton had was how she snagged a job on the TV side of WHO radio. “I tried to play it cool,” she said. When she was still working on the radio side, Phil Thomas, the TV news director, had noticed her presence and offered her a job opportunity.
“I came in on a Sunday and did my interview,” Creighton said. “I got the job on the spot. That’s why I looked at myself as rather blessed.”
Creighton’s specialty back then was that she had a knack for snatching up exclusive interviews on big stories. Although she acknowledges that she is known and respected for that, she is mystified by her own achievement as well.
“I don’t know. I’ve developed a reputation for getting them,” she said, adding that she had a pretty good “storage space” where she stores the wide connections she had with the community.
At the age of 69, Creighton is showing no signs of slowing down. She hopes that she’ll never have to retire or quit her job at the university. Outside of perfecting the role of a broadcasting professor, Creighton is the proud mother of two children, Rielle and Braumon Creighton. How proud is she of them? Well, one step into her office on the second floor of Anderson Hall will tell you that. On her desks and cabinets are pictures of her children and grandchildren. You might even get lucky and glimpse one of her grandkids’ drawings under all that clutter. It is no secret that Creighton’s desk is known to grow considerably littered with assignment papers as the end of the semester approaches.
Without the hesitation usually seen on a parent, Creighton confesses that her daughter is her closest family member. Before working as a reporter for CBS Miami, Rielle held the position as a news anchor for various TV news stations including ABC and CBS affiliates. With a smile in her voice, Creighton announces proudly: “It is 100% because of me that she became a news anchor.”
It turns out that Rielle had wanted to become a lawyer after taking a class with UNL’s Professor John Bender who taught mass media law. Creighton personally did not think she needs any more attorneys in her family since she already had several of them as siblings, but she respected her daughter’s decision.
Her unfettered love for her own family might have something to do with her coming from a family of nine. Her mother had five boys and four girls. As the second oldest child in the family, she dreams of one day becoming a writer. Little did she know, her future career would involve a little less writing but a whole lot more talking.
If she could go back in time to tell her 20-year-old self one thing, this is what she would say: “Calm down.”
But she’s doubtful that her own advice would work on herself.
“I think I’ll still be hyper ‘cause it’s in my DNA,” she said. After a few seconds, she changes her mind. “Maybe I’ll say, ‘Hey, it’s okay. It’s going to be all right.’”
In another interview in 2001, Creighton mentioned that watching Connie Chueng on TV one night had inspired her to try out broadcasting. But when asked about it today, Creighton gave a different response.
“Eh, she didn’t inspire me all that much,” Creighton said, adding that Oprah is her biggest inspiration instead. The broadcasting professor then agrees to the sentiment that she finds inspiration on different people at different points of her life.
Although Creighton said that she had found her calling in teaching, there are still times when she is overwhelmed by the responsibilities placed on her. She had found, over the years, that it’s all about how she managed her students. Coupled with her love for teaching, Creighton has exploited her chance to be creative in her favorite class to teach: Social Justice, Human Rights, and The Media.
“I really appreciate my dean and my associate dean who basically built it from scratch,” Creighton said, grateful that she was allowed to rebuild the class the way she liked it. “The class was already there before me, but it’s mostly focused on sex trafficking. I was able to come in and broaden it. Share things that I think the students may not know.”
Under Creighton’s reconfiguration, the class has now been expanded to examine a spectrum of social issues such as racism, discrimination against the LGBT community, and the widening gap between the poor and the rich. She tries her very best to bring in at least one experienced guest speaker every class to discuss the topic of the day with the students.
Despite her passion for teaching, she had made so many mistakes as a professor that she is embarrassed to even talk about them. Thankfully, she sees every time she made a mistake as an opportunity for her to grow.
“If you’re not making any mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough.”
Despite being aware of the many misconceptions about her, Creighton thinks that whatever people think of her is not her business. She refuses vehemently to trouble herself with what the next person she meets has to say about her. You can almost hear her shaking her head when she said: “No, I’m just not gonna run around worrying about what they think of me.”
Of all the years she had spent teaching, she can only remember one class where the students were “kinda mean” to her. At the end of the day, the one thing that made her stick around as a professor is the realization that she is constantly inspired by the young people she teaches.
“They inspire me,” she said. “They want to be an important part of the world and have an impact in some way – a positive contribution. I’m so in awe with those kids.”