Subrina Dhammi: Anchoring the Mornings at NewsChannel 13
Never underestimate Subrina Dhammi’s persistence. Although her mother fretted when Subrina changed from bioengineering to broadcast journalism at Syracuse University, and an adviser tried to steer the budding journalist from a certain position, Subrina proved both of them wrong, graduating with a job offer that launched her career at WNYT NewsChannel 13.
“If someone tells me I can’t do something, that only fuels my determination to make it happen,” the anchorwoman says with a smile.
Edible Capital District: At what point did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in journalism?
Subrina Dhammi: I assumed I would be an engineer or go to med school because that’s what my parents wanted. But then in high school, I literally stumbled upon the TV Club and fell in love with it. That led me to look for colleges with broadcast journalism.
ECD: How did Syracuse prepare you for your career?
SD: Syracuse was fantastic because despite its outstanding reputation, there’s no pretension. Professors are down to earth and don’t fluff you up with false hope. at type of grounded honesty helps prepare students for a cutthroat business like broadcast journalism.
ECD: How did you land your job?
SD: Well, I really wanted to work at NewsChannel 13 so I basically stalked the news director. I interviewed during my senior year and the news director said, “Okay we’ll get back to you.” I showed up the next day just to check in. He was a little surprised. I showed up again the next day. And by the fourth day, he saw my determination and gave me the job. I actually drove out from Syracuse to Albany each day.
ECD: What were those first months like?
SD: I was assigned to the Berkshire beat and worked out of the Pittsfield office. I had to find my own stories and develop my own contacts. The pressure just inspired me.
ECD: Any early mentors?
SD: Kumi Tucker here at Channel 13. She’s our weekend anchor. She took me under her wing and coached me on how to handle breaking news and helped me tighten up my writing. She gave me invaluable critical feedback.
ECD: You’ve co-anchored the morning show since 2012. How do you manage the crazy early hours??
SD: I roll out of bed around 12:30 and am in the station by 1:00. I start scrolling through the news reports from around the world to see if there’s any breaking news. My co-anchor, Phil Bayly, and I spend the next three hours racing against the clock with our producer, Neil Shannon, to produce a two-hour morning show. We put on the final touches around 4:00 or 4:30 then I step away and make myself presentable for TV. The show starts at 5:00am and we are nonstop till 7:00. When the show ends, we take a deep breath and regroup. After that we prepare cut-ins, four-minute updates on news, traffic and weather, which air during the Today Show.
I usually leave the studio between 9:00 and 11:00am and pick up my daughter from her toddler program. WNYT is wonderfully accommodating with families. My husband, Ryan, is an engineer and works from home. He takes care of Sonya in the morning then we swap and I get to be with my daughter. But when she goes down for her nap, so do I! Ideally I can get in a good hour and a half.
We have dinner as a family around 5:30 and I’m usually in bed by 8:30. I honestly don’t know how I survive on four hours of sleep but I do!
ECD: Best part of your job?
SD: Working with Phil and Paul Caiano, our meteorologist. It was the “boys’ club” for 10 years with just the two of them and then this girl showed up and plunked down between them. We’re such a balanced team.
ECD: Most intriguing person or event you’ve covered?
SD: I was able to cover President Obama’s four trips to the Capital Region as well as the Dalai Lama’s visit here. They generated such energy!
ECD: Advice to aspiring broadcast journalists?
SD: Television may look sexy but it’s journalism first and foremost, and that’s not always glamorous. You have to be a news junkie.
ECD: Talk to me about your world travels!
SD: I have traveled quite a bit—mostly pre-Sonya. I love experiencing different cultures and sampling new food and wine. Pasta in Florence, beef bourguignon in Paris, jerk chicken in Jamaica, and fish caught straight out of the ocean and cooked immediately in the Maldives.
Ryan and I also have traveled extensively in the U.S. We’ve also been to Montreal, London, Lisbon, Madrid, Tuscany, Puerto Vallarta and Aruba. We got engaged in Costa Rica and went to the Maldives for our honeymoon.
Speaking of which, Ryan and I eloped—we got married on Empire State Plaza. One of the photographers at the station who is ordained married us. We got married at 5:30am so we could leave right from the plaza and drive to JFK to catch our flight to the Maldives.
ECD: So your love of travel meshes perfectly with your passion for food.
SD: That’s true. I love international cuisines! We cook across the globe each week. I grew up on Indian food and incorporate those flavors and styles in my dishes. We tend to eat more veggies than meat but we always load them with big flavor.
We shop at the farmers’ markets when the weather turns warm. We menu-plan on Sunday, which helps the week run smoothly. We definitely ate more takeout prior to Sonya but do more home cooking now that she’s eating solid foods.
ECD: Favorite meals to prepare?
SD: Making fresh pasta! I fell in love with fresh pasta when we traveled to Tuscany. Nothing’s better than handmade pasta with ripe tomatoes and basil, or olive oil and garlic. is summer we’re starting a garden now that we have a home with a yard.
ECD: An ideal weekend at home with the family?
SD: Every Friday night, we make pizza. Sonya goes to bed after she has her little portion, and then Ryan and I open the wine, light a fire, watch a movie. The rest of the weekend, we catch up with friends, have a play date for Sonya, maybe hit a festival somewhere. Because the week is so go-go-go, it’s great to be less scheduled.
ECD: Outside interests?
SD: Classical Indian dancing called bhartha natyam. It’s highly choreographed and I did it from age five all through college. I find the blend of music and movement very freeing and it keeps me fit!
ECD: In your opinion, what are some of the Capital District’s treasures?
SD: The arts scene in the Capital Region and the Berkshires can rival New York City. This entire district has beautiful architecture, culture, family-oriented activities and great schools. The food scene is blowing up and in towns you couldn’t imagine.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS
With my odd schedule, I graze on peanut butter and honey on sprouted wheat bread, a hard-boiled egg, Greek yogurt with almonds and dried cranberries, and coffee.
Favorite childhood meal?
My mom’s aloo, Indian-style cubed potatoes served with tomato gravy spiced with coriander, turmeric, garam masala, cayenne, garlic and onion. And poori, puffy fried bread.
Cake pie or cookies?
Vanilla cake with vanilla frosting.
Crisp Sauvignon Blanc and French whites.
Pre-bed snack for a morning anchor?
I have a sweet tooth so whatever baked goods we have lying around.