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At Home with WBIR's Robin Wilhoit

Celebrating Three Decades of Diligence on the Anchor Desk

When Robin Wilhoit was a little girl, she’d watch the evening news alongside her parents. Amid the reports on local politics and weather forecasts were human interest stories that piqued her interest. Fascinated by the process, Robin decided she wanted to be the person with the microphone asking the questions and crafting the story. 

The North Carolina native wrote for her high school newspaper and went on to UNC-Chapel Hill to study journalism. By her junior year she landed an internship at ABC affiliate WTVD in Durham, working with the health reporter Catherine Walters. 

“I followed her on stories, organized notes – I even babysat for her. She was a mentor and I owe her a lot,” says Robin. “She was a reference on my resume when I interviewed all over the southern region.”

In 1990, Robin landed her first job at a CBS affiliate in Johnson City, a smaller market that provided plenty of learning opportunities for a young reporter. It also provided Robin the opportunity to meet her future husband.

“I interviewed him. Brent is from Johnson City, and he was a Marine Captain in Desert Storm coming home for a few weeks before going on to California. When I saw him, I was like, ‘Oh, okay!’” she says, laughing. “I called him the next day to give him the VHS tape of the interview and he asked me out.” 

Knoxville was the couple’s next stop. By 1992, Brent had accepted a job in Oak Ridge, and Robin began her role as a weekend reporter and then a morning anchor at WBIR. What followed has been a rewarding and meaningful 30-year career making connections and telling stories, from major events such as 9/11, the 2016 wildfires in Sevier County, and the pandemic to heart-warming local stories of success and survival.
 

One of the things about being a broadcast journalist is that the unconventional schedule is entirely unavoidable. Painfully early mornings and exhaustingly late nights come with the job. Add motherhood to the mix and quality sleep quickly becomes your most valuable asset. 

“Sleep has always been elusive, working the schedule I do, which is 2:30 to 11:30 p.m. now,” says Robin. “Especially with two kids. Doing dinner, errands, all of it. For the longest time I felt like caffeine was fueling me.” 

Her children are grown now. Catherine, which is both a family name and a nod to Robin’s mentor, is 24 years old and lives in Nashville, while her son Brandon is 22 and currently a senior at the University of Tennessee. However, her long career in television meant both pregnancies were carried out on air, a scenario that added to the physical and emotional pressure that already exists in the profession.

“I was very pregnant on air. The clothes … weren’t great. It wasn’t a good look,” she recalls, laughing. “I didn’t pull off pregnancy beautifully, and I was back to work eight weeks after Catherine. It was a hard time. You want to be the best mother you can be while being the best employee you can be, but I felt like I was doing neither very well. But you figure it out, and then you have another baby.” 

Throughout her career, Robin has strived to make diligent decisions to bolster good health, from chasing quality sleep to keeping healthy habits part of her regular routine. She reads every night, even if it’s only a few pages, from physical books, not digital, something either inspirational or a work of historical fiction. She loves to cook and keeps a garden. She does Orangetheory Fitness and takes long walks. She does the New York Times mini-crossword puzzle and Wordle every day.

“As you get older, you are much more aware of your blood pressure, your cholesterol, and all those numbers you don’t care about when you’re younger. If I see something creeping up, I take action,” says Robin. “You don’t have to attain super-athlete status. I’ll just take walks with friends. Just move – both your body and your brain.” 

Robin also encourages women to stay on top of their health through the Buddy Check 10, a breast cancer awareness program that started at WBIR back in 1998.  

“We tell stories of survivors and thrivers. I knew it had a huge value but that was solidified by the feedback we got. Reminding people to do a self-check, catching things early … I’m just telling the stories, so it’s really the buddies out there acting upon it,” she says. 

Robin Wilhoit has become a respected fixture in the community, an acclaimed role model for young women, and a seasoned resource for professionals who are trying to do the best they can in every area of life. It is a careful dance but one worth balancing.

“Give yourself grace and give others grace. The images of perfection on TV aren’t real. You will mess up along the way. Give yourself permission to slow down,” she says. “My hope is that people will be kind to themselves and to others. There is so much benefit if you do both.”

Fun Favorites

Favorite Go-To Sweet or Savory Treat: Dark chocolate caramel squares with sea salt. We keep them on hand.

Favorite Feel-Good Film: When Harry Met Sally

Favorite Way to Decompress: Reading

Favorite Feel-Good Story You’ve Ever Told: Zakai Zeigler, a UT Basketball player, lost his home in a fire in New York. His family lost everything. Vol Nation did a GoFundMe and raised tens of thousands of dollars for them. They’ve moved here now. I interviewed his mom, Charmane, and to sit down with her and hear this story of fortitude, gratefulness … It was impactful. 

Favorite Thing You’re Listening To: “You Might Be Right” podcast hosted by former governors Phil Bredesen and Bill Haslam 

Favorite Thing You’re Reading: Tribe by Sebastian Junger 

Favorite Things You’re Watching: The Lost Kitchen and The Crown 

Favorite Childhood Memory or Feeling: Holding my dad’s finger. My dad passed away in 2013. He was a big man at 6’7” and when I was little, I’d always hold his finger. It’s a feeling I still have.

Favorite Way To Take Your Coffee: With cream, no sugar

Favorite Thing About Being a News Anchor: Having the incredible job to share information that impacts people’s lives. Hands down. It’s a gift to be able to share information that helps people make decisions to better their lives and chart their course. 

Favorite Thing About Knoxville: This is one of the most welcoming communities in the whole country. I’m grateful for the people and to have been a part of the community for so many years. 

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