Click to View Latest IssueClick to View Latest Issue

Adrienne Bankert: Soaring on Network Television, Staying Grounded in Her NorCal Roots

By  0 Comments

When you turn on Good Morning America on ABC, you may just recognize a familiar face in the studio. 

Northern California native Adrienne Bankert interviews some of the biggest names in entertainment and reports on some of the most compelling headlines from across the country. She brings with her a multitude of experiences, mentors she adores and a heart of gold.

Based in New York, she’s been fortunate to cover stories as far away as Thailand, Hong Kong and Prague and to work alongside veterans such as Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos and Michael Strahan. She somehow manages to visit home often. 

Small Beginnings, Big Dreams
One of seven children, four boys and three girls, she was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the tiny town of Sheridan, dreaming of living in the big city. “As a child, I found a postcard of the hospital and asked my mom about it,” Adrienne remembered. “I was fascinated because it looked nothing like the place I was raised. 

“No one in my family was into television, though I believe my parents were in LA because my dad wanted to pursue acting. They eventually moved back up to Placer County because of the low cost of living,” she explained. “As a kid, I loved watching talk shows and I would critique the news and how the stories were being told. I was into spelling bees in elementary school and in high school I enjoyed debate,” she continued.

“When I was a teenager, I thought I was going to be a model, and I had one teacher pull me aside and ask, ‘Is that really what you want to do?’ I had a few professors really invest in me and see that I had something to offer; between larger speech contests and my grandfather entering me into pageants, I was constantly being trained in public speaking. I still can’t believe I was brave enough to wear a bathing suit on stage! All that time, I was being developed into someone who was comfortable being out front.”

She went to school in Lincoln and Wheatland, then on to Sierra Community College in Rocklin before transferring to USC after researching the best communication schools in the country. She earned a communication degree with a minor in entertainment; she is one of a few journalists to receive this degree. She began hosting talk shows while in college for her university TV station, which led to hosting a children’s educational show. “When I took public speaking classes and communication, I really found it more interesting to understand people, how we relate to reach other and the history of what makes for effective communication,” she smiled. 

Beginning the Journey
Her news career began at the very station she grew up watching, KCRA TV in Sacramento. She began working alongside people such as Walt Gray, Deirdre Fitzpatrick and Teo Torres. She started as the traffic anchor, reporting on road conditions, and quickly became a morning anchor. It was a joy to have her family, including her grandparents who invested so heavily in her, see that her time in school and waiting for the big break in news paid off. But she continued to dream of the chance to be on national TV in the Big Apple. 

Many people invested in her, but when she met one of the key mentors in her life, Bill Krause, it took her success to another level. She met Krause at one of his conferences in the Sacramento area and she asked him to coach her. He’s been mentoring her for nearly 14 years. He partnered with her to bring that big TV dream to pass and ignited her desire to become a reporter. Initially she didn’t know if reporting would be as rewarding as it has been in her life. She enjoyed anchor work and was first asked to use her skills in ad-libbing to do non-scripted shows and segments that required a lot of memorization and extemporaneous delivery, including interviews with fitness experts, live music segments, reality shows and community magazine programs in studio. She reported some but still focused on anchoring.

Changing Direction
A news director for a Dallas station saw her work and hired her. She primarily anchored but once or twice a month she reported on community-centered and health-related stories. Relocation reconnected her with an acquaintance she’d met while training for her Sacramento position, who was a friend of the general manager of the ABC affiliate station in Los Angeles. That opened the door for a move to LA for a post that would be almost entirely reporting, from apartment fires to car chases to shootings. It was an intense shift. “Since it was usually a very sad or tragic story, in the dark and out in the cold, I had to build up a desire to want to hit the street, no more safe and cozy studio,” she noted. “But I really loved meeting new people and I loved hearing their stories. It would still take me years to realize how much being a reporter would open more doors to what I really wanted to be—a great interviewer.”

From LA, ABC brought her the opportunity to work in New York and achieve that network milestone. She enjoys being one of their most-called-upon interviewers; she has traveled the globe and has been ready for some of the most memorable stories of this decade, including being chosen to cover the wedding of Prince Harry and American Duchess Meghan Markle.

Mentoring
She feels honored to be on the ABC team and learning from professionals who include the one and only Diane Sawyer. She is watchful to learn from all the amazingly talented people she works with. She makes sure to listen, to the superstar journalists as well as to the crew, stage directors, producers and executives who are a team ripe with experience. She also invests in others. “This business can be so busy and hard. It’s important to constantly be alert, situationally aware of those around you, what people are going through and be ready with an encouraging word or a smile to lift their spirits,” she expressed. 

One of the mantras Adrienne shares with those she mentors is that broadcasting is not just the two minutes or two hours shared with the people watching on TV or online; broadcasting is how you live your life and what you do 24/7. Her daily inspiration is derived from her close circle of beloved friends, her tenacity, and knowing she is making a difference. She sees herself as a game changer for others, and she believes everyone has the capacity to do just that. She wakes up each morning knowing wherever she is, she will have the ability to make someone’s day both on and off air. 

Connecting
She recently had the opportunity to interview Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, along with Anthony Ramos and Sam Elliott, actors in the movie A Star is Born. “They really poured themselves into character and I fell in love with them as artists,” she commented. “I can still tell you my favorite scene of the movie. I have the frame memorized. We flew into Toronto for the International Film Festival. My producer introduced me to Anthony, as he was the first to come into the room where we were set up. He shared a personal story about having had his start because of his high school drama teacher. Little did I know he was going to get very emotional and actually started crying during the interview. All of us were crying. I prepare for an intimate conversation and when I look people in the eye it’s to share a common trust. 

“When I initially shook Sam Elliott’s hand, he gave me that warm smile. We established a true connection from our backgrounds. Sam’s openness to me helped open up the whole room. He said one thing, about how grateful he was to work with Bradley and Lady Gaga and he reached out and grabbed his hand and touched her shoulder. He had tears in his eyes when he spoke. Then Anthony shared his story of coming from the projects in the Bronx. 

“It’s crucial that you respect the humanity of people and their story. All the parts that make for a good interview were there, but it was an intentional decision to honor the people, the moment. Too many times we get in a rush because of time constraints. We had 20 to 30 minutes with all of them. But you only get seconds to make a first impression, then to have them like or trust you. But the exciting part of everything is that you can make a real impact in a few seconds.”

Remembering Her Roots
Adrienne’s not done dreaming with plans to expand what she does in media and business. When she isn’t on television, she enjoys giving motivational talks, speaking on topics including authenticity, on true connection and on having fulfillment. Her mission statement is all about having your cake and eating it too. “I want it all!” she exclaimed. 

She is on the board of Sacramento Helping Hands Foundation, a local non-profit committed to improving the quality of life for people. This month, she is helping in a partnership to raise money for a new NICU unit at Mercy San Juan Hospital in Carmichael. They are planning an extravagant purse event at which women buy tickets for purses to be auctioned. It’s a chance for women to give back to the community while meeting new friends and enjoying great food and great conversation. “I’m all for women having heart-to-hearts and having fun while being inspired!” she said.

Adrienne still has a running list of people she intends to interview; it includes Gemma Chan, Trevor Noah and Dolly Parton, whom she met briefly at the Grammys. “Ever since I was a kid it’s been about creating an experience for people. That includes the people I interview! I love making people feel connected, special, and that’s led to my having aspirations to not only be on TV but produce events and programs,” she shared. “I’ve written down ideas for women’s conferences and scripts for years. Just recently I threw an event for women with great food and shopping and I realized through the feedback of those invited, how much these kinds of moments are needed, a time to get real and be inspired, when you can receive authentic wisdom and practical advice. I’ll be doing more events like this, so stay tuned.”

Adrienne has succinct advice to women desiring to follow their dreams. “Find a mentor. They are the tour guide you need to have the greatest adventure you’re ever going to have: LIFE.”

For more information about Adrienne and her upcoming events, follow her on Instagram on @ABONTV.