Former VP of News Anzio Williams now leads NBC and Telemundo Owned Stations’ DEI efforts
Anzio Williams at January 2020 graduation
Anzio Williams, MBA ’20, remembers the first time he ever stepped foot in a newsroom. He was a sophomore at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University who was stoked to have scored an internship at WFMY-TV, a CBS-affiliated television station in Greensboro, N.C.
He had no idea that the experience would help play a role in the development of his own leadership abilities and lay the groundwork for his own career path.
“The news director was talking in front of the news team and he was very inclusive with everyone,” Williams recalls. “He even asked me for my thoughts on many things and I was encouraged to offer feedback. For a young college intern like myself, this resonated with me.”
Developing an inclusive culture has since become a hallmark of Williams’ career. For nearly 30 years, he’s emphasized inclusion in newsrooms that he’s led in Miami, Cincinnati, Charlotte, New Orleans, Sacramento, Calif. and Philadelphia, where he most recently served as vice president of news for NBC10 and Telemundo62, two local television stations owned by NBCUniversal.
And now, helping to create workplaces that embrace diversity and foster inclusivity is his professional focus. In August, Williams was promoted to senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) for NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations, a division of NBCUniversal that includes 42 NBC and Telemundo stations, COZI TV and TeleXitos networks and NBCLX, a new network designed for millennials and Gen Z-ers.
“What I didn’t know is that I was kind of doing DEI work for as long as I can remember,” he says.
Covering news on a day-to-day basis is complex. It requires multiple viewpoints to ensure that all sides are balanced and also accounts all stakeholders. That’s where Williams excelled as a news director and it was a prime reason why he was the perfect person for his current position.
“I have always tried to identify when the right person is not in the room. What we should avoid is what I would like to call ‘the middle school cafeteria’ scenario where all the Black kids sit at one table, the Asian kids sit at another table and so on. We can’t afford to do that in the real world, and we couldn’t afford to do that in the newsroom. You have to look to someone who is not like you.”
Having an open mind has also been key to Williams’ career. He takes great pride in being known as a “flip-flopper” when it came to crafting stories or ideas in the newsroom.
“In meetings, colleagues would jokingly call me a flip-flopper because I would go into the meeting with one idea, but then someone would change my mind,” he says. “I wore that as a badge of honor in knowing that I was not going into the meeting with my mind already made up. In news, you’re dealing with so many complex things, so you want to make sure that you are surrounding yourself with people who are not like you or you are going to miss something.”
Williams’ current role of senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion has been a change of pace from his time leading newsrooms, but it has been a welcomed one. A few years ago, he says he started to think about his future and the next step for his career. He knew his current job as vice president of news at the Philadelphia stations would likely be his last newsroom job. However, he still yearned to lead, and he had much to give.
“The Executive MBA program (at the Fox School) was the solution for me,” Williams says. “We’d get together one weekend a month and it was just such a great experience. It was a very diverse group, and for the first time, I felt like I didn’t need to be the first one to speak. We were all Type A’s, we were all aggressive but we all had our different ways of doing things.”
“It helped me in my current role so much,” Williams continues. “But I think it also helped me as a journalist. I was able to ask better questions of other people. I think I became a better listener and I certainly learned the skill of restraint. Sometimes as the leader, I felt like everyone was waiting on me for an answer, but I now know that doesn’t have to be the case.”
The charge before Williams now is considerable. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that things are unfortunately not equal for all populations of people. That is why he is leading the efforts to ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion issues are a top priority across NBCUniversal’s owned TV stations.
To call it a tall task might be an understatement, but it’s a task that Williams relishes.
“It’s nice when you get a t-shirt that says ‘best company’ on it. But I want to go further than that. I want it to be inside of us. We have to feel good about the places that we are creating to work. Is it reflective of our community? Do people feel valued when they come to work? That’s what we need to create. That’s what I want to create,” he says.
“Thankfully, we’re not starting any of this work from scratch. What I’m seeing is that work has already started and there is a movement, and this is probably our best opportunity to see lasting change. To work for a company that is stepping up to be that change is really, really gratifying.”