News host now putting family first

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Once a popular news anchorwoman at Augusta's WJBF-TV in the early 1990s, Andrea Arceneaux Coleman had a life-changing experience that brought to halt a television career on the fast track.

Whatever Happened To series on a popular WJBF reporter, Andrea Arceneaux Coleman
Whatever Happened To series on a popular WJBF reporter, Andrea Arceneaux Coleman

Video courtesy of WJBF-TV

In 2002, Coleman said she had been having severe headaches, which physicians had attributed to the stress of a high-pressure career and three young children.

During another check-up, a doctor found an aneurysm on her left frontal lobe. She was scheduled for brain surgery the next week, Coleman said.

"The surgeons were able to go in and deal with it effectively. It was during my recovery when I was home that I kind of got an inside glimpse of the state of my family," she said. "We had three small children, and it just seemed as though I was a little out of touch with them, my husband and the running of our household."

She and her husband, an Atlanta attorney, were working 12 to 15 hours a day in demanding jobs, and she realized they needed to give more attention to their children, she said.

"In that moment, it was decided that we needed to change, and I was the one that would need to come home," Coleman said.

Today, Coleman, 45, is a stay-at-home mom and lives in southwest Atlanta with her husband, Michael, and sons Jonathan, 13, and twins Justin and Jordan, 11.

COLEMAN CAME TO WJBF in spring 1990, where she led the 6 and 11 p.m. news on weeknights for a year and a half, she said. It was the Texas native's second job out of college from the University of Texas at Arlington. In those days, she went by her maiden name, Arceneaux.

"She had excellent presentation skills," said Pete Michenfelder, who in the early 1990s was WJBF's evening news director and played a primary role in hiring Coleman. "She was a very nice person, which showed on air. ... She was certainly one of the better anchors that we've had there."

Mary Jones, the program director at WJBF when Coleman worked there, agreed.

"She was well-received in the community, very approachable," Jones said.

While at WJBF, Coleman landed a job at CNN in Atlanta without even applying. She was serving on a gubernatorial panel in Atlanta, and the wife of a CNN executive was in the audience, she said.

"I think they were in the need of an anchor, and apparently I caught her eye. She gave her husband my name, which was interesting. It was completely out of the blue. I was not looking to leave Augusta," Coleman said.

In August 1991, she started working at CNN on weekends, and she became an anchorwoman for an early morning show a few months later.

"Because of Augusta, I could go to CNN with confidence," she said. "When you've got the support of a community or you feel as though you've been embraced by a community, it really does allow you to feel confident about the work that you're doing."

Her days at CNN were far from easy.

"It was probably one of the most difficult things that I had ever experienced and may ever experience in my life, and only because I did not have a global outlook, especially in my education," she said. "I could handle local news, and I could study a city. Even on the national level, I probably had a lot more studying to do."

She brought home stacks of papers to read every night. Each day, she was in awe of her co-workers' knowledge level, she said.

"(CNN) just had so many people who, in a moment's notice, could tell you the history of these remote places in the world that I had never heard of. I just thought it was phenomenal," Coleman said. "I was just very grateful that they allowed me to grow as I went. But there were moments when I was just completely in over my head. My faith grew tremendously during that period."

COLEMAN LEFT CNN in August 1997 and took a break from broadcasting for a few months before accepting a reporting job in Raleigh, N.C. She later returned to Atlanta, got married and gave birth to her first son.

When he was 10 months old, she started a job at WGCL-TV in Atlanta, where she won an Emmy for a story on the literacy of prison inmates and their preparation for leaving the penal system, she said.

Soon after recovering from brain surgery, Coleman started a community magazine, Southwest Atlanta Magazine . The first issue was released in 2003.

The magazine took off and Coleman realized that she needed to expand her advertising base. She changed the magazine to Cultured Living Atlanta .

It became a larger project than anticipated, particularly the budget. She published the last issue in spring 2008, mainly because of the economy, she said.

At the end of 2008, Coleman took a job as the chief spokeswoman for MARTA in Atlanta, which she held for one year.

"For a moment there, we thought the children were getting older and I could head back on a full-time basis ... but it was quite demanding, quite challenging, and I was on call for 24 hours," she said.

Today, Coleman works as a consultant on the side, assisting people with presentations and public speaking and organizations with messaging for TV programs. When her children are grown, Coleman plans to re-enter the workforce.

"I don't know if I want to be back on television, the pressure of having to look a certain way every day. But I do enjoy working and I love the interaction that comes with working," she said.

Coleman said that she will always have fond memories of her days in Augusta.

"Augusta will always be a very special place in my heart. I know it's been 20 years since I've graced the airs there, but I thank them for that opportunity," she said.

Andrea arceneaux coleman

AGE: 45, born in Liberty, Texas, and raised in Raywood, Texas

EDUCATION: University of Texas at Arlington, Bachelor of Arts degree in communications, minor in English

FAMILY: husband, Michael Coleman, and sons, Jonathan, 13; Justin, 11 and Jordan, 11

WORK: news anchor-woman at WJBF-TV in Augusta, CNN in Atlanta, Raleigh, N.C., and WGCL-TV in Atlanta; publisher of Southwest Atlanta Magazine and Cultured Living Atlanta; chief spokeswoman for MARTA in Atlanta

Whatever happened to?

Have you ever wanted to know what became of a local celebrity or a hot issue that once dominated the news in the area? The Augusta Chronicle is providing answers to reader requests in its regular series, "Whatever happened to ..." Requests can be e-mailed to mike.wynn@augustachronicle.com or mailed to The Augusta Chronicle, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, Ga., 30903-1928, Attn: Mike Wynn, or placed in the online comment section.

See it online

WATCH A VIDEO of the beginning of a WJBF newscast from Coleman's time in Augusta online at augustachronicle.com">style="bold">augustachronicle.com .

Comments (5) Add comment
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Cadence
219
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Cadence 08/01/11 - 06:24 am
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Great story. She is an

Great story. She is an amazing person who was bound to succeed at whatever she did.

charliemanson
1
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charliemanson 08/01/11 - 08:11 am
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Nice story. Glad she is

Nice story. Glad she is enjoying life with her family.

Billyds999
17
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Billyds999 08/01/11 - 08:04 am
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Wow. Glad to hear she's doing

Wow. Glad to hear she's doing well.
She was one our best news people, and we've been lucky to have had some very good ones.
...wish her the best!

happychimer
24053
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happychimer 08/01/11 - 11:07 am
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I remember her.

I remember her.

augusta citizen
10743
Points
augusta citizen 08/01/11 - 11:33 am
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Glad she had a full recovery

Glad she had a full recovery and is able to focus on her family. I doubt she'll ever regret her decision to stay home with her children for awhile.

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