Marian Etiole Watson has made a name for herself as an award-winning journalist and a household name among New York’s pop culture elite by telling stories in her way.
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Marian Etiole Watson was adopted at just fifteen days old in April of 1939 by Dr. John Brown Watson and Hattie Rutherford Watson. She was named after the famed contralto, Marian Anderson. Watson’s parents were prominent educators and activists in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and her father even served as the first president of Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal (AM&N) College, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Her parents' values ensured that education was important to Watson. She was educated at Spelman College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music from Arkansas AM&N College.
In 1961, Watson moved to New York to study music and opera at the renowned Julliard School of Music. She then moved on to the equally renowned Scuola di Musica in Milan, Italy. In 1968, Marian worked for the United Nations (UN) and performed in Broadway shows Hair and Hello, Dolly! until she was handpicked to work at WNEW/Channel 5 news station as an associate producer of Inside Bedford Stuyvesant. The show was created by Robert F. Kennedy in association with the BedStuy Restoration Corporation to improve Brooklyn and the public image of its Black residents, It starred Roxie Roker, best known for her role as a cast member on The Jeffersons. Within a year of becoming the show’s associate producer, Watson was asked to co-host this innovative program.
In 1988, Watson became the first host for the debut of Good Day New York, the station’s new morning show. According to Watson, "The fact I was handpicked by this small body of Murdoch point men to be the first host of Good Day New York was an anomaly. In 1988, no one would ever have thought that my peculiarity would suit Fox. But Fox wasn’t looking for reporters, they were looking for personalities. They sought out people who were open to challenges and even the unknown. At that time, that sort of thing was rare for television." Watson proved more than open to the challenge of hosting Good Day New York. She has interviewed celebrities from across the globe, including Bruce Willis, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Russell Crowe, Denzel Washington, Cate Blanchett, Will Smith, Tony Bennett, Wynton Marsalis, Russell Simmons, the Harry Potter cast in London, and Michael Jackson. In fact, Marlon Brando was her very first celebrity interview after he requested an appearance on her Emmy-Award-winning show Black News.
According to Watson, though she is not a journalist, she does consider herself “an excellent executioner of stories” because she “tells them differently.” Even in her career as a broadcast journalist, Watson’s musical training has not gone to waste because she has used time and meter to create substance in the way she reports. In her expansive career, she had been the host of talk shows, correspondent on news programs, and documentaries, including Fox 5’s syndicated The Future of Black America with LeVar Burton. Watson has worked as a film and theater critic for Channel 5 News, often conducting behind-the-scenes interviews for Broadway musicals like Chicago. She was an entertainment reporter for the 10 O’clock News as well as the McCreary Report. In the late 80s, she also served as co-executive producer of Billy Dee Williams’ PBS series, Brown Sugar: Eighty Years of America’s Black Female Superstars, a series that covered 80 years of black female superstars from Ma Rainey to Ruth Brown. Throughout her career, Watson continued to deliver unique entertainment and feature stories which made her a household name among New York’s cultural elite and a larger worldwide audience.
Written by: Ninfa O. Barnard