Cheryl Preheim, new 11Alive morning host, embraces Atlanta & the phrase ‘Brave Conquers Fear’

This was originally posted on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 by Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Cheryl Preheim had become a staple of Denver broadcast TV, hosting the local NBC affiliate morning news. She could have conceivably stayed in that market the rest of her career.

But her husband Mark received a great job in Atlanta in production. She felt he had sacrificed a lot for her career so she decided it was time to move with him earlier this year.

Finding a job in a larger market was hardly a guarantee. Fortunately for Preheim, 11Alive’s legendary evening anchor Brenda Wood was planning to retire, causing a cascade of moves that enabled the local NBC affiliate to hire her for mornings. (Shiba Russell, who came last year from New York, moved from mornings to evenings to take over for Wood.)

“We’ve traveled here many times to visit friends,” Preheim said recently at Einstein’s near the 11Alive office as thunderstorms roiled the city. “We love the city. It felt very comfortable to be here. It already feels like we’ve been here a long time.”

Her four kids have already been to the MLK Center and the Center for Civil and Human Rights. They’ve fallen in love with Sublime Donuts.

“I want to be an active member of the community,” she said, “and telling stories gives me a chance to do that and connect with  people.”

Preheim’s life’s perspective has shifted significantly since she experienced two medical emergencies with her kids within a span of six weeks in 2015. First, she found out her six-year-old son Joshua had a serious congenital heart problem that required open heart surgery. Then her newborn son Joseph had serious kidney issues at birth. Fortunately for her family, both boys survived and have since thrived.

“We left the hospital so thankful for our kids that they were recovering and healthy,” she said. “Our goal was to always have gratitude every day, whether it was in three months, three years or 30 years.”

Two months before Joshua’s medical condition was diagnosed, he was doodling on the kitchen table and came up with a cool phrase “Brave Conquers Fear.” At the time, Preheim snapped a picture and figured it would go in a scrapbook.

Little did she know it would become Joshua’s inspirational mantra as he recovered from surgery. “He knew he was going to need that before he knew,” Preheim said. “I felt like God gave that to him before he needed it so we could draw on it.”

She knew a friend in Fayetteville, where she lives now, who had a T-shirt press in his garage. “We wore them on surgery day,” she said. “We gave them to nurses and kids on the floor. It really resonated with people.” Joshua would return to the hospital to hand out t-shirts and share his story. She has already linked up with the Children’s Healthcare officials in Atlanta and hopes to continue to do work with them as well.

Preheim is also planning to do “profiles in courage” type stories with the “Brave Conquers Fear” starting point.

Here’s a story about her family’s journey on her Denver station KUSA-TV 9News:

Cheryl Preheim shows off the T-shirts inspired by her son Joshua. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Preheim grew up near South Bend, Ind., then attended the University of Colorado in Boulder and majored in media communications. But broadcast TV only came into play when, interested in writing, she procured an internship at a local station KUSA 9News. “I loved how the team functioned in the newsroom,” she said.

She did what many go-getters do: after her internship hours, she’d use her key card and go in edit bays and rewrite and edit stories just to learn. The internship head helped her get her first job in town at the local news/talk radio station. She produced morning and afternoon drive when the O.J. Simpson trial was going on. “Every afternoon, I’d stack soundbites from Johnny Cochran,” she said.

After she taped a radio piece about mental illness and violence, the NBC TV station wanted a version of that same story. So she did it. From there, for 18 months, she pulled double shifts daily doing stories full time for both radio and TV.

While she said this was a great learning experience, she eventually burned out. “I was driving from one place to another,” she said. “I got to a stop light and fell asleep. At that moment, I didn’t want to hurt anybody. I talked to my bosses that same day. Channel 9 offered me a full-time contract.”

She worked at that station for another 18 years, covering multiple Olympics and the biggest stories out of Denver.

The one that affected her most was the Columbine High School mass shootings in 1999. “Columbine changed me forever,” she said, her voice breaking. “I tear up to this day. I remember being at the school and seeing the parents looking for their kids. No community had ever gone through so many deaths like that. I’ve stayed in touch with many of the families years later. I loved being part of that community. I love having a chance to do that in Georgia.”

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