Beth Troutman: Her Year of Saying Yes
Mar 01, 2017 08:30AM
● By Jason Huddle
Beth Troutman: Her Year of Saying Yes
Nancy Elizabeth Troutman Whaley – known to us as Beth Troutman – has given up her career in broadcast journalism. This news is huge to those who have watched the Concord native grow up as a member of the iconic Troutman family, best known for its barbecue restaurants, real estate and business ventures.
In 2015, when Troutman was host of RightThisMinute, she disclosed that she’d be leaving the TV show to return home to Cabarrus County to spend time with her ailing mother. That initial life-changing event would forever alter her perspective on her career, her life and what kind of legacy she wants to leave. But, to understand where Beth Troutman is going, you need to understand where she’s been.
“Growing up in Cabarrus County was awesome,” Troutman recalls. “My grandfather (Raiford Troutman) built the homes we all grew up in – all on the same street. But (because of my family name), people also had assumptions about what being a Troutman meant. The truth is, we weren’t given anything. We were taught to work – and work hard – for what we wanted.”
After graduating from Concord High School, she went on to UNC Chapel Hill where she graduated with a degree in Political Science and Women’s Studies. She then made a move to Hollywood where she was hired as a production assistant for The West Wing.
In 2004, she decided to try her hand at real-life politics by returning to North Carolina and running against then-incumbent congressman, Robin Hayes. Although she wasn’t successful in her bid, Troutman says she learned a lot from the experience and it helped to shape her into the woman she is today.
“I’m much wiser now,” she explains. “When I ran for congress, I had this Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-type mentality, but I was soon faced with the realities of the political system. It became all about fundraising.”
The process was eye opening, and Troutman says she considers it an important part of her growth as a person. “I needed to understand the importance of humility and trusting my own heart and instinct,” she says.
She also learned that she loves a good challenge – still does. After the election was over and the rallies and media attention faded into memories, Troutman knew she needed to find employment and fast. She saw a job posting for Fox Charlotte looking for an “opinionated female.”
“I thought to myself, ‘I can do that!’” she chuckled. Fox producers met with her and, soon thereafter, her broadcast journalism career took off in the form of host of Fox News Rising.
“It was a trial by fire, but I was good at it,” Troutman regales.
Her talent was noticed right away and it wasn’t long before she was flying down to south Florida every week to co-host a morning show there and flying back home to her husband in North Carolina on the weekends. This was the routine for two years until she was invited to film a pilot for a new local show in Phoenix, AZ: RightThisMinute.
“So, I went and filmed the pilot and didn’t really hear anything for a while,” Troutman remembers. “Then I got a call that the show had been picked up and off to Phoenix we went.”
The chemistry between Troutman and her co-hosts was immediate and it played well to the viewing audience. Soon the show was syndicated internationally. In addition, Troutman found herself doing
weekly segments on The Today Show for a time. Things were certainly headed in the right direction for her – or so she thought. Then she got the phone call.
It was the kind of call no one wants to receive about a loved one, especially their mother. She was sick, very sick, and things did not look good. A terminal diagnosis had been given and Beth knew what she had to do. “My mother was dying of cancer. I needed to come home.”
As fate would have it, WCNC in Charlotte was looking to fill its co-anchor position for its evening news slot at the same time, and Troutman got the job. Now she would be close to family and still work – or so she thought.
Troutman hadn’t been at WCNC for long when it became evident that her mother needed round-the-clock care to keep her comfortable. Without hesitation, Troutman went to her new bosses and asked for a leave of absence. They didn’t hesitate either – to grant it. She was noticeably absent from the newscasts while she took on the role of primary caregiver.
“When I think of all she did to clothe, feed and take care of me growing up, this was the least I could do for her,” Troutman says proudly. “It was my honor.”
Troutman’s perspective on things began to change as she watched her mother’s illness progress. One day, the two of them were sitting on the couch discussing how she had always wanted to change the curtains in the living room but had never gotten around to it. That’s when her mother said something very profound to Troutman.
“ ‘Beth, the only thing that matters is love. That’s the only thing you take with you. The rest is just junk.’” A few weeks later, she passed.
“I was holding her hand when she took her last breath,” Troutman says with a tear in her eye. “I was forever changed by it.”
Troutman soon returned to the anchor desk, but seeds of change had been planted. Only a few months later, she lost a close friend to breast cancer. The conversation between Troutman and her mother resonated even more with this most recent loss.
“I began to look at my life and my career in relation to what my mother had said,” Troutman shares. “I realized my purpose is to spread love and I couldn’t do that on the evening news. It’s awfully hard to spread love when you’re talking about the latest murder or fatal car wreck.”
Even with this revelation, Troutman wasn’t sure where to begin, but the pieces fell into place soon enough. She’d been asked to emcee a fundraising event for a non-profit called Give Hope Global, a Christian organization that specifically works to help orphaned children in third-world countries. Troutman fell in love with the organization immediately and, at the event, she began to feel a pull she could no longer ignore. She knew the time for change had come.
Troutman initiated conversations with her producers about ending her 16-month employment at WCNC in order to begin her new mission in life. At the end of January, she made a public
announcement on social media that she would be leaving the anchor desk and her reasons for doing so. Messages of support immediately came flooding in.
Last month, Troutman signed off for the final time and packed for her first mission trip to Haiti with Give Hope Global. Her eyes light up as she talks about it. “I’ve always known I wanted to change the world, but for the longest time I thought that had to be on a large scale. Then I realized that changing the world starts with changing hearts, not minds, and getting people to open up.”
Troutman isn’t finished with the cameras, however. As this article is being written, she has left for Haiti and will be documenting her experiences while there. We hope to be able to share some of those with you soon on www.cabarrusmagazine.com.
You may still be asking how someone can leave an exciting and lucrative career, like Troutman has, to do volunteer work? Troutman says there are several factors.
“First of all, my husband and I are blessed that we are able to make these changes. He’s been so great to support me through all this. Secondly, I’ve come to realize that this one life is all we get. I’ve said no to so many opportunities to make a difference along the way. This is my year of saying, ‘Yes!’
“I hope, a few years from now, that I’ve traveled the world sharing my story and listening to others’ stories. I hope I’ve been able to spread love, compassion, kindness and tolerance – maybe even written a book.
“Henry David Thoreau once told people to ‘live the life they’ve imagined,’ ” she adds. “That’s exactly what I want to inspire people to do.”
Article by: Jason Huddle and Kim Cassell
Photos courtesy: Beth Troutman, WCNC-TV and NBC Universal