Fred Blankenship serves up a dose of joy for our morning timelines
Videos by the Atlanta news anchor are a testament to the power of affirmation and old-school dance moves
A word to the wise: If a new Fred Blankenship video lands in your timeline after 8 p.m., don’t click on it. You don’t need that kind of enthusiasm, uplift and can-do spirit that late in the day. But if you’re just waking up on a weekday morning and you need a word, a beat, or an old-school dance move to help you step into the a.m., to ripen you to the promise and possibilities the next 24 hours might have in store, then Blankenship’s got you.
“You know what it is!!”
A dozen years ago, the WSB-TV Atlanta news anchor started posting minute-long videos from the studio makeup room just before his 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. shift at Channel 2 Action News. Now, the videos — daily affirmations set to a Gen X soundtrack — travel the interwebs receiving hundreds of comments and shares and thousands of likes and loves. They work like a communal cup of coffee serving up a jolt of “Let’s go get it!” They offer a daily rite of exuberance, anchored by a superstrong sense of, Yo, I feel like I know that dude!
“Before we get to the news of the day, which can sometimes be kind of tough, I want you to know you’re going to have an amazing day,” said Blankenship, 48, an Emmy Award-winning, married father of three who joined the station in 2007. “I want to know that I’m gonna have an amazing day. And that’s kind of the message — that the first thing you see when you get up in the morning is somebody telling you that you can do it!”
The fact that Blankenship feels familiar is part of his draw. He looks like someone you went to college with: the BSA activities chair or maybe he was step master for the Kappas.
“That’s the guy I was in English class with,” said Dana Brunson, a business management consultant from Laurel, Maryland, who started checking for Blankenship’s morning videos during the height of the pandemic. “Everybody loved him and his energy was awesome!”
And he puts all that familiarity and energy to a soundtrack. Typically, a track that’s a decade — or three — old.
When the videos begin, the music has already dropped and Blankenship is sitting in a chair, wearing a crisp shirt and a pricey-looking tie. He might rise up as he yells out, “Uh-oh! Here we go, baby! We’re back on a Monday! Oh! I know we got a lot going on in this world! It’s the holidays. I know way too many people! I gotta get presents right now!”
“Who are these amazing people? Family! You know how we do it. Aye!”
Then he hits that dance move. You know it when you see it. You used to do it back in the day, but you probably can’t do it anymore. Blankenship can, though.
“Then again, I’m doing me. Do YOU on a Monday! Energy on 10!”
“Till it’s over!” he yells to the 2010 Drake track, “Over.” But it’s far from over! He stands. He claps. Now he leans in toward the camera. “It’s the holiday, baby! Variation is the key. Do me a favor, have an amazing day! Keep that energy going! Drizzy! Aye!”
Let’s go! He’s spinning, clapping, taking his moves out the door and into his day.
Now you’re ready to face your day. “Energy level is a 10!” a fan gushes in the comments.
Pyper Bunch, a clinical research associate from Decatur, Georgia, first found Blankenship while flipping through morning news shows. “He just has a personality,” Bunch said, and a natural interplay with everybody on the news team around him.
Then she found his morning videos. “He does old-school music, but he might do rap song. But a rap song from the ’90s or something that I can relate to,” Bunch said. “You can tell it’s the music he likes.”
Shonda Sims, a Medicare adviser from Stockbridge, Georgia, has been watching Blankenship since his first telecast in 2007. “Every single morning, I start my day off on WSB with Fred,” she said. After somebody shared one of his videos on Facebook a few years ago, she started following him on Twitter. “I would go every day and he would do the dances and would just start with an affirmation. Something really encouraging and positive and upbeat,” Sims said. “And he always ends with, ‘Let’s go get it!’ You know? It was just awesome for me, especially being in sales, when you have to have a certain amount of energy to perform well at your job. So he was just like a really big cup of coffee for me. I just love it! And he’s consistent! He’s always like that, just superhappy, full of joy and infectious.”
“There’s nothing wrong with putting joy in your life, in your day,” Blankenship said. “I believe that.” He says his late father’s life gave him the parable he draws from for his own. “You know, my father passed away at 57, and life was hard for him before he passed away. Complications from diabetes, and so and so, and what I realized is that if you are not appreciating your world, and your life as much as you can, then you are really missing out.”
That spirit makes it easy to get caught up when you’re talking with Blankenship. He details how a hard day might require some Soul II Soul, “Keep on Movin’.” But, “If I am pumped and ready to go, you’re probably gonna get some McFadden & Whitehead,” he said.
Prompting me to say, “Ain’t no stopping us now! What??”
Then Blankenship yells, “We’re on the move … I know we’ve got a long, long way to go. And where we’ll end up …”
“I … don’t … know!” I yell back. It’s call-and-response. He’s echoing the music, you’re echoing him and it’s all good, baby!
“Everybody can get with that. You can get with that, I can get with that.”
Brunson started watching Blankenship when the coronavirus pandemic had her homeschooling her two daughters, and she was struck by all that kineticism while seated. “His energy in that chair is just awesome. I love watching him dance in the chair. I love seeing what socks he’s got on, and seeing him kind of turn and walk, and roll into the newsroom,” she said. “It doesn’t seem scripted or rehearsed. It just seems like that’s how he’s getting his day started and he’s sharing it.”
Sharing it with people who were at home with kids, or people who had to go out and hit it, or people who just needed a good word.
The Songstress, Miss Anita Baker, has retweeted him when he’s played one of her songs. So has Missy Elliott. And when people come up to him, they tell him he’s part of their lives, and their routine in getting kids to school, and all their morning rituals. They say he looks just like a dude they went to school with.
He hears it all the time. “I can’t tell you how appreciative I am,” Blankenship said. “I’ve wanted to do this job since I was 12 years old. So I’m living my dream every single day.”