Catching Up with Rachel McNeill

Cy-Fair ISD alumna and KPRC anchor covers local news at national levels

Written by Gail G. Collins| Photography courtesy of Rachel McNeill

Rachel McNeill wasn’t born in Texas – in fact, she was born in Jamaica. Her family moved to the U.S. when she was 4 years old. The local gal spent many of her early years preparing for a career in broadcasting: playing talk show host and asking hardball questions on the playground at Moore Elementary; researching a ninth-grade study skills assignment on schools, skills, and salary at Cypress Creek High School; and earning an inevitable broadcast journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin. The KPRC Channel 2 anchor pushed forward the old-school way, working markets from Midland to Raleigh and New Orleans before coming home to Houston in 2001.

Copy of Rachel McNeill 2010 Headshot

Cy Creek graduate Rachel McNeill now works as an anchor on KPRC Channel 2


Reporting Live

The news industry motivates her with its variety. “I grew up watching KPRC. This has been a chance to fulfill a dream,” she says. “Houston is a great market where a lot of local stories go national.” The Emmy Award winner has covered some dramatic headlines, such as the Newtown school shootings, the plant explosion in West, and the Andrea Yates’ trial, which opened up a dialogue about postpartum depression and mental health. Married in Jamaica 10 years ago to Texas Children’s Hospital cardiologist, Wayne Franklin, the couple has two boys, Lionel, 6, and Hudson, 4.

There was a baby boom underway when McNeill announced her pregnancy at the station. She was the fifth pregnant employee at the time. “With everyone delivering babies, we
wondered who’d deliver the news,” McNeill says. With both boys, she worked up until her due dates, always rushing around. The second child came so quickly he was born at the
hospital check-in desk. “No drugs and no bed,” she jokes. Pursuing her goals at light speed suits her.

Becoming a mom changed her view of the world, especially when it comes to reporting about Newtown. “The station felt it was important to send someone who was a mother,” McNeill says. “But there was no way I could get through doing eight live shots a day without crying.”

INSET-Rachel McNeill_family photo_Dr. Wayne Franklin, Hudson (3), Lionel (6), Rachel McNeill

Rachel with her husband, Dr. Wayne Franklin, and their sons, Hudson and Lionel

Life as a Mom
An average day for the anchor begins before dawn with her shift on the morning show. McNeill is up at 3 a.m., goes straight to hair and make-up, reads through the scripts several times, and goes live on the air for two-and-a-half hours. She also does preparation for the health report, pitching stories and shooting segments. The gung-ho gal laughs about having done every job in the newsroom over the years. Her early start means she finishes early, and this helps McNeill feel like a stay-at-home mom. She is in the carpool and takes her sons to swimming and soccer, and they eat dinner as a family. Then, she says, “I go to bed at 8:30 p.m. like the kids.” Having grandparents who live only two streets away really helps, too.

bahamasgroup_Rachel McNeill, Hudson (3), Dr. Wayne Franklin, (Lionel (6)

McNeill sets aside time to vacation with her family and make memories

Keeping Cy-Creek Close at Heart
McNeill recently attended Cy-Fair ISD’s Diamond Jubilee, and served as the emcee for the event. This gave her a chance to share in own own personal nostalgia about the area’s growth and reconnect with favorite teachers, like her third-grade math teacher, a science teacher, and her junior high drama coach who prepared her for public speaking. The former Cy-Creek Cougar was a leader on the drill team and was mentored by the teams instructor, who treated her like a second daughter. The latter involvement instilled confidence and direction in McNeill.

Inauguration

McNeill on location covering the presidential inauguration

Mentoring Others
McNeill is passing it on, working with a variety of at-risk youth groups including Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Zina Garrison Tennis Academy, and Dress for Success Houston.When she meets other budding reporters, McNeill suggests, “Identify your passions early, be inquisitive, and creative. You must love to write, and you must intern. Seeing other people in action is a game-changer.” CFM

GAIL G. COLLINS works internationally for magazines, but she began her writing career as a special reporter for an Arizona newspaper.