When Ashleigh Barry, class of ’99, arrived in Knox County, Ohio, in November 2010, her assignment was intense: cover a gruesome triple murder that left the small town of Apple Valley reeling.
But Barry, who says her main objective as a television reporter is to give voice to the voiceless, found humanity in that tragic story.
“Saving Sarah,” her news special for 10TV in Columbus about the abduction of a 13-year-old-girl and the murder of her 11-year-old brother, her mother and her mother’s friend, won an Emmy Award and the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award.
“I pursued that story for a year and I became friends not only with the victim, which was the 13-year-old girl, but also the killer’s mother,” Barry said. That unique connection allowed her to be the only reporter to tell the killer’s story through the perspective of his mother.
As a journalist who has worked all over the United States, including New York, Texas, Wisconsin, Ohio and most recently, Arizona, Barry has covered her share of powerful stories. In addition to her recognition for “Saving Sarah,” Barry won two other Emmys – one for her work on a story about an 11-year-old boy who identified as a female, another about a cancer cluster in Marion County, Ohio, near a high school that was built on top of a former Army depot.
“I have them on my mantel and I look at them every day,” Barry said of her awards. “When I won that Emmy for ‘Saving Sarah,’ it was like, ‘this is why I do what I do.’”
Growing up in the Berkshires, Barry said she always knew she wanted to pursue journalism. At the UMass Amherst, she realized television best suited her storytelling style, leading to internships at “The Today Show” and “Dateline” in New York City. Over the course of her professional career, she has worked as a producer, anchor and reporter for various national networks, including the Fox News Channel, CBS and MSNBC. Today, Barry reports for KTVK-TV in Phoenix, and she returned to speak with students at the 2014 Alumni All-Star Panel.
Barry is an animal lover and a passionate animal rights activist. It was advocating for voiceless animals that initially drew her to journalism. Giving a voice to the voiceless started with animals and ended up with humans, she said.
As a reporter in Phoenix, Barry covers all kinds of breaking news, and sometimes reports live up to six times a day.
“Being a journalist is hard. You take a lot of weight on your shoulders,” she said. “It takes a lot of wit, it takes courage and you’ve got to be street smart.”
“I’ve done so many stories, and so many lives have touched me,” she continued. “These stories change lives, and that was why I got into it in the first place.”