Former television reporter telling community’s stories at a different pace at Co.Lab

Photography by Olivia Ross / Angela Poffenbaugh
Photography by Olivia Ross / Angela Poffenbaugh

It's been more than 60 years since Newton Minow, then chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, called television a "vast wasteland."

For Angela Poffenbaugh, though, TV -- especially TV news -- was a beacon.

"I used to wake up every morning and watch 'Good Morning America,'" she says. "I remember thinking it was incredible how big the world was, and I wanted to be part of telling that story.

"I just loved learning things I'd never have learned if I hadn't watched the news."

After five years reporting local news in Wisconsin and Chattanooga, Poffenbaugh joined The Company Lab 10 months ago as a communications manager. Tasia Malakasis, CEO at Co.Lab, says her experience with Poffenbaugh has nudged her towards an informal hiring policy.

"Because of what I know about Angela's work ethic and her ability to adapt, I kind of formulated the idea that anyone who comes to us from broadcast needs to be hired," Malaksis says. "Angela is exceptional -- she can find and write stories on her own, and she just knows what's trending."

Poffenbaugh was born in South Korea and adopted by a family from upstate New York when she was three months old. She grew up near Syracuse, in a "really great community," including several children adopted from South Korea.

"I developed close friends that I consider family," she says. "We'd meet once a month with chefs, dancers, musicians, history teachers -- all Korean -- and they'd immerse us in that culture."

Poffenbaugh says she moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family years later, but returned to New York to study journalism at Ithaca College.

"I missed the upstate," she says. "I still had that huge support system up there, and Ithaca has a great reputation for communications."

After graduation, Poffenbaugh says she got her first TV news job in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. She posted videos of her work there to YouTube, where they were seen by Callie Starnes, the news director at Chattanooga's WRCB Local3 at that time.

"Callie called me and said she'd seen my stuff," Poffenbaugh recalls, adding that Starnes called in April 2020 -- at the outset of the global pandemic. Poffenbaugh says she arrived in Chattanooga in July and did her first in-person story late that year.

"The first COVID vaccines had come out," she says. "They were given to seniors in tents, with lines stretched for what looked like miles.

"It was a moment in history," she adds. "I got to interview people in their cars as they waited. They were so excited to have some relief, and I got to share that with them."

Poffenbaugh says that after more than two years at Local3, including lots of workdays that started at 3 a.m., she felt ready for a new challenge.

  photo  Contributed photo Angela Poffenbaugh reporting for Local 3 News.

"I'd always been fascinated with the (public relations) side," she says. "I was looking for a way to advocate for the community through storytelling, and Co.Lab was a perfect fit for doing that."

And time isn't measured in her new gig the way it was in her old one, Poffenbaugh says.

"The biggest lesson so far is to be patient," she says. "In news, it's easy to feel like you've always got to go, go, go. Here, I've learned that sometimes you can let something sit. Slow down. You're not worrying about someone talking too long because you have a deadline."

Poffenbaugh says she loves working in Chattanooga and wants to "give back" to the community. She also hopes to craft something here that looks a lot like something she grew up with.

"I'd love to create a community for international adoptees in the Tennessee Valley," she says. "It's still in progress, but I hope it'll happen soon."

About Poffenbaugh

* AGE: 27

* HOMETOWN: Syracuse, New York

* EDUCATION: Ithaca College (communications)

* HOBBIES: reading; hiking with her dog, Tuck; reading; and hosting Thursday night trivia at Mexiville

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