When she was a student at Barrington High School, one of Anna Werner’s first jobs was working as a bagger at a grocery store in town.
When she asked why she wasn’t getting promoted to cashier like all the other girls, they told her she didn’t smile enough. She laughs about it today because her serious side serves her well.
As the National Consumer Investigative Correspondent for CBS News, Werner breaks major news stories, which have earned her more than 30 Emmy Awards, a duPont-Columbia Award, George Foster Peabody Award, and RTNDA Edward R. Murrow Award. “A lot of it is driven by my personality,” Werner said. “You tell me what’s happening, you tell me how it happened, but I want to know WHY it happened, and ‘why’ is the question that helps you find the story.”
“You tell me what’s happening, you tell me how it happened, but I want to know WHY it happened, and ‘why’ is the question that helps you find the story.”
She’s at her best when she’s digging deep, trying to find the information that someone else is trying to keep a secret. One of her most memorable investigations happened when she was a reporter at the CBS affiliate in Houston, TX. She broke a story about defective Firestone tires on Ford Explorers, which led to the largest worldwide tire recall in history. “The thing that sticks with me the most about that story is that people would come up to me and tell me that I might have saved their lives because they went to go get their tires checked after seeing the story,” Werner said. “It makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck because you really feel like you made a difference.”
Growing up in Barrington
Werner’s interest in the news business wasn’t obvious at first, though there were signs from a young age. She moved to Barrington when she was in elementary school, beginning her Barrington 220 journey at Arnett C. Lines Elementary. As a kid, she was an avid reader of the Barrington Courier-Review. “I would read it cover to cover,” Werner said. “I always wanted to know what was going on.”
As a student at Barrington High School, like any deadline-driven reporter, she would often write her English papers the period before they were due. “I was always in awe of Anna's writing skills,” said Jeanne Morgan, Werner’s former classmate, who currently works as a Multilingual Specialist at Station Campus. “I would slave over papers the entire weekend and she would write her papers in the cafeteria the morning they were due and get an A!”
Still, Werner didn’t pinpoint news as a potential career path until after high school. Instead, at BHS she found a sense of belonging by getting involved in band, choir, and theater. “The teachers who I had in the arts were so amazing,” Werner said. “They got you engaged and excited about learning.”
One teacher she’ll never forget is her choir teacher, the late Phil Mark. “He had unsurpassed energy and a wicked sense of humor,” Werner said. Mark and his wife were tragically killed in a car accident. To this day, Werner still tears up when thinking about the memorial service that she and her fellow choir students attended on the front lawn at BHS. “He really cared about and loved all the people around him, including all of us high school students.”
“I love coming back to Barrington”
When Werner reflects on her educational experience today, she realizes how lucky she was to attend a school district that has such a dedicated staff, significant resources, as well as alumni, and parental support. “There’s a story that I covered while I was reporting in Houston that I’ll remember forever,” Werner said. We interviewed a very bright young woman who came from a low-income family and who was facing a lot of challenges in her life, so she dropped out of school.” During the interview, Werner asked the girl what her dream had been. She told her she wanted to be a doctor. “And I remember thinking at the time, what a waste,” Werner said. “Here was this woman who, if she had the advantages and the resources that I had as a student in Barrington, probably would have been a doctor.”
Werner has come across many kids in a similar situation, while working as a reporter through the years in Illinois, Indiana, Texas, California, and now as a national correspondent. It makes her appreciate her upbringing in Barrington. While she currently splits her time between the east and west coast, Werner loves returning to the village, where her family still lives. “I love coming back to Barrington. It’s still home to me. I wish I could spend more time there.”