Women Who Tell Our Stories: Autumn Ziemba
For Ohio University alumna Autumn Ziemba, BSJ '00, storytelling is a major part of life. From covering local and national news to advocating for causes involving autism and cancer, Ziemba has told countless stories – including her own.
Graduating in 2000 from the Scripps College of Communication with a major in broadcast journalism, Ziemba spent the next 21 years in television news. She spent time at WTAP in Parkersburg, WUPW in Toledo, WFMJ in Youngstown, WEWS in Cleveland, and then WJW (Fox 8) in Cleveland, where she worked for 12 years.
“Scripps not only gave me the foundation I needed to succeed, but the professional connections to get my foot in the door. You’d be surprised at how small the Ohio journalism world really is,” she said. “Being a fellow Bobcat opened up a lot of conversations with news managers, and a lot of job opportunities. But it was really the strong foundation – the writing and reporting skills, critical thinking, that I learned at Scripps – that sealed the deal.”
While she’s covered many incredible stories over the years, a highlight during her television days was being the Tribune Media pool reporter for the Republican National Convention (RNC) in 2016.
“I did all the morning show live shots from the RNC for Tribune stations all across the country,” Ziemba recalled. “I think by the end of the week I had totaled somewhere around 160 live shots, standing side-by-side with many well-known national correspondents. It was quite possibly the most exhilarating and exhausting week of my life.”
In 2017, Ziemba’s world changed when her son was diagnosed with autism and leukemia in a single year. She started to use her established platform to support other parents of children with autism and medical complexities, as well as sharing her own story navigating her son’s diagnoses.
Her son, Simon, was two years old when diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Today, he attends first grade and is in remission.
“When you’re going through the journey as a parent or caregiver, it can feel extremely isolating and lonely, so to be able to help families connect and feel seen has been a gift. And beyond that, to help raise awareness, appreciation and funds for philanthropic organizations, has been particularly meaningful,” she said.
Due to her son being immunocompromised, Ziemba eventually took a step back from her role at WJW during the pandemic. She continued, however, to support and uplift stories surrounding pediatric cancer and autism.
In 2022, she was a nominee for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year and raised $80,000 for pediatric blood cancer research. Also in early 2022, Ziemba started work at Milestones Autism Resources as a community relations manager.
“[It] was a perfect fit as Milestones had been an organization that was close to my heart since my son’s autism diagnosis,” she said. “I now get the opportunity to work the other side of media – pitching stories to news affiliates and coordinating interviews and shoots. What I love is that it gives me the unique opportunity to help elevate autistic voices.”
Sharing stories is a part of Ziemba – personally and professionally. She learned this way before enrolling at OHIO, from her grandmother sharing stories as an Austrian immigrant. “She spoke from life experience, and I cherish her stories,” she said.
“I think women definitely have a special skill for bringing unique compassion and emotion to their storytelling,” Ziemba added. “I also think women have an incredible way of reaching one another and lifting one another up through storytelling. Who better to understand, appreciate, and tell a woman’s story than a fellow woman, right?”
Ziemba had some words of advice for newer journalism graduates: time makes all the difference.
“At the beginning of my career I was often overwhelmed, and sometimes even naive. That was often the place I found myself in, and I think that is a normal stage of growth,” Ziemba said. “So, I want young journalists to know that is okay – don’t be too hard on yourselves. My confidence in my work grew considerably over the years, as I continued to learn and develop my skills. It’s an empowering thing to grow into yourself as a professional and as a person, and sometimes it just takes time and lived experience. It’s a fascinating journey.”
Ziemba also recognized the unique challenges that current journalism students face.
“Quality journalism has never been more important, and I feel for journalism graduates entering the workforce over these last few years,” she said. “They are dealing with challenges we never could have anticipated, and I imagine there is a great deal of weight on their shoulders. I just want to acknowledge that.”
March is Women’s History Month. This year, the theme is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” Stay tuned to learn more about Scripps alumnae who have shaped their respective fields with communication this month by visiting www.ohio.edu/scripps-college/women-who-tell-our-stories.