Queens native discusses breaking barriers throughout her career as Pakistani-American news anchor

Photo courtesy of Hena Doba

Cheddar News anchor Hena Doba is about as familiar with Queens as she is with reporting.

A first-generation Pakistani-American, she has lived in Jamaica, Elmhurst, College Point, Rosedale and Jackson Heights. She initially thought she would become a psychologist when she started college. It was when she started writing for the school newspaper at SUNY Buffalo that she discovered her love for journalism. It wasn’t long before she became the feature editor for that paper.

Less than two days after graduating from college, Doba was hired as a producer for a local TV station. She would eventually be brought on as a national correspondent by CBS.

“[Being a national correspondent for CBS] was a dream come true, honestly,” Doba said. “I remember growing up in Queens, watching those people and thinking [being a correspondent there] was so much out of the realm of possibility.”

During her five years at CBS, Doba became the first person to anchor a national show at 4 a.m. In doing so, she was also one of the first Pakistani Americans to anchor a show. Much of her work for CBS allowed her to travel frequently around the country, as she would often be sent to cover breaking news across the country. Most of the stories she would be sent to cover were related to either finance or politics.

Doba described leaving CBS for Cheddar News as being one of the toughest career decisions she’s ever made. She noted that CBS had given her work stability after years of moving around and working for different stations. Additionally, she said learned how to be a better reporter during her time with the network.

“I knew TV was changing,” Doba said. “I just knew people weren’t rushing home for the 5 p.m. news anymore. Cheddar came to me and I felt over-the-top media service (OTT) was the future. Cheddar was one of the first stations to go into streaming. While it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, I really think it was one of the best decisions I ever made as well.”

Several news networks have since followed Cheddar News’ lead and joined in on the OTT bandwagon. It certainly appears as though the gamble Doba made has paid off.

Doba takes a lot of pride in seeing more people who look like her being in the TV and streaming news industry nowadays. The first story she ever reported on was 9/11. At the time, she faced prejudice due to her Pakistani background. When she was a reporter on the subject of finance, Doba noted she was the only person of color at the time in that field.

“[After 9/11 happened] I felt like I stuck out even more,” Doba said. “At the time, some viewers in the market I was in didn’t even want me on TV. There was just so much ignorance around South Asians and Pakistanis. Now, 20 years later, I’m just so proud to see so much more inclusivity and diversity when it comes to people on air.”

Doba joined Cheddar News in 2019. Today, she is the anchor for the streaming service’s show “Wake Up with Cheddar.” The show airs every weekday morning from 7 to 10 a.m.

In addition her work as an anchor, Doba has also worked as an adjunct professor at Capital Community College and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting for five years. According to Doba, she believes this actually helped to make her a better anchor at the time. She would spend her days teaching before serving as the 11 p.m. anchor of the local CBS affiliate in Connecticut.

“I thought teaching was really going to be my career [when I was in school], I had wanted to be an English teacher,” Doba said. I met and taught these aspiring journalists and it made me feel lucky for what I do every single day. It made me realize not only that I get to do a job that I love every day by going to the studio, but also teaching students the importance of journalism and how the story is not about you. It’s about what’s going on around you.”

This appreciation of being able to teach and work as an anchor also hits Doba on a personal note.

According to Doba, around the time she graduated from Flushing High School, the graduation rate was only around 60%. Having grown up in a lower-income family, she never thought she’d be in as fortunate a position as this. She told QNS hopes to continue her work as a teacher even after she retires from the news industry.

Among the many TV stations that Doba has worked at in the past are in Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia, upstate New York and Hartford. While Doba said she enjoyed working for each of them, she said that Cheddar News has been the most fun for her.

“[Cheddar News] is not following the formula or the norms that we are so used to for decades when it comes to those legacy networks,” Doba said. “I think streaming is the future of news and how people take in and watch their news. We do trending news, finance news, political news. I think we have a chance to play with our newscasts a little more.”