If anyone in Washington was born to be an award-winning investigative reporter, it’s WRC-TV’s Tisha Thompson. Her mother, Lea Thompson, was both an investigative reporter and head of the station’s consumer unit when Tisha was born. At the time, there was no such thing as maternity leave, so Lea took baby Tisha to work with her in a basket.
Her TV colleagues helped out, Lea recalls. Once, while Lea was on the air and Tisha was sleeping, stashed in the news director’s office, the staff held a department meeting in the dark, so as not to wake her.
Lea ultimately moved to the NBC network and became chief consumer correspondent. Her hard-hitting pieces—among them, stories on un- safe toys and faulty defibrillators—sparked major regulatory changes and saved lives.
There were times, Tisha recalls, when she and her two sisters wished their mother was less recognizable and more like the PTA moms in their neighborhood. But they were proud, too. “I may not have fully understood her work,” Tisha says, “but I knew it mattered to other people.”And what Lea lacked in time, she more than made up for in effort, according to her daughter.
When Tisha was on a Potomac swim team, her mother would walk into meets straight from the studio. While the other moms were in shorts and T-shirts, Lea would show up with “big hair, big shoulder pads, full makeup, and high heels,” Tisha recalls. “But she always had ten pizzas, so she was forgiven.”
Now, Tisha is following in her mother’s foot- steps, balancing investigative journalism with motherhood. Her son Durke—called Durkee or Durkee Turkey and named after his grandfather, Lea’s husband of 44 years, the Honorable Durke Thompson—is three. Any day now, he’ll have a younger sibling.
TV remains a tough business for working mothers, Tisha says. While at her previous job she waited six months to tell anyone at the sta- tion she was pregnant with Durke, and the day she announced that she’d be going on maternity leave, three people raced over to offer to fill in for her.
“I came back determined to prove nothing had slowed me down,” she says. “And having Durke is the best thing I ever did. When he laughs, my heart glows, and all the stupid stuff that can get you down just disappears.”
It doesn’t hurt to know that the balancing act is possible, thanks to a role model who managed it for years. “My mom is my best friend in the world,” Tisha says. “She’s so full of energy, she loves life, and—this is really important—she is so smart. I’m always coming to her for advice, whether it’s crafting the perfect story or finding the perfect jeans. I really don’t know anyone with the same kind of relationship we have. She’s my best friend, my mentor, my mom, my everything.”
It’s rewarding to hear that, Lea says. “The great- est tribute is that our children like us.”
And it should come as no surprise that the highest compliment you can pay Tisha is: “Like mother, like daughter.”