Somewhere, not far from the Google campus in Mountain View, California, Becky Worley ’92 stepped in front of a moving car. For a moment, the grey Toyota Prius looked like it might not stop, might blow right through the intersection where Worley had waited until just the right (or wrong) moment to step out.
Worley’s seemingly irrational behavior could be called into even greater question upon realization that the person sitting in the front seat wasn’t even driving, his hands nowhere near the wheel, his feet not on the pedals. But that’s exactly why she did it. And later that week, Good Morning America aired her story on Google’s new driverless car, including a shot of how it knows to screech to a stop when a pedestrian suddenly darts out before it.
Worley is the technology contributor to Good Morning America, regularly testing products, telling stories about the latest gadgets, and sharing her savvy view with the country’s consumers. She also serves as host of Yahoo! News’s video blog Upgrade Your Life, which provides “simple solutions to high-tech problems.”
Between the two programs, she constantly explores and plays with technology—talking with dishwasher engineers to do a full examination of the best way to clean and load dishes, testing a vacuum attachment as a way to clean a dog, and showing how iPhones keep a log of your location.
“There is no one who can explain it more clearly, give you a comprehensive look but not make you feel like a six-year-old,” says Russ Torres, head of news and finance at Yahoo! Studios. “She finds stories or trends that we’re all talking about but haven’t figured out how to articulate yet. She can boil it down so that everyone can understand it.”
But the subject of Worley’s reports have also turned to general product testing and consumer matters, like shopping for wedding dresses and the effects of limiting oneself to a baby-food diet. Worley loves the opportunity to explore something new and compares it to a constant education. “What you learn from a liberal arts education is to be open and learn, and not be intimidated that you know nothing at the start,” she says. “It’s okay to know nothing. That gets you a great empathy for other people who also know nothing, and you can be on the journey with the client, the customer—that’s a strength, not a weakness.
“At 8 am I know nothing about this,” she describes. “And by 7:30 the next day, I’m willing to speak to 4 million people, with authority, on the subject. And I pride myself on getting it right.”
Each week—she can do as many as 85 stories for Good Morning America in a year and one per week for Yahoo!—she and a cameraman go off for her latest explorations. With recording equipment hanging on a shoe tree in the closet of her Oakland, California, home, she writes the script and records the voiceovers in her closet, then films a live shot from her home via Skype at 4:30 am. All the while, she tries to keep it light.
“In the morning, it’s got to be fun. [The audience is] listening, and if something gets their attention, they’ll turn their heads to the TV and look,” she says. “It needs to be friendly; it needs to be fun.”
Worley’s fascination with technology was in full force during her time at Middlebury—where she and a friend used their Mac computers to create friends’ identification cards—and where she first considered the television medium, although she originally envisioned hosting a show on fly-fishing, one of her then new-found loves.
Her career in television actually started with her folding towels at a health club, not far from Seattle’s KOMO television station where she held an internship, and worked her way to a production assistant position, and then associate producer of an afternoon news segment. A move to a new cable network called Tech TV, in the late 1990s, shifted Worley from working behind the camera to working in front.
“She’s really good at guiding people through tough stuff,” says Good Morning America producer Tracey Marx, who first met Worley at Tech TV. “Why it’s successful is she stays true to Becky. She doesn’t try to be anyone else. It’s very relatable. She’s high energy, and she’s just knowledgeable.”
Brian Eule is a freelance writer in Northern California.