June 3, 2010

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TV consumer crusader also on spiritual mission at CHC

Tracy Davidson, who is also a pastoral counseling graduate student at Chestnut Hill College, is seen here prepping for a show in the NBC 10 news studio. (Photo by Charlie Wellock, Studio Ten Creative Group)

Regular viewers of NBC 10 News know that high-profile consumer reporter Tracy Davidson is on a mission to protect consumers from ripoffs and save them money. What they may not know is that Davidson is also on a spiritual mission at Chestnut Hill College by pursuing a masters degree in pastoral counseling.

She has not yet decided whether her course work at CHC will help launch a second career or just enrich her current one, but Tracy believes that at the very least, her current studies will be an added benefit in her work to help those in need. “Maybe I will just be armed with the tools to do my current job better,” she said. “I am driven by my interest, and I absolutely love it.”

Davidson, 46, has been an anchor with the news network for 14 years, but it was about six years ago that she got the itch to try something else. With all that she had already accomplished, she wanted to help guide other people in giving thanks for what they have in life.

“I feel really blessed in my life,” said Davidson, a Catholic and Eucharistic minister in her own church community. “I have been given a lot, and I am grateful every day. I felt a calling to be able to talk about God and God’s love, to be a spiritual director.”

Davidson began her schooling more than 20 years ago at the State University of New York Geneseo. She left after three years without a degree when she got a job with a radio news station in Rochester, New York, before moving to Syracuse to be an anchor and consumer reporter with CBS. Davidson stayed in New York State for 10 years before moving to Philadelphia and joining the NBC 10 News team.

About six years ago, Davidson decided to finish her bachelors degree in journalism at Temple University so she could move forward with the masters program in pastoral counseling. “I really wanted to study theology, and that’s why I finished my undergraduate degree,” she said.

Davidson moved on to obtain a religious studies certificate at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood in December, 2008, but she was determined to continue her studies. “I had personal experiences, but I felt I didn’t have book smarts. I want to be able to guide, and that’s what drew me to pastoral counseling.”

Studying at Chestnut Hill College, Davidson is on the spiritual direction track offered through the masters program, and she expects to finish in about three years. “In that direction, if someone says he/she wants to have a better relationship with God, I can help them along the way. I consider what I do for a living (helping people with economic issues) as an extension of that.”

According to the TV reporter, the CHC administration is very understanding of people who are working on their studies while continuing in a full-time job, and she has no intention of leaving her job at TV10. “I try to be understanding of people who are different,” she said. “I think this program of study will help enrich my ability to do that.”

In addition to her regular pieces about spending money wisely, Davidson hosts a half-hour feature every Wednesday evening called “Survive and Thrive.” “The feature is in response to the recession,” she said. “We talk about saving money, making money, looking at job listings, lowering mortgages and other topics.”

The program has tried to help people dealing with foreclosures for the first time, as well as giving advice for re-entering the job market after being laid off. Even as the economy begins to strengthen, Davidson believes the program will last and still be beneficial to viewers. One viewer of “Survive and Thrive” who had been out of work for more than six months recently landed a job after joining one of Tracy's Facebook chats and connecting with a job consultant.

“I think that now it’s cool to save money, be thrifty and be on a budget,” said Tracy, who also appears at many community forums to discuss such issues as resume writing, interview skills, tax write-offs and 401-K planning. “There is never going to be a time that people don’t appreciate advice on saving money.”

Davidson recalls one particular instance in which she was looking into a moving and storage company that was overcharging customers. The company was also selling some of the customers' items, and people “were getting the runaround when they tried to get their stuff back.”

In reporting on the circumstances, Davidson brought a few dozen victims to the studio with the owner of the company, and tried to arrange a solution for the consumers. “I had them all come to the station and see the owner of the company face to face,” she said. “But the owner didn’t want the story to run. He ended up writing the victims checks totaling $42,000 based on what was lost.”

While proud of the accomplishment, Davidson worried that the checks would bounce. When they did not, she was just proud that she had the opportunity to help. “I get a happy feeling when I can work through the red tape,” she said. “I know what a relief it is to have something that is hanging over your head get resolved.”

In addition to her television career and theological studies, Davidson started her own website one year ago to serve as an online resource for people looking for consumer information. She includes notices about filing complaints, avoiding purchasing lemon vehicles, dealing with safety recalls and other issues.

“I want to make it the best source for online consumers. It is just another way to give information out because people are going to go online. I like to give information out, no matter how you choose to get it.”

As a Pennsylvania-born woman, Davidson is glad to be back in the city, and after moving around for so many years, she hopes to remain here. She loves all this area has to offer, from the farmers markets to neighborhoods where people seem to know each other. “I have always loved Philadelphia,” said Tracy, who currently lives on her own in Villanova after moving there a year ago from Ardmore. “The people are really friendly, especially for being in a city … I don’t know how I found myself doing what I’m doing, but I can’t imagine doing anything else. The best part about my job is that I get to help people.”

For more information on Davidson and to read her consumer advice, visit her website at “Survive and Thrive” airs Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. on NBC 10.


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