1. How did you find yourself at KIRO 7?
The short answer: A mixture of good fortune and supportive friends and parents who encouraged me in my career path. The longer answer: I worked at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for nine years — the print edition and the online news site — and loved every day of being a news reporter. I dove into journalism only a few weeks before graduating college with a marketing degree, so the reporting route wasn’t a sure bet at first. But it was the right one. I could go on for pages here. But in 2013 — after it was clear seattlepi.com was going to keep going, after all the major projects I wanted to accomplish were complete, and after I made sure the print edition’s archives were preserved — I wondered what the next step would be. That’s when I was fortunate to talk with Jake Milstein, KIRO 7’s current news director, the legendary Bob Jordan, Jake’s predecessor as news director, and Jay O’Connor, our general manager. We all hit it off from day one, and they’ve taught me more in four years than most people learn in their entire career – both about the news industry and about being a good person.
2. Which of your stories posts are you most proud of?
It’s the people that make the stories, and sometimes the most unlikely people are the ones you remember most. The honorable discharge and subsequent passing of Sam Snow was the most moving story I’ve ever covered. There was Kevin Berg’s mile walk, which was the most amazing athletic feat I’ve ever witnessed. Everyone had tears of joy when he crossed the finish line. There was the Seattle judge that a co-worker and I followed for months to show he was lying at taxpayer expense. That story led to his censure from the Commission on Judicial Conduct, and his repayment of thousands of taxpayer dollars. There was the rape at a Seattle high school I first reported, and then followed with an investigation that showed many serious crimes were not reported in Seattle public schools. There are many stories I’ve been fortunate to share. Sabrina Rasmussen, Dave Jacobs and John Fox, and Jason Yori are some that come to mind. I can honestly tell you a nugget about every story I’ve done. When you’re excited to be at work – no matter what the line of work is — favorite moments happen often.
3. What is your favorite thing about your job?
The people. Whether you’re in the field or in the office, you meet people and find yourself in circumstances that you’d never otherwise experience. It’s amazing how much people will share with you if you ask them. Same goes for how much information is available to the public if you look for it. Being able to hear genuine stories and then share those with others is a real treasure. And that’s part of the fun of producing. You ask yourself: How can I share this story in a way that it will resonate with others? It takes pivoting and focus in a constantly changing digital landscape. But when you do it right, viewers experience the story you were able to see firsthand, and it’s pretty magical.
4. What is your interview style?
Keep quiet. Remember it’s not about you. Don’t freak out if there’s a long pause. Keep your own bias out of it. Do as much research as you can beforehand, and bring it up only when needed. Be empathetic. Be real. Don’t look for stats, look for a good story. If you do that, you’ll do well.
5. What do you look for in a story/post?
Reporting that gives a damn. Did the reporter do more than a Google search and two interviews? Did they understand the context? Can you tell that they care by the way the story or video or post is crafted? In most good examples, you can. In a video, you want to find the emotional moments that resonate. They might not always be the obvious ones. Sometimes it’s a look or a gesture. In a story, don’t rely on quotes or do a notebook dump. Look at every word and ask yourself if it matters. Social media posts are different than stories or videos. You have a roughly three-second window to catch a viewer. In those, look for carefully crafted words that capture the post right out of the gate. Each of these elements that I look for apply to many other fields too, not only good reporting.
6. What is your day like at your job?
You know the thrill of running a half marathon? It’s like that. You’re excited to start. You have energy for miles. Occasionally there are difficult parts, but you push through. You look at others around you and get strength from them. And when you’re finished it feels pretty great to see the hard work paid off. On the technical side, the day starts with an early morning conference call to discuss overnight stories, then news meetings to go over dayside story ideas. KIRO 7 leads the market in social media engagement, and keeping that takes daily innovation. Choreography between our digital platforms — our site, Smart TV apps, Facebook Live, and others — is an important daily conversation. With every digital story I want to answer this question: What is the value for a viewer here? If you have a strong answer, you’ll do well.
7. Who do you most look up to in the journalism industry?
Marty Baron’s work at the Boston Globe and the Washington Post is exceptional. I love Steve Hartman’s stories on CBS News. He may have the best job around. 60 Minutes is still the best network news show on television. Josh Trujillo was an amazing teammate who I miss working work, and he’s still doing exceptional work with the Upstanders series. Levi Pulkkinen is a remarkable reporter who doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. I love working with Dave Wagner at KIRO 7. He’s an excellent example of journalistic talent matching with genuine kindness. Amy Clancy and Linzi Sheldon at KIRO 7 also are inspiring with their investigative work. I also was fortunate to work with Eric Nalder at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He’s an amazing interviewer, and it’s no wonder he’s won multiple Pulitzers. He’s also so willing to help other reporters because he loves what he’s doing. Read his notes on the art of the interview. You’ll be glad you did.
8. What is your favorite news outlet?
Great question. It depends on what I’m trying to find. For livestreams of local and national events, I love what we do at KIRO 7, both on our site and Facebook Live and Smart TV channels. For weekly news programs, I always love 60 Minutes. I don’t think I’m in the target market for The Skimm, but I’m fascinated by how they’re capturing a news audience. The Yahoo Sports app seems to be the best glance media sports app. The Washington Post’s morning email is also impressive. There are reporters I love reading at the Seattle Times and Crosscut. When it comes to feel good stories, it’s hard to beat Steve Hartman on CBS. I’ve bene a fan of him for years. And in the not-really-news category, who doesn’t love those Tasty food videos? Only trouble is I never actually make the recipes nearly as much as I’d like to.
9. What is your guilty pleasure?
10. Fill in the blank:
- If I am not reporting/producing content, I am… Working on house projects. #fixerupper
- If I could interview anyone, it would be … Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, together, talking about the 1960-64 Beatles years.
- My favorite thing about Seattle is … Only one thing? It’s a tossup between Golden Oldies record shop in Wallingford, or all the events during Irish Week.