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Media Monday: Cynthia Wise

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For this week’s Media Monday, we’d like you to meet Cynthia Wise, senior assignments and planning editor at KING 5. 1. How did you find yourself at KING 5? I first decided I wanted to be in broadcasting sitting at the breakfast table in North Seattle fascinated by the voices coming out of the blue […]

For this week’s Media Monday, we’d like you to meet Cynthia Wise, senior assignments and planning editor at KING 5.

Cynthia Wise1. How did you find yourself at KING 5?

I first decided I wanted to be in broadcasting sitting at the breakfast table in North Seattle fascinated by the voices coming out of the blue Monarch radio on the counter. How did those little men get into the radio in our kitchen?? I spent my days watching JP Patches, Wanda Wanda & Jean Enersen anchoring the news on KING-TV.  I thought, ‘how cool’ and immediately set my sights on working at KING. My radio & television career spans 40 years and includes stops in Everett, Seattle & Tacoma, Las Cruces & Albuquerque, NM as well as El Paso & San Antonio, TX before landing at KING in 1998.

2. Which of the stories that you’ve worked on are you most proud of?

There are a couple: While working in El Paso I did a series of stories on the city’s substandard housing – tenements with no electricity, no running water in the units,  a common sink for a dozen families, a single toilet for everyone living in a 2 story building. As a result of the series, the largest of the slum lords was prosecuted and the city started enforcing longstanding housing laws they’d been ignoring.

As part of that series, I interviewed a woman named Mary who lived in a tenement that had a single electrical outlet and dirt floors. I’ll never forget her. Despite her poverty she invited my photographer and me to come back later in the week for Thanksgiving dinner. I left crying and humbled.

The other story was a series I did on AIDS at an El Paso radio station that was willing to take risks to help prevent the disease. Management agreed to start running ads promoting the use of condoms – the first station in the country to do so. One of the men I interviewed for the series died shortly after the pieces aired. I felt blessed to be among those people invited to speak at his funeral.

3. What is your favorite thing about your job?

I especially love getting the chance to talk to people from all walks of life. I’ve interviewed presidents, kings, tribal chiefs, murderers & ditch diggers. One thing I’ve learned in that – they’re all human beings deserving of respect. I also enjoy being able to stretch my investigative skills – finding people know one else can find. People kid me that if they ever get lost, they hope I’m looking for them.

4. What is your interview style?

Hopefully one that is  straight-forward but compassionate and inquisitive. I do my homework going into any interview, but never feel like I know all the answers going in.

5. What do you look for in a story?

Something that tugs at the heart. I had a News Director once say, “Make me laugh; make me cry; evoke emotion and you have a viewer for 2 minutes.” His words have never steered me wrong.

6. What is your day like at your job? 

Busy from the word go! I wake up about 4:30 and check my work email, twitter & FB before getting out of bed. Once in the office, I check with my colleagues on the assignments desk (the hardest working folks in the business!) to see what’s new or what’s happened overnight that we need to follow up on during the day. I then sit down and start going through a couple of dozen newspapers & blogs before my first meeting of the day at 9:30. After that my time is spent planning for the days and weeks ahead – all while tweeting about the latest goings on in the city. I’m pretty proud that we hit more than 500-thousand followers this week, more than any other media outlet west of the Rockies!  I have another meeting at 2, a third meeting at 2:30, and usually get home about 6p (where I check email again). Being an assignments/planning editor is a 24/7 job.

7. Who do you most look up to in the journalism industry?

Oh my, there are so many. Jean Enersen, of course. Ed White, KING’s former planning manager, he taught me more about news and life than he’ll ever know. My first ‘teacher,’ Lee Perkins (formerly of KJR & KOL, then a teacher at Bates Technical College) – he taught me the valuable lesson, ‘Local, local, local. You’ll never go wrong if you go to where people live.’ – we’re still friends. Tom Joles, a news anchor in Albuquerque who makes a point of knowing everything there is to know about a story before going on the air. And a former reporter named Stuart Dyson, who can turn a story out of anything. One day, frustrated, I asked him to ‘just go find something’ (to report on). He said, ‘pay me!’ so I gave him a dollar bill. He came back with a piece that later won an award on just how useless a single dollar bill is (couldn’t buy a candy bar, couldn’t use it in a pay phone, couldn’t even buy a newspaper). I’ve worked – and work – with the best.

8. What is your favorite news outlet?

Locally – KING, of course.  I tend to listen/watch a lot of news online from around the country. I also listen to newsradio and NPR stations lot. No joke – a different outlet from a different market just about every day on my drive in. I’m always interested in what folks are doing in other cities, how they’re doing it, and what I might learn from them. What are they doing that we might be able to localize?

9. Fill in the blank:

  • If I am not working, I am…spending time with my daughter. She has given my life purpose.
  • If I could interview anyone, it would be…I’ve been blessed in being able to interview most folks I’ve really wanted to talk too. Stephanie McCleary – the woman behind Washington’s McCleary decision, was a big ‘get’ that took years to arrange.  Bigger ‘gets’ would be Jesus, Che Guevera, Fidel Castro, Mother Theresa… the list goes on and on.
  • My favorite thing about Seattle is…being able to brag about how beautiful it is to friends who live elsewhere in the country. And, of course, the coffee!

10. What is your guilty pleasure?

Pedicures & head massages. I’ve told my daughter, when I get to heaven there will be someone rubbing my feet and head all the time.

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