For this week’s Meet the Media, we’d like you to meet Kate Houston, a news reporter and anchor at KDRV NewsWatch 12 in Medford, Oregon.
1. How did you find yourself as a news reporter and anchor at KDRV NewsWatch 12?
I started reporting and anchoring for NewsWatch12 in July of 2017, just a few weeks after I graduated from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!). The news director reached out to me via LinkedIn and mentioned she saw my reel. Once it got closer to graduation, we started the application process and it went surprisingly fast. I was willing to move anywhere for a job, but I really wanted to stay close to the West Coast since my family is over here. I feel very lucky to have found a station that I fit so well with that’s close to home.
2. Which of your stories are you most proud of?
I am incredibly proud of my coverage of the Klamathon Fire in Hornbrook, California. The wildfire started on July 5th, and I was the first reporter on the scene. I was there as 12 foot flames started crawling over homes and then it jumped the freeway and ended up burning tens of thousands of acres. It was by far the most intense and terrifying experience I have ever witnessed. I stayed overnight since the fire shut down I-5. I did live breaking news coverage on the fire as it started and throughout the next day. Because the freeway was shut down, the fire impacted thousands of people in Oregon and California. They depended on my station for accurate and new information. I felt like my coverage really did impact them, as well as the community of Hornbrook. I later did more coverage of the recovery stages, including interviews with the Red Cross and people who found out their homes were destroyed. It was a humbling experience and solidified why I got into journalism in the first place, which is to help people.
3. What is your favorite thing about your job?
I have two. The first is the people I get to interact with while reporting. We are constantly surrounded by people – at work, on the road, in public, etc. They all have a story to tell, and that is amazing to me. It’s a special feeling to have someone let you into their life to tell their story. I take it very seriously and think of it as a privilege. Mixing in videography and editing makes it even more fun.
The second is that I am constantly learning. I have a new story every day and a new opportunity to find different viewpoints and offer that to the public. I think education is so important and exposing people to different sides in a fair and balanced way is essential. I have done stories ranging from public policy to horses logging trees to breaking news disaster coverage. In all of them I learned something new, which makes every day exciting.
4. What is your interview style?
Making sure the interviewee is comfortable and thinking of it as a conversation. I cover a lot of positive stories, but I also cover stories during a person’s lowest point in their day, year or even life. I want them to know I am there to support them and make sure they are comfortable with the process. This mainly has to do when there is a death involved. I never push the person to do an interview, but I give them the opportunity to tell me more about the deceased individual. I think empathy is lacking in the world and in journalism. I want to remind people we are all human, and I think it’s a benefit to bring emotion into our reporting, especially when it’s involving someone’s life.
5. What do you look for in a story?
Being in the TV industry, I look for stories that are visual and that have “real people.” There are so many great stories out there, but if they’re not visual, it makes it hard to create a package to run on air. When I say, “real people,” I mean someone that’s not an official. Viewers want to relate to the people they see on screen. That’s why journalists often interview a witness, a family member or someone who wants to make their point heard.
We also look for a story that will impact our viewers. I often try to find a way to localize national stories so that a majority of people will care.
6. What is your day like at your job?
I have two different shifts. I report day side and I also produce/edit/anchor the weekend morning show.
When reporting, I start around 9:30 a.m. and head into a morning assignment meeting. Usually between 10 to 2 p.m., I am out interviewing and filming. At this point I have my own flow down, and I know that if I get back by 2 p.m., I will have enough time to edit all my stories for the 4, 5, and 6 p.m. newscasts. Of course, this all gets thrown out the window if there’s breaking news.
On the weekends, I get in before the sun rises. I try to follow up on any major stories from the night before and update our website and social media accounts. I stack the show, write it and edit the video in. At 8 a.m., I am on air for the hour long show. It’s a lot of work but has been the most rewarding experience. I have grown tremendously over the past year because of this shift. I was never a morning person and now I actually prefer waking up at 2 a.m. To all the young journalists out there, don’t be afraid to try something new.
7. Who do you most look up to in the journalism industry?
I look up to Ann Curry and my mom. I started watching Ann Curry on the Today Show when she was a foreign correspondent. She is poised, intelligent, fierce under pressure and an incredible role model. No matter who she interviews, she gives them a fair chance and respect. I found out she went to the University of Oregon too once I was in my sophomore year there. I was able to meet her and talk to her in May of 2017 on a class trip to New York. Meeting my role model in person and being able to ask her questions about the industry was one of the best moments of my life.
My other role model is my mom. I know that’s a total cliché, but it’s true. My mom and many other family members worked in the news industry for decades. We all love current events and getting in other people’s business. My mom is a hard-hitting reporter and one of the most driven people I’ve ever met. Being able to look up to her and go to her for advice has been essential for me. She is my biggest fan and has helped me foster my love of journalism when I first started working towards this when I was 14 years old.
8. What is your favorite news outlet?
This is a hard question to answer. My favorite print outlet is The New York Times, always has been. I am obsessed with their podcast, The Daily and try to listen every morning. My favorite radio outlet is NPR. I grew up listening to it on the way to school. My favorite broadcast news outlet varies. I think ABC has a stellar group of journalists. World News Tonight with David Muir is one of my all-time favorites. I enjoy NBC Nightly News too. I also love 60 Minutes. It’s what originally got me interested in journalism. I try to surround myself with different viewpoints and different networks ranging from CNN to NBC to FOX affiliates.
9. Fill in the blank:
- If I am not reporting, I am… doing something outside. I absolutely love the outdoors, whether it’s hiking, camping or laying out in the sun. I feel most myself when I am outside in the sunshine.
- If I could interview anyone, it would be… This is such a hard question for me, so I am going to give a couple options. I would love to interview Leonardo Da Vinci. I have always been fascinated by his life and what he was able to create. I would also love to interview my favorite actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman. I was heartbroken when he passed away. I think he’s one of the greatest actors of our time, and I’ve seen essentially every movie he’s been in. I would love to sit down with him and talk about life.
- My favorite thing about the PNW is… The beauty and the craft beer. I have never seen a state more beautiful than Oregon. You get a little bit of everything here. I grew up going to the mountains, and it’s what drew me here to go to college. I also love craft beer, and Oregon does it better than anyone else.
10. What is your guilty pleasure?
My guilty pleasure is Reddit and Taylor Swift. I could get lost on Reddit for hours, especially the subreddit called “Ask Reddit.” I love reading people’s stories.
I am also probably the biggest Taylor Swift fan you’ll ever meet. I’ve seen her in concert twice and cried both times. I know all her albums by heart and maybe too much info about her life. I think she’s an incredible lyricist.
Check out our last Meet the Media where we spotlighted Tim Booth, Seattle-based sports writer for the Associated Press.
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