From Small Town U.S.A. to Sin City & All The Lessons
Along The Way
My mind stopped drifting long enough to hear the hum of the
truck engine one cold January morning. I was plodding forward
through rural Oregon in an over-sized U-haul with nothing
but open land on the horizon. My future was in front of me
and all I wanted to do was turn around. This is the real story
of life in a small market and the dream of climbing higher
in television news.
I was approaching Klamath Falls, Oregon as the hum disappeared
all together. My mind was buzzing with thoughts. On a good
day Klamath Falls held 12,000. It was nothing like the sun
drenched life I had just left in San Diego. It was cold, snow
bound and small. There were pick-up trucks, logging mills
and one main street. What was I doing? I had a great job writing
and producing at KFMB in San Diego. We were number one. I
worked with great people. I was happy. But I wanted to be
a reporter. It was a sacrifice I had to make.
I shrugged off the thoughts of yesterday and looked at tomorrow,
but it was tough to see the light. I pulled up in front of
the bureau that I would call home for the next year and immediately
started thinking about my contracts out clause. My office
was an old computer store. There was one room. Our newsroom
camera was my field camera. I was my photographer, my editor,
my assignment desk manager. I was it. It was officially a
one man band.
Instantly things were tough. It took nearly four hours to
edit my first package. After finishing a day of shooting at
noon, I almost missed slot at five. What an eye opening day.
Ill never look at the job of a photographer the same
again. Lesson one learned: respect.
Lesson two came quickly thereafter: humility. I had come
to town as the big gun with experience in market twenty-five.
Surely I could handle market 142. The intro to my four hour
edited package went well. My tag: flawless. Then I crashed
and burned. I wanted to be the smoothest reporter our market
had ever seen, but I couldnt have been farther off.
I tossed back to the wrong anchor and got caught on air making
a grimace about my mistake. Never again will I think Im
better than anyone or any place I may be reporting.
Week by week the job became easier. I got better. I was learning
every single day. I placed each lesson into the mental filing
cabinet that would become my first year reporting. Before
I knew it, six months had passed. That awful town of Klamath
Falls had turned into my rural sanctuary. It was far removed
from the world and the rush of big city life.
Hell, the mayor didnt even work at city hall. He ran
a paint store. It was nothing like I had ever experienced
and I was loving it. I had new friends that I knew I would
never lose. I was part of a solid team that was cohesive at
work and supportive and caring after the time clock was done
By month nine, I had again begun thinking of my out clause.
The friends were great, but I was becoming bored at the office.
I had to sign on with a station in a top fifty market in order
to be released from my contract. I had improved in my writing
and on air presence, but I wasnt too positive about
finding a job ninety markets higher. But within a few weeks
the call came. My news director in Oregon had left a few months
prior and now she was calling with an offer: Las Vegas, Nevada.
Sin City, U.S.A. was on the table for me to consider. I had
no idea there was even a city there. I thought it was just
the strip. By now my rural sanctuary had returned to the dreary
gloom of its early days. The challenging job had become mundane.
I had been a sponge for months and I felt ready to move on.
Vegas was it. The entrance to Las Vegas was much more festive
than that of Klamath Falls. I was closer to friends in Los
Angeles and as no shocker they all wanted to come visit. After
all, a free place to stay in Vegas means another few bets
at the craps table. I was back in the land of the living!
I knew I still had a lot to learn on the professional side,
but I was confident I would pick it up as quickly as I did
in Oregon. Little did I know how much I had yet to learn.
Week one in Las Vegas brought a rude awakening. I was coming
into a great station with great people. Unfortunately, the
station was in the midst of a major transition. Long time
talent had recently left the company and I was the new face.
Translation: I was the outsider no one wanted to deal with.
For several weeks I spoke with the few people who decided
to go out on a limb and talk to me. I worked hard, continued
to learn, and tried to cope. I was successfully climbing the
ladder of television. But, it was taking a toll personally.
Within a few months I was again part of a team. I had been
promoted from morning and midday reporter to weekend reporter.
I was learning the town. I was getting smoother on air. I
was happy again. Its interesting making the move from
a small market to a medium size market. Suddenly youre
more focused on ratings, on competition, on breaking news.
In the Medford/Klamath Falls area, there are no meters in
Neilsen family homes to judge ratings. Its a diary market.
The pressure over numbers is less because you only get ratings
after a sweeps period. In Las Vegas
you see the ratings every single morning when you come in
Its now been two years since I left Klamath Falls.
Im the senior night side reporter for our station. Ive
covered so many stories in two years. Ive traveled to
cover events multiple times. Ive flown in an F-16 with
the Air Force. Ive been on VH-1 covering the celebrity
red carpet. Ive been on Good Morning America. With all
the memories, each turn usually leads my mind back to that
cold January morning outside Klamath Falls, Oregon. I thought
my career couldnt get any lower. If only I had known
how much would lay ahead. Every television news reporter has
to start somewhere.
My journey began in Klamath Falls. Others begin in Los Angeles
or New York. No matter where you begin, its where you
belong. Everything happens for a reason in my mind. I started
in Klamath Falls to learn humility. I needed to learn to be
a complete reporter who understands video, audio, and the
timetable of never missing slot. I continue to learn and hope
to move up again soon. I want the next challenge. I want the
next big story. I want the next night of breaking news. Its
in my blood. Ive become a television news reporter and
I love every minute of it. My mentor in San Diego once told
me if you give a hundred percent every day, youll succeed
in news. He said so many other people only give fifty to seventy-five
percent when they come to work. I continue giving a hundred
percent. I come in early. I leave late. In fact just the other
day my news director called me a work-a-holic. I just wonder
when youre in news how can you not be addicted to it
Its an interesting journey so many of us make through
the television news business. You either love it or hate it.
The roads been good so far. Well see where it
leads next. Who knows maybe Ill end up in Los Angeles
where some of those lucky people got to start their careers.