We are going to do a little something new with the A List blog. Every month or so I will be doing a Q and A with a journalist or editor. We are starting this month with Kim Wagner from News 3’s Wake Up with the Wagners.
Take a take a look and let me know what you think.
When Kim Wagner was a child her parents could have predicted their daughter’s career path. The family nicknamed her Shana
Alexander, a trailblazing 1970s female news reporter.
It wasn’t long before Kim was blazing trails of her own.
She began her career in storytelling by reporting back to her parents what her siblings were up to, not in a tattletale sense, but more in a matter of fact way.
In high school Kim would read the morning announcements. When it came time for college she chose the University of Florida one of the best Broadcast Journalism schools in the country.
After college Kim worked her way from small Florida markets to Reno, where she met future husband Dana Wagner. The couple eventually became engaged but was forced to deal with separation anxiety when Kim took a job in Sacramento.
A chance meeting with KVBC’s News Director at a friend’s wedding set into motion a chain of events that would lead to the couples move to Las Vegas. Years later she and Dana would be anchoring the city’s No. 1 morning newscast together.
I met Kim when I joined KVBC in 2002 and we have been friends for years. Recently I caught up with her for a little Q&A about life on the A-List.
A List: Describe your ascent at KVBC from the time you started in 2001.
Kim Wagner: It seemed like I was on weekends for seven years in some form or fashion. I got hired initially as a reporter and then very soon after the weekend morning anchor left, I took over and I was on weekend mornings for years and then 4 years I ago I did weekend evenings and then from there I went to mornings.
A List: Sometimes younger journalists can be impatient when they feel they’ve been stuck in one place or one position for a long time. What advice do you have for them?
KW: My advice to young journalists would be to go where your passion is. If you can have both, being passionate about where you live and what you do for a living, that is the best thing. If you are just chasing the career then go where it takes you.
My first job was in Marianna Florida. I was so passionate about the business that I was setting up my own live shots, shooting all my own video, covering multiple counties and living out in the sticks. When I say out in the sticks, I lived by myself in an isolated area and the station was an hour to the south of me so I did a lot of alone time. But I was so dedicated and wanting to be in the business that I was willing to do that.
I’m not sure that there’s a cookie cutter path. When I was living in Sacramento I was unhappy personally though happy professionally because I was away from my husband. Here I have the best of both worlds.
KVBC has been very good to me. I have been able to make a nice living here. I haven’t had to leave to go chase the dollar signs. I’m married and if you put some time into a place you become committed to the community and the station becomes committed to you. They let me work part-time when I first had Kate (Kim and Dana’s four year old daughter), which is great because at a lot of places that probably wouldn’t be an option.
A List: Las Vegas is always at the center of some larger national news story. What have been your favorites?
KW: There have been so many big events that have happened on our watch. The biggest event that touched me personally that had the biggest national impact was when I had to knock on the door of William McCool’s parents Audrey and Barent. It was when the Columbia crashed in 2003.
People think how can you just knock on someone’s door and ask then about the son they lost, and I understand that may seem callous but for these parents they were so proud of their son they wanted to share that with people.
I think since it is such a distressing moment you just have to knock on the door and say, “I’m giving you a chance to talk about your loved one. I understand if you want to slam the door in my face but I just want to let you know that we just want you to be able to share that with the community.”
A List: Knocking on doors isn’t as easy as it sounds. A lot of times reporters have trouble being that aggressive.
KW: Sometimes people come in and sit at their desk and make phone call after phone call and then they go up to the executive producer and say this isn’t coming to fruition. If you can, my best advice would be to always go to the story. And then you might end up getting something amazing that otherwise you wouldn’t even know about.
If you are not willing to go knock on a door when you have no idea who is on the other end, then you are probably not right for this business. If you are meek or wishy-washy you are just going to get gobbled up.
A List: When it comes to image, how do you manage in a business that is often, and some might say unfairly, focused on looks?
KW: I have tried Botox twice because I have what they call the “elevens.” I feel like I have these deep lines between my eyes because I am a squinter and I am 36 years old. But you know what? It is just not for me. For the little amount that I was going to do it’s so expensive and let’s face it, for my job, I have to have expression. I am just going to have to grow old gracefully, as much as Botox did take those lines away it was not worth the price for me.
I’m glad I don’t look 23, I am so much happier now in my 30’s. And I am embracing everything about this phase in my life and if that happens to be the “Elevens”, then so be it.
When I get e-mails about my eye-make-up or my hair or my outfit, it hurts my feelings because I am human but now I forget it pretty much after I respond to the person and apologize for whatever I’ve done. I tend to respond because I think of it as a way to win people over and if you are not going to win people over, then at least you can show them that you received it and maybe you can make them feel better that they hurt someone’s feelings that day, I don’t know.
Suddenly Kim and I are interrupted by a man who tells Kim he “woke up with her this morning.” I know that she gets this a lot. Kim is warm and the man walks away after giving Kim a story idea.
A List: Does that ever get old?
KW: When someone comes up and says, “I woke up with you this morning.” I love that. I don’t think that is ever going to get old. I mean, that is our bread and butter. You want people to watch. I love what I do but you hope that other people like it because we all know that ratings fuel everybody’s paycheck and ratings aren’t everything but they are a lot. The thing that is tricky is that you can only be yourself you just hope that people end up liking it. I run into people all day long and I am gracious every time because I get it.
I think some people in the business are bothered by the interruption but I’m not because I just think, “what a small price to pay to get to do a job I love with a man I love in a city I love where our daughter was born.”