Monday: Tri-State Conference with three governors. Front story for early news, turn package for late shows.
Tuesday: Break-out story from governor's conference, update station talent pages, attend major community announcement. Turn package on an abused dog getting a new lease on life.
Wednesday: Drive one hour to a small Nebraska town to attend a meeting on highway reconstruction that should have been done in the 2000s. Comb Twitter for storm damage in our viewing area and create a digital playlist for the evening team to use on-air. Send my weekly digital report to our corporate team.
Thursday: Drive two hours with our Chief Meteorologist to a small Iowa community hit by a multi-vortex tornado. Turn two packages, one for in-house, one for sister stations, both in time for early news.
Friday: Drive one hour to a picnic held by a local Representative and attended by the former Vice President. Create a social video from the event. Turn story for early news. Update station website and talent bios with new images.
Saturday: Technically "off" work, but need to keep social media pages updated with relevant news. No newscast today.
Sunday: Turn two stories for air. Produce evening newscast. Catch up on all digital/social reports neglected from days before. Anchor evening newscast.
Some like to say I "collect" meteorologists because it seems like many of the brilliant scientists that pass through our newsroom become my greatest friends.
Back on track. That list above isn't a list of jobs I have done in the past... but a list of what I currently do day-to-day and week-to-week. Our evening anchor once called me the "Swiss Army Knife" of the newsroom. That's become my moniker.
As I am coming up on my 6th year at my current station, I have begun to wonder what is next for me. I think I am ready for a new adventure. I've started to look for my next market, the next station to grow my craft and the next city to call home. But I have run into one common issue.
What the HELL do I want to do.
I enjoy wearing many hats and never having my day be the same as the last. I love the days that I can go speak to people in my community and then come back and sit at the anchor desk (yes, Diana... you told me so!). I enjoy the days I get to dig around on social media, create reports and see just how much our station presence has grown while coming up with the next creative post on Instagram. I thrive under the pressure of those sit-down interviews with politicians that took hours of preparation and research. Digging through dozens and hundreds of documents working on the next investigative piece? Sign me up!
How do I choose?
How do I choose which path to take in the next phase of my career?
And what happens if that path is the wrong one...
The last 18 months have been difficult. Amid a global pandemic, job losses, price increases, shortages, closures, political turmoil, and everyday challenges, 2020 and the first have of 2021 have not been what anyone would call “smooth sailing.”
In local news, it may have been even harder.
It WAS harder.
In January 2020, my newsroom was given the news that no team wants to hear.
There would be staff cuts and we would be downsizing in March. We already had the smallest team in the market. And we weren’t just colleagues, but many of us were close friends. Losing journalists, productions assistants, and photographers were going to be a challenge. Little did we understand what a challenge that would turn out to be.
That March, about one week before shutdowns began nationwide, our talented and dedicated multimedia journalists, my friends, officially left for new adventures and our team began to adapt to bringing the same quality and quantity of content to our community with a significantly smaller team. What we weren’t ready for was the coronavirus.
COVID-19 came at a time where there was already distrust in the media. Though we strive every day to share unbiased, truthful, and fair news, covering a tri-state area that is largely Republican, distrust was often felt at the local level.
Come May 2020, our tri-state area was the fastest-growing COVID-19 hotspot in the country. We were making national headlines for our rapid rise of positive cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Our team was working tirelessly to keep up with the changing information. Covering three states, with three governors who had three very different plans for their states, was not an easy task.
On top of this, we were still learning how to work as a smaller team, but now we had to put out even more local content than ever before. Our staff wasn’t big enough to work remotely. We were still coming into the newsroom every day.
Did I mention that we also had elections coming? Being in Iowa, we are the first in the nation caucus. We also had several local and state races that we were following. And we were seeing protests in our community in the aftermath of George Floyd's death.
Plus, the everyday local news that never stops.
At times, it felt like we were drowning.
We never did.
But how did we continue when it seemed like too much?
Our News Director.
You hear horror stories from journalists who have left the business entirely because of newsroom management and news directors who tear them down and destroy their passion for this job. In my newsroom, that is far from the case.
Diana Castillo is someone anyone would want in their corner and on their team. If you were to make a list of qualities you want in a News Director, she pretty much checks all the boxes. Not only is she highly involved in our newsroom, but she also anchors a newscast daily.
Because of Diana and the way she guides our newsroom, we have a team of great leaders who make our tiny but mighty ship run. Days off and mental health breaks are approved and encouraged. Concerns are heard and while not always fixed, at least acknowledged, and validated. If someone is struggling with a source, a PIO, an angry viewer, you can rest easy knowing she has your back. Trying something new outside of your assigned job duties is encouraged and cheered on.
And if Diana isn’t physically present when you do something great, watch your phone because you will likely see a text or phone call from her!
In November 2020, our team was awarded the Upper-Midwest Emmy Award for Evening Newscast. Our first Emmy award as a station. Ever. While this accomplishment was indeed a team effort and a testament to the hard work we had been doing, I truly believe that had any other person been in the ND’s office, that award would have gone to another station.
Newsroom management matters. Not only newsroom management, but station management, too. We have a wonderful General Manager who makes frequent stops into our newsroom and checks in on our staff and sends emails that will put a smile on your face when you do something spectacular. Our Managing Editor who runs our assignment desk is a godsend and is a source for not only a story idea when you need one, but a good laugh, too. He's a constant ally for each of us and our newsroom suffers the days he isn't there.
Let me repeat myself. Newsroom management MATTERS!
Our team survived the last 18 months of a pandemic because of who was and still is in the “big office.”
If you are in a newsroom where your management isn’t what it should be. Don’t give up on this journey and this business. Don’t let them dampen your fire and passion for this industry. Good newsroom leaders exist and finding them, working with them, is a game-changer. And when you find that leader you connect with and who nurtures your craft, learn everything you can from them.
Diana, if you are reading this, thank you. Thank you for being a mentor, a fighter for your team, and someone we can count on to always have our backs. Without you, I know I wouldn’t be in the position I am today, or maybe even in news, and I can say with confidence that I am far from the only journalist who can say that.
I was born and raised in a small Nebraska town just a few miles outside Sioux City, Iowa. I've had a love for media and journalism for as long as I can remember. I grew up watching the local NBC affiliate and the TODAY Show every morning before school, dreaming of one day being the next Katie Couric.
Years later, I found myself at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa and switched my major from psychology to Mass Communications during my Sophomore year. My very first broadcast experience was coverage of President Barack Obama's Presidential campaign visit to campus in September of 2012 in the blazing late-summer heat. It didn't take long before I found a passion for radio.
I was highly involved in my school's sports broadcasting department, broadcasting football, basketball, baseball/softball and volleyball games for Morningside College. Along with sports broadcasting, I hosted a weekly radio show on KMSC Fusion 93 and also was a contributing writer for the Collegian Reporter. During college I co-hosted and produced a popular NASCAR podcast, interviewing motorsports professionals and discussing the week's hottest topics in the racing industry.
In 2015, I took my first professional job as a Production Assistant and Photographer for the local ABC affiliate in Sioux City, Iowa.
In March of 2016, I moved to the CBS/FOX affiliate in Sioux City, IA as their Digital Content Producer and Weekend News Producer where I remain today. During my time here, I have not only helped evolve our digital presence into a trusted news source within the Siouxland community but have also grown into a dedicated multimedia journalist covering everything from investigations to breaking news. Here at Siouxland News, I truly fell in love with television and the stories we tell. A big part of that is due in part to the constant encouragement, motivation, and inspiration from my News Director, Diana Castillo. Without her, I truly believe I wouldn't be the journalist I am today. I have had opportunities that I never would have had anywhere else and it has been a blessing and honor to share the stories of my hometown and the local community.
Along with my television experience, I have also spent many years as an on-air personality for a local branch of radio stations, including a year-long stint as the morning co-host of a popular top-40 morning radio show.
Throughout college and after, I was a contributing writer for multiple motorsports websites. During that time, I was a featured contributor for the HuffPost and Motorsport.com, covering NASCAR races from area Midwest tracks.
When I am not working or watching a race on TV, you'll often find me with a book in hand and music playing. I love to travel and one of my favorite places in the world is the theater district in New York City.
Coffee is also a permanent extension of my hand. I am rarely without a cup!
Through it all, I am a media junkie at heart. I love the way that the same story can be told in so many different ways. I love knowing that a story can change a life. It still baffles me that the words I write can have a profound impact on someone else and maybe inspire them to make a change. Media is an ever-changing medium and I can't want to learn and grow right along with it.