Jennifer Seeker-Conroy knew she wanted to work in TV news after shadowing an anchor while in high school. Her interest in television took her from her home state of Wisconsin to the University of Missouri. Upon graduating from Missouri she headed off to Sioux City, Iowa, and interestingly enough found her husband Tim working at a competing station. She is currently living out her dream as an anchor at the KDRV station in Medford, Oregon.
CCB: When did you realize you wanted to work in television?
JSC: I realized I wanted to pursue TV news in high school. I had always enjoyed writing and television, and one day a friend of mine mentioned it as a possible career for herself, and something just clicked in my mind.
CCB: Did you envision yourself becoming an anchor?
JSC: I did envision myself in that role. I started as a reporter and worked my way up to being the primary anchor. I do miss reporting though. You get more of a chance to be out and about and meet people. I hope a future job will combine the two.
CCB: Have you been able to use any of the knowledge you acquired in your schooling at the University of Missouri on the job? If so, please explain.
JSC: I have used a ton of what I learned at the University of Missouri. I chose that college because of its strong journalism school. It provides students the chance to work at an NBC affiliate that the university owns. It’s the only college in the country that can offer that opportunity. I felt like I really knew what a reporter did, so I was very prepared for my first day on the job.
CCB: Can you talk about how you went about landing your first job?
JSC: I got my first job by listing my resume on medialine.com. TVjobs.com is another place for people looking for television jobs to publish their resume. Both sites also have job listings. I also sent my resume tape and paper resume to places across the country. You can't be very picky for that first job. The news director at the time at KCAU in Sioux City, Iowa, saw my resume on the website. He also went to the University of Missouri, so that helped. He gave me a call and set up an interview.
CCB: What is a typical day on the job as an anchor?
JSC: I work from 2:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. When I get in at 2:30, I start reading over the 5:00 and 6:00 shows. Then I have to choose some stories for the 11:00 p.m. news. I also produce that show. I pick the stories that will be included in the newscast, write the show, and work with the editor to choose video for the stories. During the show I keep track of time so that we fill exactly the time our newscast is allowed. During the afternoon, I have to write several teases for the different shows that try to attract viewers to watch.
Then I anchor the 5:00 and 6:00 news. I take a quick dinner break and then produce the 11:00. I look over local and national wires, and see what ABC and CNN are offering their local affiliates. I also listen to the scanner and decide whether we need to send a reporter or photographer to any breaking news. News releases also come in the form of faxes or emails, so I check those often. At 11:30 I get to go home for the day.
CCB: Please give a brief overview of your TV career so far.
JSC: I started in television at the University of Missouri. They had an NBC affiliate at which students worked. My first job after college was at KCAU in Sioux City, Iowa. I was a reporter five days a week including weekends. I became weekend anchor after about four months in Sioux City. After two and a half years at KCAU, I took a job as morning anchor/producer at KDRV in Medford, Oregon. I wanted a full-time anchoring job to really hone my skills. A few months after I started, the station added a midday show, so I became morning anchor and midday anchor/producer. Then about six months after I first came to KDRV I was promoted to 5, 6, and 11 anchor when the former anchor left the position. I have been doing my current job for about six months.
CCB: Have you had any mentors in your career?
JSC: I have not had a mentor that I exclusively turn to for advice, but I have tried to build up a sort of network of people I can contact. Good places to start are professors, managers and co-workers. The main anchor at my first job gave me a lot of tips, and I check in periodically with old professors and former news directors.
CCB: How did you go about learning to be an anchor? Apart from your college schooling was a lot of the learning on the fly as you went?
JSC: It was always something that fascinated me and I first got an up close look when I shadowed a news reporter/anchor while I was in high school. Then during college I did several internships. That’s really the best way to see what a working newsroom is really like. I recommend interning in a smaller market at least once. That way you can actually get your hands on the equipment and even create something that will run in a newscast. Most larger stations are union shops and you won’t be able to use cameras, editors etc.
CCB: What makes a quality anchor?
JSC: Quality anchors can speak clearly and pleasantly. They know a little bit about a lot of things and can think on their feet. They must be able to adlib effortlessly and be genuine and likeable. I think the best anchors are ones who know many other roles in the newsroom like producing, anchoring, writing, and editing. That way they are credible and respected in the newsroom.
CCB: Have any advice for people interested in becoming a news anchor?
JSC: I would suggest reporting first or at least report and anchor. If you start at solely anchoring you might have a hard time finding a job later and your experience will be very limited. Practice reading all the time and try to read naturally, not how you think a news anchor should read. Record yourself reading and critique yourself because that is the only way to improve. Try to relax and be yourself on the desk. Seek out advice and criticism. Try to pretend like you are telling the stories to one person like your mother, not reading from a screen. Overall, it’s a great job, and I can’t imagine doing anything else, but people considering the career should see it for what it really is, not the glamorous image they might have in mind.
CCB: How did it feel the first time you were live on air?
JSC: I honestly felt like I was going to pee my pants! I was so nervous. My news director was producing the show and he kept talking in my ear, telling me I was reading way too quickly. It was very nerve-racking and at that point I could never imagine feeling comfortable on set. But after you do it everyday for a few months, it becomes second nature.
CCB: Would you say your anchoring has become better since you started? What differences have you noticed?
JSC: I would say my anchoring has become much better. You improve so much in the first few months. At first you are so awkward and nervous, and you try to read like you think an “anchorperson” is supposed to read. But, eventually you learn to be natural and read as if you are talking to just one other person. I am still working on my adlibbing and I try to get more comfortable every day.
CCB: What is the most difficult part of your job?
JSC: The trying parts of the job are the stress, the hours, and working holidays. It can be depressing working Christmas morning and not being with your family. You also have to be willing to move often and go a long way for your job. My husband and I have moved to Iowa and Oregon, far away from family, to pursue our careers.
CCB: People would be surprised to learn what about your job?
JSC: People tend to believe that TV news is a lot more glamorous than it is. Especially in smaller cities, it can be decidedly unglamorous. Our reporters shoot all their own video, so they are lugging heavy equipment around all day. Also, most people in TV news don’t make a lot of money. You start out very low. I’ve heard of people making $14,000 in their first job, with a college degree. On the opposite end, some people really do hit it big and pull in six or seven figures. But, just because you are on TV, you are not necessarily rich, famous, and glamorous. The exact opposite is often true.
CCB: What has been the coolest thing about the job so far?
JSC: It is a fun job over all. Some days can be so exciting like when a large fire is burning close by or The President comes to town. During those times you get such an adrenaline surge. I have done some stories that people have emailed and said touched them in some way or made them donate to a cause or try something new. That is such a great feeling.
My favorite story I ever did was about a man who was in a lawnmower accident and needed more than 200 units of blood to live. His heart actually stopped twice! It was such a touching story and the blood bank said it got many donations based just on my story. It’s hard to compare experiences like that to any other career.
CCB: Did the man involved in the lawnmower accident survive?
JSC: The man did survive, but only because of all those blood donations. So, it was a neat story.
CCB: What are your career aspirations and do they extend beyond the news?
JSC: I would like to be an anchor/reporter in a larger city. I love Medford, but I miss the feel of a bigger town. I would love to make just one or two more moves and then settle down for good. It’s hard to uproot your entire life every few years. I would love to eventually be a morning anchor and reporter somewhere warm and sunny.
CCB: Can you compare anchoring to any other activity?
JSC: You are a journalist like a newspaper reporter, and yet there is still the aspect of entertainment attached. So, it is a very unique career. I would say like an actor and newspaper reporter rolled into one. You have to be able to present your stories well or people will never hear what you’re trying to say.
CCB: Being in a city like Sioux City, Iowa, and now Medford, Oregon, does the news always have that communal feel to it?
JSC: It always tries to. In smaller cities, there is less local news to cover, so we often include a lot of national news. But, people are getting their local sports and weather as well, and seeing you on their streets and hearing you talk about their hometowns, so it is definitely a more local feel than national newscasts.
CCB: Are there anchors that you look up to, that are at the top of their game?
JSC: I think Peter Jennings is so smooth and professional. He always sounds like he is just talking to you and telling you the news of the day. I also admire Lesley Stahl for her ambition in a male-dominated profession when she was rising through the ranks. Additionally, I think Matt Lauer is an excellent interviewer.
CCB: What can you learn from watching the anchors that you admire?
JSC: The anchors I admire are respected and poised. I learn from watching their interviews because they ask thoughtful questions. In their anchoring they are natural and present themselves very intelligently. I think watching other anchors and reporters is a great way to improve and get ideas. I also watch local news when I visit other cities.
CCB: Have you felt that you have had to work harder as a female in the news medium? Is it a male dominated field?
JSC: It used to be a male dominated field, and still is at the top, but now more and more women are coming out of journalism schools. You still only see men in the three network anchor positions and in many of the top reporting positions, but women are definitely gaining ground. It is extremely competitive for young women now because they seem to be a dime a dozen. I often feel like I have to prove myself though as a young female anchor. I feel like I need to show that I am intelligent and know what I am talking about and am not just a college coed reading the news.
CCB: What is it like working at the same station as your spouse?
JSC: My husband is an anchor/ reporter at the station where I work. When we met, we worked at two different stations. It was very difficult to get two on-air positions in the business. He actually got out of the business for a while, but missed it and got back in. It was strange for me at first because it seemed weird for him to be hanging out at my job and talking to my co-workers. But, now it is just second nature, and I am glad I get to see him more often than a lot of people see their spouses. We only overlap for about four hours though, so we get time to ourselves as well. It is nice having someone who really understands the pressures of your job and can help and advise you. We also got to go to LA together for a story, so that’s a plus.