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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Kristen Walthers

Class of 2002, Bachelor's

I am the 11 o’clock anchor for KTVN in Reno.  On-air job… LIVE EXPERIENCE.  Often times, live shots are required, but who will give you the opportunity to do it?  That’s where knowing your potential comes into play.  I knew I wanted to start my professional journalism career in my hometown, but they wanted to see me live first.  So, I called the News Director and said, “Give me a chance.  I’ll move home (from L.A.) and freelance for you to prove I’m qualified for the job.” That one live shot, led to a General Assignment Reporter job, then to the Weekend Anchor spot.  After three short months in that position our lead anchor went on maternity leave… then voila!  I filled in as lead anchor for three months and shortly after that, management created an 11 o’clock co-anchor position in which I was hired.  It’s the best of both worlds because I can still report for the 5 and 6:30 shows.


What are the top three skills journalism students should learn in college?:

1) Write to video
2) Look for a different way to tell the same story everyone else is reporting
3) Be yourself on camera

What were your duties at ATVN? :

Anchor, Reporter, Photographer, Writer, Editor

How did ATVN prepare you for your career?:

I learned how to be quick and accurate.  It’s funny, in journalism classes, you’re often given a week to complete a package.  That, of course, isn’t the case in a working newsroom.  Just like ATVN, I usually have less than two hours to put a clear and concise story together, before presenting it live to our community.  I think experience under deadline is the best way to prepare you for this business.

List any additional major(s) or minor(s) you had at USC. What impact have they had on your career?:

Toni Guinyard’s Reporting class:  Among all the great advice, she said the best way to prepare for breaking news is to look around and describe whatever you see.  She said, if you’re riding a bus, tell me what’s going on: what’s the driver wearing, who’s humming, what do you see outside the windows?  Bottom line, in breaking news situations, when you have very little information to go on, be the eyes and ears for your viewer.  Don’t make up the news… just tell us what’s going on.

What is your advice to aspiring journalists?:

Know what you are reporting!  I can’t tell you how many times the prompter goes out or a SOT runs instead of your VO.  In these scenarios… especially when you’re live… you need to be able to improvise.  A skill that separates a good reporter from a great reporter is being able to recover, even in the worst situations.

What should graduates keep in mind when negotiating their first job?:

I can tell you from experience, after three separate rounds of negotiating, it’s tough.  It’s difficult because you’re just excited about getting your break in the business.  I knew I was green and had quite a bit to learn so I didn’t hold out when it came to money.  I just figured it was a privilege to get the job.  While that may be true, REMEMBER: If they make you an offer, they want you as much as you want them.  Know your worth!

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