© Zach Dalin Photography // www.zachdalin.com
Currently, Laura Hettiger starts her day as the the traffic reporter for KMOV “News 4 This Morning” in St. Louis. After her shift on “News 4 This Morning,” she co-hosts the mid-morning lifestyle show “Great Day St. Louis.” SchoolJournalism.org recently connected with Laura for a quick Q and A session to share with our readers.
SJ: When and how were you bit by the journalism bug?
Laura: “Growing up in a very small town, when my family would go clothes shopping, we would be gone all day. As a 7-year-old, I hated everything about it. To pass the time, I would go into the men’s shoe department, pull out the shoe tree, put tissue paper on the end to form a microphone and interview people shopping about what they bought, if they found any deals, etc. For as long as I can remember, I have been a reporter. I love meeting new people, learning new things and experiencing life through their eyes.”
SJ: Where was your first professional journalism job and how did you land it?
Laura: “I started my professional journalism career when I was in seventh grade. The editor of my hometown newspaper asked me to write a weekly column on the happenings at my junior high school. My column was called ‘The Paw Print.’ A nod to our town’s mascot and ‘print’ for print journalism. I was paid $0.39 an inch. I kept the column until I graduated from junior high and continued to write for the paper throughout high school.”
SJ: Looking back on your career, which story or series of stories do you feel is your best work?
Laura: “My life changed in every way imaginable because of what happened in Ferguson. I grew as a person and a journalist. My job was to cover the fallout from the events in Ferguson: the protests, the riots, the looting, the changes. I won my first Emmy award for my reporting during one of the protests that carried over into the naming of the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown.”
Here is a link to protest coverage. Also, here is a link to the fallout after the Grand Jury announcement.
SJ: What should high school journalism teachers be doing for their students to help prepare them for a career in this field?
Laura: “High school journalism teachers should have their students out reporting. Every day, there is a chance to tell a story. If a student knows he or she wants to go into broadcasting, get that student in front of a camera early and often. Give students current events quizzes. At all times, a journalist should be able to tell you the big story of the day: in town, in the state, in the United States and in the world.”
SJ: What should high school students be doing for themselves to better prepare them for a career in journalism?
“Read, read, read. Watch, watch, watch. Learn, learn, learn. If someone wants to be a journalist, he or she must be surrounded by it. Hopeful journalists must also be curious and willing to learn new things. I hated economics in college. Today, I understand the importance in economics when it comes to world news and how money is moved through the United States. As a working journalist, you will tell different stories every single day. You must have a general understanding of the law, weather, education systems, economics, politics, health and even entertainment.”
SJ: What is one piece of advice you’d like to share with our student readers?
“Remember that every single person you come into contact with has a story. Never judge someone based on how that person looks, thinks, speaks or feels. That person still has a story and it is your job to tell it.”