Posts Tagged ‘Mark Wiggins’
As my subscribers know because of an inadvertent early post of a rough draft last week, after much consideration your humble proprietor has decided to close down the Listening Post. It’s been fun and I’m happy that some of you liked it and found it worthwhile, but it’s time to move on.
Writing the blog has become too much like a job, an unpaid job at that. To do this blog right means spending way too many hours in research, handling technical problems, developing relationships and writing several posts a week, not to mention watching lots of local TV news. I’ll do that anyway, but I would rather be free to watch what I want, when I want.
One of the reasons I started the blog was my belief that the Austin American-Statesman was not doing a very good job covering Austin TV news. Its media reporter/blogger has his hands more than full covering radio, retail and various and sundry other business and city desk stories. I know times are tough in newspapering, but I hope his editors will give the guy time to do some original reporting and in-depth analysis on the local TV news scene. I haven’t even been trying to compete with the Statesman, but I have consistently beaten them to stories they should have had. That’s no great credit to me, but it should be a concern to the Statesman. I fear it is not.
With that, I thank all of you who have read this blog regularly over the past 17 months and wish you news junkies happy viewing. I’m sure I’ll continue to have some thoughts on the local TV news scene on Twitter, so please follow me @billrr.
Ranking the Newscasts and On-Air Professionals
Before I go, a number of you have asked me from time to time to offer my opinion on Austin’s best newscast, best anchors, reporters, etc. I have refrained from doing so because I felt it would taint various stories I might write. I did not want to appear to be coming down on the side of those I had identified as my favorites or criticizing those I had left off my lists. Now, with no future stories to write and with 2013 upon us, it seems like the appropriate time to do a report card.
These choices are just my personal opinion, based on what I have seen on the air. I have no axes to grind or personal vendettas or anything like that to influence these choices. Almost everyone in Austin TV has treated me wonderfully and I am truly grateful.
For all of you who did not make my lists, I am in no way saying you are bad or that I do not like your work. I simply chose my favorites and in many cases it was a very close call between making the list and just missing.
Judging TV newscasts and TV news talent is a very subjective topic, and I’m sure most of you would choose differently if you put together similar lists. No rights or wrongs here, just differences of opinion. I’ll leave the site up for awhile so that those of you who feel strongly can comment on this post and make your case for why anchor “X” or weatherperson “Y” should have made my list. Please, no obscenities, especially about me.
I based my opinion purely on journalism and on-air performance over the long haul–those I think have the best chances for success in TV news for the foreseeable future.
Best Overall News Coverage
1. KVUE (Tie)
1. KXAN (Tie)
Comment–OK, I punted on the big one. Sorry, couldn’t choose between them.
Best on-set team
1. Tyler Sieswerda, Terri Gruca, Mark Murray, Mike Barnes, KVUE Prime Time
2. Robert Hadlock, Leslie Rhode, Jim Spencer, Roger Wallace, KXAN Prime Time
3. Bryan Mays, Yvonne Nava, Albert Ramon, KVUE Mornings
4. Brian Sanders, Sally Hernandez, Mark Monstrola, Amanda Dugan, KXAN Mornings
5. Greg Kerr, Katherine Kisiel, Keri Bellacosa, Zach Shields, FOX 7 Mornings
Comment–These are the teams that both deliver professional newscasts while also seeming to genuinely enjoy each other’s company. They are comfortable with each other and as a result, we are comfortable watching them.
Best Male Anchor
1. Tyler Sieswerda, KVUE Prime Time
2. Robert Hadlock, KXAN Prime Time
3. David Scott, KXAN Weekends
4. Mike Warren, FOX 7 Prime Time
5. Robert Maxwell, KXAN/KNVA Prime Time
Comment—While for me, Sieswerda is the best, KXAN seems to have cornered the market on male anchors. I could have added that station’s Brian Sanders, but I elected to put him on my top up-and-comers list (below) as he begins new duties on the KXAN weekday morning team.
Best Female Anchor
1. Katherine Stolp, KEYE Weekends
2. Sally Hernandez, KXAN Mornings
3. Yvonne Nava, KVUE Mornings
4. Terri Gruca, KVUE Prime Time
5. Leslie Rhode, KXAN Prime Time
6. Shannon Wolfson, KXAN/KNVA Prime Time
Comment–I have ranked three “secondary” anchors ahead of the prime time stars. For me, Stolp, Hernandez and Nava are essentially tied for first. Because of families and ties to Austin, I’m assuming Hernandez, Nava, Gruca and Rhode will be around for awhile, which is good. Wolfson has already announced she will be leaving in March in search of greener pastures and I fully expect Stolp to land a better job in a bigger market at some point, if she chooses. Still, this is her hometown, so we may keep her, too.
1. Jim Spencer, KXAN Prime Time
2. Mark Murray, KVUE Prime Time
3. Scott Fisher, FOX 7 Prime Time
4. Burton Fitzsimmons, YNN Mornings
5. Zach Shields, FOX 7 Mornings
Comment–Spencer and Murray are tied for first in my opinion, and obviously Troy Kimmel would have made it a three-way tie had he remained at KEYE. This is probably Austin’s strongest category and we will be blessed indeed if these gentlemen continue in their roles.
1. Dave Cody, FOX 7
2. Roger Wallace, KXAN
3. Bob Ballou, KEYE
4. Mike Barnes, KVUE
5. Ricky Doyle, YNN
Comment–Again, tough call. Veterans all who seem to love Austin sports. We are the winners.
Best Male Reporter—Non-Regular Anchor
1. Chris Willis, KXAN
2. Chris Sadeghi, KXAN
3. Mark Wiggins, KVUE
4. Rudi Koski, FOX 7
5. Jim Swift, KXAN
6. Shelton Green, KVUE
Comment–For day-to-day, on-the-street coverage of any story, Sadeghi is the best in this market. You can argue that Willis does not belong here since he was a long time anchor and still fills occasionally on the desk, but as KXAN’s chief investigative reporter, he has assumed that role as his main job. He has become the face of KXAN’s branding efforts with frequent on-air promotions. You can also argue that Swift is more a story teller than a regular news reporter, but that’s quibbling. I love his work and it’s my blog.
Best Female Reporter—Non-Anchor
1. Heather Kovar, KVUE
2. Jessica Holloway, KVUE
3. Noelle Newton, FOX 7
4. Erin Cargile, KXAN
5. Jessica Vess, KVUE
6. Karen Kiley, KEYE
Comment–These women all do a good job. Kovar’s experience shows. Holloway has brought a real skill to sensitive interviews.
Up and Comers to Keep an Eye On
1. Brian Sanders, KXAN anchor
2. Mark Monstrola, KXAN meteorologist
3. Angie Beavin, KXAN reporter
4. Amanda Dugan, KXAN traffic
5. Shawn Clynch, KVUE sportscaster
6. Adam Bennett, KEYE reporter
Comment–I guess there’s not too much doubt about which station I think has a bright future.
For a weathercaster, it’s a tornado. For a sports reporter, it’s the Super Bowl. But for a political reporter, it’s a year like this one that gets the juices flowing.
With presidential, senatorial, mayoral and a slew of other races making news, KVUE-TV’s Mark Wiggins, 29, and KXAN-TV’s Josh Hinkle, 31, are relishing every minute. As their stations’ political reporters, they must stay on top of happenings on the political scene.
Mark Wiggins traces his interest in politics to his childhood visiting his grandparents’ Beaumont house where his large extended family, sometimes 30 people, crammed into the kitchen.
“We had a family of outspoken people, engaged in the community,” Wiggins said. “I spent a significant part of my life listening to them chewing the fat and talking politics.”
Wiggins says an aunt used to work at the Beaumont Enterprise and a neighbor across the street was a columnist, lending a lot of journalistic influence to the scene.
After several family moves, Wiggins graduated from Stephen F. Austin High School in the Houston suburb of Fort Bend and then earned a journalism degree from the University of Houston. He interned at Houston’s KTRK-TV, but failing to land a TV job after his 2005 college graduation began a radio career at several Houston stations, including co-hosting the morning show at KTBZ alternative rock.
“It wasn’t news, but it taught me the powerful role of media and the importance of the personal connection between broadcaster and audience,” Wiggins said.
In 2009, he landed his first TV job at KRHD-TV in College Station where he covered the contentious race between Bill Flores and Chet Edwards for Texas’ 17th Congressional District seat.
He then moved on in 2010 to KXXV-TV, Waco, where he anchored the weekend Texas Report and covered everything from commissioners courts in 17 counties to the Texas Legislature.
“I saw that the things I was covering affected everyone, even people who didn’t know they were affected,” Wiggins said. “That’s where the hook really set and I realized politics is what I want to do.”
When the political reporter slot opened up at KVUE last year, Wiggins says he resolved to do everything he could to win the job. Win it he did, moving down from Waco in September 2011.
Aside from a big story or a staffing emergency, Wiggins covers politics fulltime for KVUE and he says he reflects a lot on his stories and whether he could have done them better.
“Covering politics is like covering sports with a win or lose motif,” Wiggins said. “But this is not a game. These are real issues with real effects on people. It is incumbent on us to get out of play-by-play and talk about the issues.”
Wiggins calls Austin a great city for politics and says people are really into this year’s election, especially the presidential race.
“They are paying attention and that makes it exciting to cover,” Wiggins said. “Our coverage has to meet their expectations.”
Wiggins says he is “fierce” about making sure that his personal views stay out of his stories.
“The most important thing each day is making sure what we are doing adds value,” Wiggins said. “Every day, our viewers give me two minutes of their time. I want to make a positive impact on their understanding.”
Wiggins praises both the commitment of his station to political coverage and the cooperation among all the stations of the Belo Broadcasting chain. He traveled to New Hampshire for that state’s presidential primary, while co-anchor Tyler Sieswerda covered the Iowa caucuses and co-anchor Terry Gruca interviewed President Obama in Washington during March. KVUE and Belo also hosted the only live televised U.S. Senate debate in Texas on April 13 in Dallas, with Sieswerda as a panelist.
“Our news director, Frank Volpicella, and general manager, Patti Smith, have been very liberal providing the funds for us to travel to cover big political stories, for which I am very appreciative,” Wiggins said.
KXAN’s Josh Hinkle came to political reporting quite a bit later than Wiggins. The native Oklahoman took pre-law courses as an undergraduate at Oklahoma State University, but was still not sure what career to pursue.
He decided on broadcast journalism and went to the University of Missouri’s famed journalism school for his master’s degree, with an eye toward getting on the air. He became the capitol reporter for the university’s station, KOMU-TV, and also anchored and produced. He added a job as graduate teaching assistant in political radio broadcasting, working from KMOX Radio’s Capitol Bureau in Jefferson City, and on the academic side, wrote his master’s thesis on civic journalism.
After graduation, Hinkle hooked on at KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he anchored and reported. He was just in time for the 2008 Iowa caucuses where he interviewed such luminaries as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and was bitten by the political reporting bug.
With an uncle here in Austin and a love for the city, Hinkle landed a job at KXAN in the spring of 2009. Parent company Lin Broadcasting was experimenting with multi-platform journalists, so Hinkle became a one-man band, reporting and shooting videotape in the station’s Marble Falls-based Hill Country bureau for the first eight months of his tenure.
When capital correspondent and political reporter Jenny Hoff left KXAN in late 2010, Hinkle took over the political beat.
“During the legislative session, I devoted 100 percent of my time to politics,” Hinkle said. “I like the capitol press corps. Everybody was cordial and helpful.”
This year, Hinkle has covered the presidential runs of Governor Rick Perry and Rep. Ron Paul, traveling to Iowa to cover the caucuses.
“It was interesting to see how each week brought a new frontrunner to celebrity status, only to have them slip the following week,” Hinkle said.
With KXAN’s current reporter shortage and Governor Perry’s withdrawal from the presidential race, Hinkle is doing a bit fewer political stories.
“I’m filling in on the city beat as well until we hire someone for that position,” Hinkle said. “That’s given me a chance to cover local politics, especially campaigns and bond items, and I moderated a mayoral candidate forum for Leadership Austin.”
Hinkle is proud of his station’s heavy online reporting commitment on a special site, “OnPolitix.com,” which includes a Hinkle blog and streaming video.
“It’s impressive that so many people here at the station are interested in politics,” Hinkle said. “News Director Michael Fabac has championed political coverage. John Moritz, formerly political reporter of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is our digital executive producer. I knew him at the capitol before he came to us.”
Hinkle’s political reporting brought three Texas Associated Press Broadcasting awards to KXAN, including first place in the Reporter of the Year category, a second place in Beat Reporting (Political) and an honorable mention for Continuing Coverage (Texas House Ghost Voting).