Diane Sawyer wasn’t built in a day.
It takes a lot of hard work in a competitive industry to become a network TV news anchor. A lot of them get their start in local stations, like Kelsey Peck. The 26-year-old landed a job as a morning TV anchor in Panama City, Florida—at the age of 24.
We talked to her about how she started her career, landing her job as an anchor and being a public figure in the world of social media critics.
Feather Magazine: When did you know you wanted to be a TV reporter?
Kelsey Peck: It was in fifth grade I knew for sure I wanted to be on the news.
Despite my super shy personality, awkward smile, and tie-dyed purple head band, I wanted to one day be in the elements, and on the desk.
I’ve always had a passion for weather and originally dreamt about chasing tornadoes and getting knocked down by wind on live TV. We make fun of Jim Cantore, but weather nerds can’t help but be weather nerds.
I realized becoming a reporter let me do both – tell story but also be in the elements – and even cover weather related stories (and the math needed to do journalism was less intense than meteorology).
What work did you do to get the experience you needed?
In college, I did the early morning radio news as well took advanced TV classes. UF j-school offered such a hands on program with a lot of resources that I feel led me to successfully landing a job before I even graduated.
What was your perception of being a full-time reporter like versus the reality?
My professors said it would be long hours, but I think I was surprised to see just how consuming the job really is. After you’re done going on air, you then post the story online because we’re in an age that the online story is just as important, if not more important, than the newscast. Since writing for TV is not the same as AP style, this becomes more of a process. This is truly a job too where your work follows you home as you’re constantly curious about what’s going on. Sometimes sources tip you off at any time as well, regardless if you’re on the clock or not.
How did you move from a dayside reporter to become a morning live reporter?
Hardwork and passion gets you through each day on the job. This industry isn’t easy. You work 12 hour days and get paid for 8. And the pay you get for 8 is rough. You just have to immerse yourself in your story that day and make it count.
When management approached me about the Morning Show reporter position, I didn’t even hesitate. See, working in news you’ll find your nitch.
I realized mine is feature reporting—the feel good, or “that’s just too cool” stories. The morning show gig was right up my alley and I figured I could grow as a reporter too since all of this would be live, on the spot, reporting.
How did you go from the live reporter job to a TV anchor?
Don’t mean to repeat myself but again it’s dedication, hard work, and passion. I always strived to do my best and I think management saw that. In addition to reporting, I offered to learn how to produce the morning show.
Showing initiative goes a long way.
What are the duties of your current position?
I come in at 4 a.m., and look over the entire show. I try to skim and read through most scripts, find and correct any errors, and familiarize myself with the mornings material.
I also try and assist our producer with anything she made need help with. Our morning show is a true example of teamwork and I love how well we all work together.
What’s been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
Not being able to please everyone. Viewers can be so critical—so you have to remind yourself that “you can’t please everyone and you won’t.”
Being a part of this industry, people are always gonna have something to say and it’s not always going to be nice. You have to brush it off and have a thick skin (which is easier said then done).
What’s been the biggest reward of your career so far?
The people you meet along the way. When I was reporting on a daily basis, I got to meet someone new almost every day or make good lasting relationships with the town officials. You meet so many different types of people who come from all walks of life and unfortunately, sometimes the entire reason why you’re interviewing them in the first place is because of something tragic that’s happened.
It always feels good though to help pay tribute to a life taken too soon or just show an issue that could prevent others from suffering from.
Each of these people make an impact on you—some of whom I still talk to today.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to follow the same career path?
As long as the passion is there, you’ll be fine. The days are long but as long as your passionate, you’ll leave work feeling proud of the story you just told. And when the going gets rough, because it will, just remind yourself why you’re doing this.