10 Questions with ... Sheryl Worsley
November 6, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
While attending the University of Utah in 1999, KSL TV brought me on as an intern. I was hired to the Assignment Desk before I graduated school. I originally wanted to be a TV reporter, but the path to reporting seemed quicker and more likely on radio. When KSL Newsradio had an open position, I jumped. I havenâ€™t looked back. I moved from reporter to producer to managing editor to my current position. I have fun every day.
1. How did you get into radio? Why radio?
See above. Radio was the quicker gate to reporting, so that got me in the door. I love radio because it is instant, unscripted and electric. The deadlines are constant. I like nothing better than covering breaking news and being very satisfied because you know you achieved great radio.
2. You've been at KSL for more than a decade; what, if anything, has changed the most since you got there?
When I started, there were still reel-to-reels in the building (people actually still physically "cut tape") and my first recording device was a cassette recorder. We are now fully digital and moving towards doing most of our work on smart phones. We used to carry bags of gear, heavy ones. Technology is taking us a long way. We are also being asked to do more. Budget cuts and the demands of a digital world mean reporters file for radio and also take pictures and video and write copy for our website, ksl.com. KSL radio reporters are also doing live hits for TV much more frequently.
3. How do you define your job as News Director? What's the day-to-day like for you -- what occupies your day?
Find news. Assign news. Listen to news. Analyze how news can be better. Itâ€™s really that simple but much bigger. I am constantly looking for ways to make things easier for a stretched reporter, because, letâ€™s face it, my reporters are MMJs. I am also looking ahead to trends in mobile, web and social media because people are changing the way they consume news. We frankly need to be everywhere they are going to get their information and doing it better than anyone else. At the same time, what comes out of your car speaker better be something people want to stay with, because they can get news in so many places.
4. You've covered a lot of stories (and won awards doing it) in your time at KSL; what one story stands out as the most memorable or impactful?
The kidnapping and, nine months later, return of Elizabeth Smart. The narrative stretched for years and had national implications. It taught me lessons about big coverage I wonâ€™t soon forget.
5. How have social media impacted what you do in the newsroom? Do you pay attention to, say, what's trending on Twitter? Do you use social media as a newsgathering tool or more to distribute the news yourself?
Social media is part of our daily operation. We use it both for newsgathering as well as interaction and distribution of news. Radio is much more a personal medium in that people invite you into their homes and cars. If we do our jobs right, people feel connected to our news hosts and personalities. Social media is much the same way. Listeners can get a â€˜behind the scenesâ€™ glimpse at the lives of the people behind the microphone on Twitter or Facebook and have a great opportunity to interact. We let people know about the news stories we are covering in tweets and posts and they respond with tips and comments back. It helps them feel like they are a part of what we are doing every day and drives loyalty on both social media and the radio too.
I do watch what is trending and look for reasons behind why that particular item might be trending. Itâ€™s fun when a KSL hashtag trends. KSL is committed to social media. We hired a Social Media Director about a year ago.
6. Of what are you most proud?
I am proud of my team and the way they take care of each other. The anchors to reporters to board ops and engineering staff are all looking to do the best job they can and trying to make sure no one is hung out to dry from shift to shift. They are quick learners and are professional. We have thrown several changes at this team in the last year with a more challenging news clock, larger news hole and earlier deadlines. They havenâ€™t skipped a beat. Add the requirements of social media, website and TV on top of their regular job and their plates are very full. They accomplish it all with grace. They are also very good at what they do. Creative, smart people. I am lucky to work with them.
7. Who do you consider your mentors and inspirations in radio and in life?
Russ Hill gave me my first radio job and taught me the fundamentals of news. He was tough and some would say too tough, but I never un-learned the lessons about quality and natural sound. Kevin LaRue (KSLâ€™s current PD) is a great writer, and I have also learned much about conversational writing and storytelling from him. In life, my grandmother has been a big inspiration to me. She was widowed in her 30s in 1961 and worked hard the remainder of her life, yet I never once heard her complain. I like to think I work as hard. I know I complain more. She was a great, independent woman.
8. You currently serve as the President of the Utah chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As such, and with your recent fight to get a state agency to release the name of a teen accident victim that had been withheld, do you sense that the public or people in government and politics have less or more respect for the news media these days? Do you think that people still hold journalism in high regard or has partisanship and the explosion of online news sources led to a dilution of that respect?
The number of voices willing to be critical of the news media and convey information and opinion has increased many-fold. That means alternate voices willing to attack journalism, if journalism presents a different reality than the one they are putting forward, are getting louder and bolder. I am not saying that is a bad thing, it just is unprecedented. Good journalism speaks for itself and reveals truth. Journalists should not fear non-traditional media â€“ bloggers or opinion broadcasters certainly have a place. We should be welcoming critical thought -- it helps us up our game. What is frightening is that government entities are deciding journalists (and by default everyone else in the public) shouldnâ€™t be allowed to know what is going on. More government agencies are blocking access to records which are by law open to the people. A big concern is that the cutback in resources in newsrooms around the country might mean news outlets canâ€™t fight for access as much because there are fewer people and dollars with which to do the fighting. Government agencies seem to be blocking access more frequently. Whether thatâ€™s because the public has less respect for the media, I am not sure. I am sure that if we sit back and let it happen, we will have ourselves to blame. The result will be more of the peopleâ€™s work being done in secret behind closed doors. We canâ€™t let it happen.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without __________.
â€¦swearing. Or Diet Mountain Dew. If I have one, I might not do the other.
10. What's the best advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
Best: Donâ€™t pet the sweaty stuff. Also, donâ€™t sweat the petty stuff.
Worst: If things arenâ€™t happening for you, just lie low. Yeah, that never works for me.