10 Questions with ... Jenna Kochenauer
November 11, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Started out as a news stringer for a news/talk station in my hometown of Tri-Cities, Wash., then weaseled my way into a TV reporter gig at KEPR-TV, also in the Tri-Cities. Moved to Oregon to try my hand at advertising and PR before being drawn back into radio at KAGO and KLAD in Klamath Falls, Ore. Once I married, my now-ex wouldnâ€™t allow me to work in radio in any capacity, so I went back to marketing before starting a family. As soon as the divorce process started, I headed right back to radio, like a moth to a flame, getting a job as an anchor at WORD/WYRD in Greenville, SC.
1. First, the usual opener: How and why did you get into radio in the first place?
I was a home-schooled high school senior taking a radio/television production class at a local vocational school, when my instructor sent me to the local radio news station to talk them about a stringer position they were hiring for. So, at 17 years old, I was covering local civic meetings, writing and voicing news stories for the morning news show. By 19 I had migrated to the TV station next door, and by 22, I was news director for stations in Southern Oregon. After taking many years off to raise a family, I found myself in Greenville, SC, harassing the Program Director for a chance to get my foot back in the door, and Iâ€™ve been here ever since. In the meantime, Iâ€™ve also started doing news remotely for the stations I worked for in Oregon, as well as a group of stations in Texas.
2. In a similar vein, you went into radio and TV news from the beginning (and really young at that) -- what drew you to doing news in particular? And as a veteran radio news person, are you optimistic about radio's place in the news industry moving forward -- what role will radio news play in the a competitive media landscape?
I had never even considered news as a career option. I was going to be an actress! But when I look back on my childhood, I have very vivid memories of sitting in front of a fireplace pretending that I was inside a TV while I read Goldilocks and the Three Bears as breaking news, and watching Connie Chung on the evening news and trying to mimic her. My mom always said I was nosy. I donâ€™t think she realized I could make a career out of it!
Radio will always have a place in the news industry. Itâ€™s going to evolve and change as technology and the means of accessing it changes, but itâ€™s too vital a medium to be cast aside entirely. Radio was for decades what text and push alerts are today, the most immediate source of news and information, especially in an emergency. Thatâ€™s one of the things I love about radio over televisionâ€”the accessibility and availability on both sides of the transmission. I can walk into a radio studio as one solitary person and do a breaking news story. I canâ€™t do that with television.
3. You've been doing remote newscasts for other markets for the last year or so -- describe the process. How do you acclimate yourself to a market in another area of the country? How do you get the pronunciations right and the stories prioritized?
Right now I do news for stations in Oregon and Texas, in addition to working at the station in South Carolina. Itâ€™s pretty similar to doing news locally, you get on press release distribution lists and scour the â€˜net for story ideas. The only major difference is that I get to do news in my PJs from the comfort of my home. The Oregon station is easyâ€”I used to live in Klamath Falls, and worked at the station in real life many years ago, so I know the market and whatâ€™s important to listeners there, and know how to pronounce the names of towns and streets. In Texas, itâ€™s a little different. There was a politician whose name I wasnâ€™t sure how to pronounce, so I called her office. Even though it was 3 am local time, the outgoing message stated her name so I was able to get the pronunciation that way. Calling the non-emergency number for the local dispatch center is another good way to get pronunciations, and the morning show guys are very responsive to texts in a pinch.
I read blogs and other news agencies in the community to get an idea of what are the hot-button news stories for those communities. But the best way to find out what interests the community is facebook. I hunt for community forums and follow those, and participate as well. Listeners know Iâ€™m hanging out there, and theyâ€™ll tag me in posts if they think something would make a good news story or if someone has a question that they think I can help them get an answer to.
4. You write a fitness column for a local paper, too -- how did that, and your interest in fitness, come about?
Several years ago I participated in a Biggest Loser program that a radio station here runs every year, and I really embraced it. I never realized that unathletic little olâ€™ me could actually change the composition of my body. So my interest in fitness came from being not fit. I started a blog, NotSoFitGirl.com, and it was brought to the attention to the editor of a local parenting magazine, who offered me a monthly column on family fitness. Iâ€™m still a not-so-fit girl, and the crazy hours Iâ€™m working make it difficult to be as fit as I would like to be, but itâ€™s certainly something I enjoy.
5. You've lived all over the country; before Greenville-Spartanburg, what was your favorite place to live and why?
I love Oregon, and will always consider it home. Most of my extended family is in the Pacific Northwest, and I miss being at Aunt Maryâ€™s farm on Thanksgiving. I think there is something about every town Iâ€™ve lived in that has something thatâ€™s my favorite. Greenville is probably my overall favorite. Itâ€™s such a beautiful city, and there is never a shortage of things to do. If my siblings were closer, Iâ€™d plan to stay here pretty much forever.
6. Of what are you most proud?
Recently I spoke to a the broadcast writing class at a local college and part of my story is about my experience escaping from an abusive relationship. Afterward a student came up to me with tears in her eyes and said that she was also recovering from domestic abuse, and she was inspired by my story. Being a domestic abuse survivor is not an experience I wanted, and itâ€™s an experience I wish I didnâ€™t have, but I know that sharing my story with women has given others courage to change their circumstances., and thatâ€™s an awesome and humbling experience.
7. Who are your mentors, influences, and heroes?
When I was a teenager working late nights covering news stories, there would be about 15 minutes between the time my dad got home from work, and I had to leave for work. Every afternoon, Iâ€™d be in the bathroom putting the finishing touches on my hair and make-up and I would hear my dad run down the stairs, two at a time, to spend those few minutes asking me about what stories I had covered the night before, and what stories I would be covering that night. He has always been my biggest fan, and heâ€™s the first person I turn to when I need advice. More recently, a talk show host at WORD, Russ Cassell, was a great influence. Listeners would call in asking questions and heâ€™d declare, â€œWeâ€™ll get Jenna on that!â€ He was never one to give an empty compliment, and he said some of the nicest things to me about my skills as an anchor and as a journalist. He just recently passed away very unexpectedly. I hope that I can live up to his expectations.
8. What do you do for fun?
LOL! Iâ€™m a single mom with three boys and three jobs. What is this â€œfunâ€ you speak of? At this point in life, itâ€™s all about my tweedles (kids), doing things they enjoy. I have fun watching them have fun.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _______________.
...coffee, prayer, and hugging my tweedles.
10. What's the best advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
Best: The tragedy in life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it. It was a quote my dad gave me, not sure where it originated.
Worst: Canâ€™t think of any bad advice Iâ€™ve received. Generally Iâ€™m pretty good at coming up with the stupid stuff all on my own.