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Haltiwanger tuned in to what TV audience wants

Thu, Jul 12, 2012

One on One

Liz Haltiwanger works in the fast-paced world of TV Journalism.

But you’re not likely to find her in front of the camera. At 31 years old, she is news director for KKTV 11 news, the local CBS affiliate.

So, while you might have never seen her, you’ve probably seen her work.

She makes the call about what’s news and what’s not.

Apparently she’s making the right calls. KKTV has won several awards from various television and broadcasting trade associations. But the station stood out during the Waldo Canyon fire, jumping into 24-hour nonstop coverage ahead of its competitors.

Haltiwanger took some time this week to talk to the Business Journal about her job and recent news.

What are your responsibilities as news director? How long have you been with KKTV?

As news director, I am responsible for the staffing, budget and strategic direction of our newsroom. I have been news director for four years and have been with KKTV for eight.

Is it typical for a person your age to hold the position of news director? What have been your biggest career breaks?

It’s not typical, but not unheard of for someone my age to hold the position. I’ve been very fortunate to work for a company that believes in promoting from within and helping employees grow to meet their goals.

How did you approach coverage of the Waldo Canyon fire? How will it change your approach to everyday news coverage in the future?

We approached our coverage of this fire as we’ve always approached breaking news. Get on the air, and get online, fast. Be accurate, be safe, but be aggressive. Think about what our community needs to know now, and what it will need to know next. In this case, those questions were easy to answer because many staff members, who were continuing to work, were personally affected. Our chief photographer lost his home. Several others had their homes burglarized.

Moving forward, as we approach everyday news coverage, we will continue to put ourselves in the position of our viewers. What do they need to know? How can we help them get answers? That’s ultimately why all of us have chosen this profession.

Media today are often accused of having a “liberal bias.” How do you respond to that criticism, and how do you combat it professionally?

I can’t speak for any other newsrooms, nationally or locally. But I do know we have quite a mix of backgrounds and opinions here. We talk things out quite often to make sure we are covering all sides. And we depend on our viewers to let us know if they perceive a bias. It’s entirely inappropriate for a local television news department to carry a political agenda.

Challenges to the business of print journalism these days are apparent with dozens of newspapers closing and cutting staff. Is TV journalism facing similar challenges?

We, too, have seen the competitive landscape changing, even over the past five years. We are working fast to evolve as our viewers’ needs evolve. If they want questions answered on Facebook, we answer them on Facebook. If they want to watch our newscasts on their iPhones, we provide a mobile stream. If we allow ourselves to get stuck in a “this is the way it’s always been done” mentality, we risk extinction.

What advice do you have for young professionals embarking on a career in Colorado Springs?

There’s no substitute for hard work.

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