Talking Shop with Journalist and News Reporter Alex Burch

I loved college.

I loved the independence, the learning, the home I created at the base of the mountains. I also formed some incredible friendships with so many people I love and admire.

Alex Burch is one of those people. As coworkers at the Marriott Business School Alumni Magazine, Alex and I bonded over our love for the Portuguese language, our passion for journalism, and our diehard allegiance to Beyonce.

I admire so many things about Alex. She’s hardworking, confident, smart, funny, and kind. I loved sharing those afternoons in the office together, learning from her example.

Now, Alex is a big, hot-shot news reporter at KATV in Little Rock. NBD. On today’s Talking Shop, Alex tells us about her journey to broadcast journalism, the most memorable experiences she’s had while reporting, and what the day of a news reporter looks like.

Everyone, meet Alex!

Tell us a little about yourself.

HI! I’m a television news reporter for the ABC affiliate in Little Rock, Arkansas. I’m originally from Minnesota, so I’m a northern girl living in the south. The winters are much nicer here.

How did you get your start in news reporting?

I went to college with no idea what I wanted to study. But I knew I loved to write and tell stories. I kind of just fell into Broadcast Journalism because the classes seemed exciting to me. I lucked out because I loved it! I put together what we call a “reporter reel,” which is a video montage of several on-camera reports. I sent it out to dozens of news stations across the country and got a job offer at a CBS affiliate in Eastern Washington. It was a really small market, and I did everything as a one-woman band. I was my own photographer, editor –everything. 

What have been some of your most memorable reporting experiences?

My most memorable experiences are when I feel like my reporting makes a difference. I once did a story about the shortage of foster homes for kids in Washington. I found out agencies were putting kids up in hotels because they had nowhere else to place them. I did a special report on the shortage, and the next day the agency told me they’d received dozens of calls from people hoping to sign up.

More recently, I broke the news that a former high school athletics volunteer had been arrested for sexual assault. I pushed the school district to tell me if they had done a background check on the man, and they avoided the question. I had to file a public information request to discover they never vetted him. It looked like he had received special treatment because he was married to the athletic director. When I can hold those in power accountable on behalf of victims and vulnerable people, I feel like I’m doing my job right.

There was also the time I was about to go live from an active wildfire. Minutes before the live shot a firetruck came rushing towards us. They were yelling for us to pack up and get out of there immediately. We rushed in our car and sped away as the flames came right up next to the road. We could feel the heat inside the car. We were terrified, but we managed to get to a safe spot and do the live report anyway. I won’t be forgetting that anytime soon. 

What are the biggest lessons you’re learning in your broadcast career?

Everyone has a story. Listen. 

You don’t have to have a big title or place of authority to make a difference in your community. Grassroots groups and everyday activists may not have positions of power, but if their strike or rally is leading the evening news–people pay attention. I also have a pretty strong “BS detector” now. I’ll just leave it at that. 🙂 

What advice would you give to budding reporters and journalists?

The most important thing you can do is report accurately. Fact check always and be deserving of your community’s trust. It can be a really competitive and stressful industry, so get a mentor. And a therapist. I would also tell them to not give up! You can and will find a job. 

What is one thing people might not know about behind-the-scenes reporting?

I think people would be surprised by how quickly we work! Sometimes I’m pulling up to a breaking news scene and I have ten minutes to gather the information before going on live television. It’s wild! 

What is your process for finding, covering, and reporting a news story?

Every morning I dig for story ideas online. I search through community groups, Facebook pages, check with sources. I try not to write or plan the story too much in my head before I do the interviews. Sometimes what someone says will completely change the direction of the story. I take a mental note of the most memorable moments and soundbites, and build the story around those.

What particular topics interest you?

I’m the education reporter at my station. I love featuring innovative programs schools do to help kids learn and shine a light on where schools need to improve. 
I also love reporting on women’s issues and stories that have happy endings.

Do you deal with on-camera nerves? How you combat anxiety or fear in your job?

Yes! My “on-camera presence” did not come naturally. It took MANY (probably hundreds) of live shots to get to where I am today. At the start of my career, I had some pretty shaky and stumbly moments on live TV. It’s not for the faint of heart. But every shot I did, I got a little more comfortable. For me, it just took time. 

I wish fear and anxiety wasn’t a part of my job, but it is. Sometimes we get to crime scenes or breaking news before police do. Sometimes we’re pressured to knock on doors where there’s been a homicide, or where there could be a killer on the loose. I’ve had to learn to just say no when I don’t feel safe. 

Describe what a typical day is like for you.

There is no typical day, which is what I love most! I go into work usually not knowing where I’ll be going or who I’ll be talking to that day. I start the day at a meeting where we pitch stories and get assignments for the day. From there I’m making calls and setting up shoots and interviews. I go out with a photographer and gather all the elements. Then I write! If I have time, I’ll eat. When my script is approved, it gets sent to an editor who puts it all together. In the meantime I’m tweeting and working on a web version of the story. And then there’s usually a frantic 30 minutes before the show where I’m brushing my hair and throwing makeup on. 

Favorite things to do in Little Rock?

My husband and I love to hike. Our favorite hikes have been up in the Ozark Mountains and on Petite Jean Mountain. 

Your latest Hulu/Netflix binge?

Schitt’s Creek. Sooo funny.

Your favorite meal?

Brazilian churrasco.

The last song you had stuck in your head?

“Jumper” by Third Eye Blind LOL.

A hidden talent you have?

I can touch my tongue to my nose.

Find Alex on Twitter here, and on Facebook here. Follow her station’s news here.

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