Making Journalism (Her)story: Kelley Tuthill
Kelley Tuthill is an award-winning investigative reporter for Boston television’s WCVB-5 News Network. With a career covering everything from the Red Sox’s victory at the World Series to the arrest of the FBI’s most wanted fugitive, Kelley has seen it all in her 20-plus-year career as a journalist (since high school!). After being diagnosed with breast cancer at only 36 and with two young daughters, she made the decision to share her story with viewers and offered an honest look into her treatment for and recovery from the disease. Currently, she continues to report for WCVB, covering stories with a great deal of poise, intelligence, and curiosity. Julia Hunter and Hillary Johns, editorial assistants at Teen Voices, interviewed Kelley to get her story about her career in journalism and her many challenges and triumphs along the way. Read on to get to know one of Boston’s most highly acclaimed reporters!
Teen Voices (TV): How did you get into journalism? What attracted you to TV news?
Kelley Tuthill (KT): I had a great journalism teacher in high school, and he lit the fire. I was lucky to have a class that taught journalism at that age, and he was so enthusiastic about journalism and so supportive; I loved the class. I started to work at the high school newspaper and that started it all. It’s never so much that I wanted to be on TV—it’s that I wanted to be a reporter, and I loved telling stories and uncovering information.
TV: When did you start at WCVB?
KT: I started there in 1998.
TV: And how do you feel you’ve changed over the years working at that network?
KT: It’s been great. I’ve learned a lot. Every day that I do my job here in the Boston area is an education. I go out and cover a variety of stories. For some of them, I know ahead of time what I’m walking into, and other times it’s blind, and I get a whole education on why a pipe burst or why somebody’s out of jail instead of serving a sentence, or how scientists uncover information about new diseases. Every day I go out and really learn about the world through my work at Channel 5. So I’ve learned a lot in 14 years!
TV: What has been your favorite story that you’ve covered?
KT: Probably the Red Sox winning the World Series. That was a lot of fun! We cover a lot of grim news, so it’s just great when you get to cover something happy, and that was incredibly happy for the whole region, for all of New England.
TV: As a woman in the media, how much pressure do you feel to look a certain way on screen?
KT: I think a lot of that is that you have to be comfortable with yourself. If you’re comfortable with yourself, then I think people will be comfortable with you. I don’t spend a ton of time worrying about how I look. I don’t feel being in television news is a beauty contest. I think that looks is a part of what you do, but it’s just one part. I think the viewers are much more interested in what I have to say than what I look like.
TV: Do you feel you get treated any differently than men that are in similar positions?
KT: The truth is that broadcasting in 2012 is woman dominated. It didn’t always used to be that way. It’s actually easier for a guy to get a job than it is for a woman because they need men in the business. I do think that one disadvantage of being a woman on television is that people do judge you more harshly on your looks than they do for men. It’s not uncommon to see men working on television until they’re 70; it’s less common for women to do that. There’s a lot more judgment about how a woman looks as she ages than there is for men. But I look around and in this market, there are still women working into their 60’s, and I think that’s great for all of us.
TV: Can you tell us a little bit about how your battle with breast cancer changed your life?
KT: Well, it changed everything. When you get a diagnosis of cancer in your 30’s, you have to rethink things. It’s not that I’m pessimistic about the future, it’s just that I don’t take it for granted. I live now, and I live fully now—that’s the big thing.
TV: How did you make the decision to have news cameras follow you throughout your treatment journey?
KT: It wasn’t that hard a decision. This is what I do; this is my comfort zone. So to be able to include the viewers as part of that experience made me actually feel braver and more normal because the hardest thing for me was being sick. To be able to work and to do something with this experience was actually a very positive thing for me and for a lot of other people who followed the story. So I had no regrets about it whatsoever.
TV: What is the most exciting part of your job as a reporter?
KT: I think it’s that every day is different. You don’t come in and think, “Oh, boy, I have to do the same thing I did yesterday.” Being out in the world learning new things and meeting new people is really exciting
TV: As a woman in the media and a woman with two daughters, how do feel that your career and life have set an example for them?
KT: Some days it sets a good example and some days not so much—that’s just the way it is! I don’t think that it’s about “having it all,” but about doing the best you can and making the best decisions for your family that you can. And it isn’t always perfect, but they know that I’m doing a job that I love. They know that I love them to death. They know they’re the priority in my life. And somehow it all comes together. You do your best. Perfection’s definitely not the goal.
TV: Do you think that they will end up going into journalism of some sort because of your career?
KT: They can do whatever they want. I think that if there’s one thing that I’ve always tried to teach them, it’s that you can do whatever you want. And that you set your goals high, but it’s going to take a lot of work to get there. With that lesson, they can do anything. They can be doctors or lawyers or they can be stay-at-home moms. They can make whatever choices they want to make. That’s the example I want to set for them.
TV: What are your plans for your future as a journalist?
KT: I think it’s just to continue to fight to do quality work and to respect the viewers’ intelligence. Not everything is about the superficial, celebrity-driven stuff. My goal is to uphold WCVB’s reputation. People like Channel 5 because it’s a reliable source of information in our community. That’s a big responsibility, and I take that seriously. My goal is that that doesn’t get forgotten, ever.
TV: For teenage girls who are interested in journalism, what’s one piece of advice that you would give them? Is there anything you wish you had known starting out?
KT: Read a lot. I think you become a good writer by being a good reader. There are so many choices today about where you can get your news, so be informed. Read anything you can, whether it’s on the internet, in magazines, or newspapers. By becoming a good reader and a regular reader, you can work on being a great writer. That’s the basis for any journalist, whether you want to be on television or if you want to write. Those skills can take you to a lot of different places.
TV: While you’ve been working, there has been this big switch from print to digital sources like twitter. How do you feel about that?
KT: There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. There were the days when we had three channels, but now we have cable and the internet. I think that’s good for the public because, like I said, there is no reason not to be informed. There’s a lot of opportunity for people who want to produce news and there’s a lot of opportunity for people who want to consume news and that’s good.
TV: What would you say the most challenging aspect of your job is?
KT: News is 24/7. There’s news on Christmas, news on the Fourth of July, and you never know what’s going to happen. That’s challenging. It’s not a 9-5, Monday through Friday job. It’s the furthest thing from it, and that can be challenging at times. It’s hard when you have a family.
TV: You mentioned that since this is a 24/7 job, you never know what’s going to happen. Have you ever had an embarrassing moment on screen?
KT: I’m sure there have been lots. I remember once I was live in Chatham—I walked into the sand, took off my shoes, and walked right into dog excrement. I shot with my foot in it because the camera had already started [rolling] by the time I had walked into it. I had to get through the whole live shot before I could walk down to the beach and clean myself off!
TV: Is there one accomplishment that you’re most proud of?
KT: Being married and staying married, and having two beautiful children, those are my greatest accomplishments. I had a woman whose doctor came to me, and all she wanted was to be reunited with her parents before she died. I worked to get homeland security to allow her parents to come from China. To provide comfort to somebody who is terminally ill like that ranks up there as one of the greatest things I have been a part of. That was an incredible moment, and I was there when her parents came. To be able to use the power of the television station to do something so good was rewarding.
TV: Do you have any last piece of advice for young people?
KT: When I was a young person, someone lit a fire in me that journalism sounded cool. And it is a hard field to break into, there’s no doubt about it. I didn’t know any journalists, but I knew it was something I cared about and was passionate about. If you are lucky enough to know what you want to do, go for it. It may not ultimately work, but at least you tried. And for me it worked out and it’s been a great journey. You can’t be discouraged if something is hard; you have to find a way.
For more information about Kelley Tuthill, click here.
Photo courtesy of WVCB
Leave a Response