Just over a year ago, Kim Christiansen was named the latest lead anchor of KUSA following the retirement of Adele Arakawa.
Some wondered if she would be able to maintain the station's ratings supremacy, which dates back to the 1970s?
Turns out she could. But, she still stays very modest and incredibly honest.
She talked to Westword about the past year in the big chair.
When you learned that Adele Arakawa was going to retire, were you immediately interested in stepping into her place, or was there some convincing that needed to be done?
To be really honest, I didn't think I had a chance. I suspected they were doing a long-term search, which I think they did. I don't know; I'm not privy to that information. But I really didn't think I had a chance. I knew I was the longtime person here, and that's it. I'm the Colorado girl who's still here. But I didn't know if they'd consider me. I was pretty surprised; I was shocked, actually. I know this newsroom is really respected around the country, and anytime a job opens up here, people are eager to apply and get their name out and pursue it, or have their agent pursue it. And I don't have one.
When you were chosen as the lead anchor, and over the time you've been in that role, what vision have you had about what you want 9News to be today?
To say that I was intimidated would be an understatement, just because of my respect for Adele. And I also know that Adele and I have two very different styles. I was completely intimidated when I first started — and I still am some days.
I feel like we're at a really interesting time. One of the things that makes this place special is that we're always trying new things, and I feel like we've been ahead of the curve on a lot of things. For years, people have said, "Newsrooms are shrinking and we've got to evolve. We've got to build the web team" — and everybody scoffed. But we did it, and all of a sudden, the website became hugely popular. So then it was like, "We've got to build social media, we need to have reporters who can shoot, write and edit. We need to have photographers who can also be reporters." And that didn't happen in a lot of newsrooms — especially large city newsrooms. It was viewed with some disdain by a lot of folks. But we said, "We're trying it. We're doing it anyway." It was the same with Next [with Kyle Clark].
In my heart, I didn't know if people would want me to do the ten o'clock news, because I am that person who wears her emotions on her sleeve sometimes. I have teared up on TV. I also do an afternoon newscast where you can do goofy stuff here and there. So I was concerned about that. But management was really supportive. They said, "All we want you to do is be authentic. Just be you. Be you every day." So I'm getting there, reducing some of the fear. And I'm also gratified that I get to go out and cover the stories I care about — and I've really been trying to flex new muscles in doing those stories. Not doing only certain things. But I'm also trying to remember that I can only be the Kim that people know. And if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. We have an outstanding team of journalists here. They brought me up, and if they decide, "You know what, Kim? We're ready to move on," I'm good with that. It's been a great run. I've been so blessed.
Who else can write that story? Okay, you grew up in Arvada, you go to the University of Colorado, you study journalism, you work behind the scenes, you evolve into your dream job, and you're still there thirty-something years later. Nobody writes that storyline. If somebody had told me that story in college, I would have said, "No, you're crazy."
I think we really need to stay close to the audience. We need to stay true to the audience and evolve with what the audience needs and wants, and being the one they go to. The one where they say, "I'm going to tune into the news tonight or I'm going to go onto the website or I'm going to go onto the Facebook page or Twitter, and I'm going to see what these people have to say."
Full Interview at Westword