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Fifteen Minutes with KRCR TV's Kelli SaamPhoto by Bret Christensen Job/Title: Morning News Anchor KRCR Newschannel 7
Personal: Husband: Jerry Olenyn; children, Jeremy, 11, and Ryan, 7
Tell us how you got into the news business: I started working as an intern at WLNS, the CBS affiliate in Lansing, Mich., then I worked part-time at the station while finishing my degree at Michigan State University. Upon graduation, I started working at WLNS full-time, and soon I was anchoring the weekend news. I was just out of college and covering major stories every day, from labor negotiations at General Motors to political debates at the Michigan state capital.
When you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up? It sounds cliché, but I always wanted to be a television reporter. As a little girl, I always watched the nightly news with my parents. Before long, I was writing for my local newspaper and working at our local radio station while I was in high school.
Tell us about the Emmy that you won. I won a Southeast Regional Emmy award while I was working in Nashville (WKRN). I was recognized for a story I reported about a loyal dog named Nikki. The springer spaniel would follow her master (a 6-year-old boy) to school every day. The dog had to run eight miles behind the bus to get to school, then chase the bus eight miles back home at the end of the day. The story elicited response from across the country.
What’s the best part about being a TV news anchor? I enjoy helping people through the stories we produce. We can reach so many people and make a difference in their lives. I’m constantly amazed by the giving nature of people in the North State. When we put the word out that someone needs help after a disaster or tragedy, there is never a shortage of people who step forward to assist.
How do you always look so good on TV? Don’t TV people have bad hair days like the rest of us? Ha! I always put a lot of emphasis on content, but no matter how good a script may be, sometimes an anchor’s appearance is what people notice first. My goal is to remember to put mascara on both eyes each morning, and make sure my hair isn’t sticking out the side of my head. Fortunately, we have great production people who let me know if I’ve forgotten to button my jacket or if my hair is sticking straight up. Believe me, if I make a bad wardrobe choice, the audience will let me know.
What is the most life-changing story you’ve ever done? I still remember the first multiple-fatality accident I went to as a young reporter. I shot video of the crashed cars. But then I noticed the personal possessions thrown from the vehicles. There were shoes, articles of clothing and children’s toys. I went back to the news car and cried, a lot. It was a chilling reminder that news stories are all about people. Ever since then, I never forget that each story we cover affects families.
What’s one thing you wish people knew about TV news? All of my colleagues stay late, come in early and work weekends. It’s definitely not a 9-to-5 job. When you see video of breaking news from overnight, there’s a good chance someone got out of bed in the middle of the night to bring you the story.
If you could be the host of any show on television, today or in history, what would it be? I would like to host a news magazine like 20/20 or Dateline. If I couldn’t host one of those, I would probably want to host “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” I try to learn at least one new fact every day.
How has news changed since you started your career? When I started in television, we didn’t use the internet. Photographers had to lug around much heavier equipment. We used to have to shoot video on large tapes; now we shoot on tiny data cards.
Favorite place to escape from reality? I go to the movies. For those two hours inside the theater, the whole world is put on hold. My husband and I have our own family Oscar game. We go to see all the nominated films and then cast our ballots at home. Whoever wins gets their name engraved on our family Oscar trophy and gets to pick which movies we see for the next year. What’s the best part about working with your husband? He understands the ups and downs of the news business. He understands the shorthand language. He’s also a great sounding board; he can offer advice because he’s been in my shoes before.
What’s the worst part about working with your husband? It’s difficult not to take work home with us. The truth is, our kids don’t care what happened at work, they just want dinner and help with their homework. Our children are the top priority.
What do you love most about the North State? People really want to make their community better. I am also always inspired by the breathtaking natural beauty. I grew up in Illinois, so I didn’t see a mountain until I was in my 20s. I never tire of looking up at the foothills and mountains and giving thanks each day to live in such a beautiful place.
What’s your favorite thing to do as a family? We are huge baseball and football fans. When we’re not watching, we’re out at the park throwing batting practice to the boys. I must admit, I have a pretty good fastball for a mom.