Angela Tuell 0:05
Welcome to Media in Minutes. This is your host Angela Tuell. This podcast features in-depth interviews with those who report on the world around us. They share everything from their favorite stories to what happened behind the lens and give us a glimpse into their world. From our studio here at Communications Redefined, this is Media in Minutes. Today I'm excited to talk with TV news journalist Stacy Sakai. After nearly 15 years in front of the camera for local TV stations in Maryland, Texas and California, Stacy was recently named news director of KION 5/46, and TELEMUNDO 23, in Monterey County, California. Stacy is an Emmy and Associated Press award winning anchor and reporter, and I was lucky enough to work with her when we were both new TV reporters on the eastern shore of Maryland. Welcome, Stacy, thank you for joining us today.
Stacy Sakai 1:00
Thank you for having me. I'm, it's a pleasure to join you. I it's been a long time since we've actually seen each other.
Angela Tuell 1:08
It has. I don't want to say how long, right?
Stacy Sakai 1:12
Let's not giveaway our ages, but exciting to speak with you now since we started our careers together.
Angela Tuell 1:18
Yeah. So for those who don't know, can you walk us briefly through your career?
So I started in 2002 after graduating from UC San Diego. I started as a reporter, in Salisbury, Maryland. And I spent three months I believe doing that. And then I worked as a morning anchor and in the evening anchor and I really stayed a long time. I was offered so many opportunities. I had the best news director, and I stayed, I believe through 2010. And then I moved on to 2000, in 2011. I moved to Texas, and I became the main anchor at Amarillo for the CBS affiliate, which is a big legacy market there. And I had the most amazing experience. The best news director, the best GM, I've just been so lucky, the best co anchors, the best chief meteorologist. I've just had a really blessed career that I've moved in positions where I've met an amazing colleagues and talent. So from there I then my my son's father and I we moved to Lompoc because he was born.
Stacy Sakai 2:33
Yeah. Lompoc, California. Yep. Because he was in the military, and he was re stationed, and he got a big promotion. And so it was a big deal. And so we moved there. And I was extremely lucky to, you know, I mean, you know, it's very difficult for people in our positions to pick a place and say, I need a job there.
Angela Tuell 2:55
Right. You usually go wherever for the job, not go to a place and then get a job there.
Absolutely, absolutely. So I actually when my agent called me and said that they were offering me a morning anchor position I didn't believe her. Because normally only I've just been more of an evening anchor personality. So I was so happy. I had such a great time there. I spent four years there. And then I got the opportunity. I you know, I think that in this business, and I don't know how you feel about it. But at the age of 40, I decided I really wanted to transition off-air. And that's a difficult transition to make when all you've done is been on-air. I think being in smaller markets, I've always done everything so I could produce, I can be a digital content director, I can be a reporter. So that, I ended up getting a writing job at KTVU in the Bay Area. And I worked with some of the best talent in the country, if not in the world. And for a year I grew so much. I just the time I spent there was just yeah, it was definitely amazing.
Sounds like it. So what are some of your most memorable moments in front of the camera?
You know, I think that we always remember tragedy. We spent in KEYT in Santa Barbara, we spent 36 hours nonstop on-air. The news director was determined that I yeah, it was, we never left. And we were Facebook living everybody. We were asked in trying to answer any questions they had. The Thomas fire was just so intense. And it was one of the biggest wildfires in California's history until something happened up in Northern California. But it was, it was ruthless and it was heart wrenching. And then I and I think that what I remember most, because nobody, maybe actually one person perished in that fire. But the one, the one thing I remember about that event, because we just were doing like 12 hour shifts, and we were just on the desk for four hours, and then we get a break, and then somebody else would come sit up there for us. I just remember, there was a firefighter who died. And I can't remember his last name, but I know his first name is Cory, because that's my brother's name. And he had a wife and a two year old and she was pregnant. And I just thought, you know, that was it for me. Like, it was just one of those moments where people that just go and sacrifice everything for strangers. It just, it just is, I feel like it's why we do what we do. So that was the one of the shows, and one of the events we actually won the Emmy for, was our reporting on the Thomas fire. But it was, it was very draining and on in that I shouldn't even say draining on us because somebody lost her life, but it was emotionally difficult. So following that, once we got out of the Thomas fire, we had the Montecito mudslides, and that's where people actually did die. We lost I believe, 21 people, and that mudslide. And yeah, that was really difficult, because I had been driving from Lompoc to Santa Barbara. And I remember there was this huge flash storm. And it was very difficult to maneuver the car like on the road with all the rain. And I just remember going five miles per hour trying to like get to work. And one of our lead reporters in Santa Barbara John Palminteri, who is one of the greatest reporters ever, he took it upon himself to be out there trying to figure out what was happening because he could see that one of the mansions in Montecito had moved off its foundation. And it was still dark out. Yeah, it was really still dark out when we were on-air and he was going live, I believe it's 5am. And we didn't know until the sun came up exactly what had happened and how bad it was. And that people were literally buried in debris, and that the entire 101 was covered in debris. So, and two people still, two children, not even people, children, some of these babies are still buried or missing.
Oh, my goodness.
Stacy Sakai 7:33
So that's, that's my most memorable.
Angela Tuell 7:35
Yeah. And as a journalist, it's how I mean, you know, we constantly cover those type of stories. I mean, not not always on that scale, depending on what it is. And it's, it's hard, you have to take a step back from it. But then when you when you really have a chance to think about what's going on. It's I mean, you're human and a person, so your emotions are going to affect you. You know, how do you? I mean, it's hard to just keep it together. I'm sure it was.
It is. Yes. I mean, I think I think my son was about two at the time when I was there. And there was a two year old pulled from the mud. And by I believe it was a little girl, but they were pulled by themselves from the mud. And where was the mom? We didn't know. I remember watching a stretcher go by. And I thought, Oh my gosh, do we just show a dead body on-air? Which thank God, that person was still alive. But it was so emotional. All of it was just extremely emotional.
Yeah. Do you have stories that you weren't able to tell that you wanted to?
You know, I I've never been at a station where there's not a story to tell. I think there are, you have to be sensitive about certain stories. But I've never been at a station where I've been under management where you couldn't tell a story. It's just, sometimes it's difficult. No, I've never been anywhere with you when I wasn't allowed to tell the story. But I've definitely have, I've had to do like workarounds, like how can I do this in a sensitive way? That it's evenly balanced? And that's always been sort of my motto. You can tell any story as long as it's fair.
Yes. And you know, that brings me to my next question is there's been a lot of negativity towards journalists in recent years, you know, how have you dealt with that?
I feel we don't deal with it on the local level as much as they do at the national level, because they editorialize so much, and they have commentators.
Stacy Sakai 9:34
So we really don't, we don't do that. What we do, is we go out, and we try and give you both sides. And we feel as if our viewers are intelligent enough, compassionate enough, and have the ability to decide for themselves how they feel about the issue. We're really just telling it, we're telling the news of the day, stories that we believe impact people's lives and matter. And we're just showing up and showing out for it, but we're not trying to end, we're not trying to push anybody in any, any single direction.
Angela Tuell 10:03
Yeah. So you haven't seen any of that national, the feelings towards the national media, or commentators on the local level?
Stacy Sakai 10:12
Yeah, not for us. Yeah, not for us.
Angela Tuell 10:14
That's good. So after nearly 15 years in front of the camera, why did you, you know, you talked a little bit about it, but why did you make that leap to behind it?
I always wanted to be in management, you know. I felt that, yeah, I knew it was gonna come at a certain time, I knew I didn't not want to go, I did not want to be on-air forever. I knew that upfront. And then I wanted to have my own team. I wanted to lead in a news team into something great. And I think we're on our way. We've been doing really well. I started here in November. And I think we're making strides. And we're, we're really, really tight knit group, between Telemundo 23, and KION we all do cross training. So my K, my Telemundo anchors are doing, I just had to stop and come in here and do this interview, because I'm actually cross training my Telemundo anchors to anchor in English. But it's important to me that everyone feels valued. Everyone's happy to be here, because let's face it, we spend so many hours at work. And it is important for me that you are doing something you love. Because let's face it, we know that this job is not in the beginning to pay as well.
Right? Or even farther on sometimes, it does not either.
I know that well, yeah, right, exactly. They make way more than I did when I started. So you know, I want them to be happy. And I want them to be able to experience what they want to experience of the producers report, the inker, I want them to all feel as if they're valued, and that we hear them, you know, that if you want to do this, then you should be allowed to try it. If it doesn't work out for you, then that's something we can have a conversation about. But you know, I have a lot of years of being criticized and having, I mean, constructive criticism, but you know, consultants coming in. And so I feel like I have a lot to give to this talent. And I don't believe that there's anybody in this newsroom that can't do exactly what they want. And I believe in all of them.
But so wonderful. What does your role really encompass? You know, we know the news director's in charge. But what does it really, you know, what do you really do?
A lot of ,a lot of recruiting, a lot of recruiting , a lot of hiring because we have to your contracts. So coming into this job, I came into it with so many people going, I will say this, though, I believe that we are already gaining ground in our reputation, because when it came here, we can't find people to hire. And just because California is so expensive to live. And now someone like the top schools that I've reached out to really have sent me a lot of resumes. I have a lot of resumes on my desk. I'm very happy.
I know that it's some I mean, the my reporting days in Tennessee, I was told that there were 300 applications for the one job that I got. So I know that it really depends where you're at, right?
Stacy Sakai 13:26
Yeah, absolutely. I'm not at that level. Thank goodness.
Angela Tuell 13:31
Right. That's a little too much, right?
Stacy Sakai 13:33
Yeah, yeah, but you see Annenberg and then AASU. Cronkite has been great to us, too. I mean, we we are really looking for the top talent. And then what we're trying to do is when they come in, you know, as you're asking, like what I do on a daily basis is like, we want to nurture talent that comes in and make them top talent and push them out and then gain a reputation for ourselves that we really are a breeding ground for like the best of the best. And we want people to look to our station to know that we are finding the best journalists out there coming out of school. A couple of the people I have coming in now this is going to be they're not coming out of school. This is their second job. And so we really are finding amazing talent, and they want to be here. I mean, it is. It is Monterey, Carmel, Pebble Beach. So it's beautiful Santa Cruz, San Benito County. There is, there are beautiful places here. So I know it's nice. It's just expensive to live in California. And so yeah, so. So during the day, I do try and take time and rewrite scripts a lot because of my experience of KTVU. I'm a pretty fast writer, and I go in and definitely try and do that. To help the new reporters just, and the producers, I go through the rundown and rewrite their stories and just say hey, look at this sentence that's 20 words can be 10, it can be five, it can be four, we can figure out how to make it shorter and more concise. And it's easier to understand on-air. You know, I think that if you ever have to read through a sentence twice, and it's on print, then how does anybody on air understand that the first time. So we do a lot of that. And then, again, just a ton of hiring and, you know, putting out fires, there's obviously sometimes, like, complex. But at the end of the day, I've, the management style I've chosen to take is asking people to come in and squash it, because there's nothing that happens in this workplace, you know, that is that bad that we need to have it overflow to a second day. And, and we all get along really well. We just have a really good team. I have a great Jan, she's definitely the leader, and she helps us figure out, you know, I think everything that happens in a newsroom goes from the top down. And she's fantastic. She's been with this company for 29 years. And so that, I think, says a lot about any professional, just to keep that position for that long.
Angela Tuell 16:17
Yeah, in the TV industry especially.
Stacy Sakai 16:19
Angela Tuell 16:22
What are the things have you learned in the in the past six months being in that role?
Stacy Sakai 16:27
So much, it's so much paperwork. It's so much paperwork, it's so much of just, the management role is different, you know. From going to reading scripts and going on on-air and putting on your makeup and doing your hair. This is so much more just about you building your team, building your brand. Knowing where you want to go forward, because we're always trying to grow bigger and better. And so how do you do that? I think being in a small market for my entire career, I've only been in actually small markets. So I understand that there's a way to build and there's a way that you can try every single thing on air, and it's not going to work. There are ways, there are other ways or backdoor ways to push your product and grow. And so we're doing really exciting stuff with social media, QR codes. We just got our Tic Tok account, which I'm probably too old for.
Angela Tuell 17:30
Have you been on there yet?
Stacy Sakai 17:30
I have. No, I know. I told my boyfriend. I'm like, I'm officially on Tik Tok.
Angela Tuell 17:35
So you're cool now?
Stacy Sakai 17:36
But you know, Yeah. Now, I'm so much cooler. I'm going to tell my son I'm so cool now. He always tells me he's a YouTuber, because he plays video games.
Angela Tuell 17:47
You're really not cool until you're a YouTuber for the kids. Like, that's...
Stacy Sakai 17:51
You're really not cool until you have Twitch. I'm like we'll be getting that next. Yeah, no, but just really exciting stuff with and we have a fantastic promotion person. So we and our digital content director's fantastic. We just have a lot of stuff in the works that I think we're going to keep continuing. We've grown already a lot in every area. We've grown online, we've grown on-air with our product. And so we're just going to continue to push and every single person in this newsroom knows the goal. And they know the trajectory, and they push and push and push. And that's, you know, that's all I can ask for them. And in return, I hope that they feel as if I always hear them, like help them, like achieve their dreams.
Angela Tuell 18:38
Yeah. Are there things you know, now that you wish you would have known when you were in front of the camera?
Stacy Sakai 18:43
Gosh, that's so crazy. Yeah. You know, for me, and I think this is interesting that you asked me that because for me, and you were so different. I think that you were so competent all the time. And I think that you have to like believe in yourself. Yeah.
Angela Tuell 19:04
Yeah. And whether you do or not, you have to make it seem like you do.
Stacy Sakai 19:09
Yeah, yeah. That I mean, that's the one thing you learn, though. And that's the one thing you know, you see people off-air that break down or have a problem. And when you're an on camera person and you've done it for so many years, for 15 years, you realize you don't get to cry, you don't get to have a day off because your boyfriend broke up with you. You know, you have to sit up there. Right? You don't can't miss a deadline. You can sit up there and you can cry during the commercial breaks, which I did and come back on. But I think that what I liked about it was the discipline of the job. And I don't think there's anything I look back and wish I did differently. I enjoyed all my years. I loved the camaraderie with my co-anchors. It's kind of a teammate, you know, yeah.
Angela Tuell 20:00
And then yeah, the meteorologists...
Stacy Sakai 20:02
Sure. oh yeah, 100% especially in Texas. So and even in Santa Barbara now, like, what? Tony Cabrera he's now in LA, but just the camaraderie you have with these people, and then the relationships, it's just you, it's like you go to war every day. So I, there's nothing I look back and wish I could change. Because I don't think that you're already under scrutiny in certain markets. I don't think I could take the scrutiny of big markets where, say you have 7 million people watching you and making comments. Right, you know, I you got to be you have to be thick skinned. skinned. Yes. Yeah. And, yeah. And so and, you know, my, my skin is only so thick. And I did it for a long time. And I truly enjoyed it. And Texas was my favorite place. To be honest, the people were so fantastic there. And that's where my son was born. So he's a Texan, I can proudly say, he has cowboy boots.
Angela Tuell 21:10
He's an adorable little boy, by the way.
Stacy Sakai 21:13
Thank you. Same with your kids. Yeah. No, that was, that was a great experience for me. So, and I'm still very close with all of them. You know, I keep in touch with pretty much everybody I've worked with, like, Look at us. I mean,
Angela Tuell 21:29
It's really a second family. I mean, it's hard to describe unless you're in it. But you definitely spend so much time together and working together as a team, even though you're doing your own stories, that it really becomes that it's sure. Yeah, a special place.
Stacy Sakai 21:44
Angela Tuell 21:45
So I'm sure a ton of PR professionals, which is the site I'm on now, if it reached out to you and your team, you know, all the time, what gets your attention?
Stacy Sakai 21:55
So I would say with PR the one biggest mistake for anybody is it has to be, here's it has to be timely, right? It has to be localized. And it can't be like long press releases. Right? And, and I feel as if everyone wants to send emails, and we delete them, like it's nothing. Phone calls, that personal connection still matters. You know, I think that's I think that's missed, and I don't understand why everybody's reverted to just emailing. Because when you call us, we're going to pay way more attention to you than if you email us. So. So for me, I'm just that personal interaction, and, you know, talking to them and getting the story from them and deciding if it works for our brand, if it works for our viewers. That's different than just getting these mass emails.
Angela Tuell 22:50
Right. I know, it's just like, you can just delete it with a click of a button over and over again. I do tell a lot of clients that that we don't write news releases for the media anymore. We write them if you need it for a website, or to be on the same wavelength/thought, you know, to make sure that we have all the talking points together. But that is not what the media wants to hear. So I'm glad to hear that from you, as well.
Stacy Sakai 23:16
Yeah, no 100%, you know, because so many of them will send it and they'll send it again and again and again. And if they had called and had a conversation, maybe there's a way that we could say, oh, how does this relate to our, you know, our area? Does this affect our viewers, but so many times it seems it is it does not. And I think it's the way that it's written as well. You know, for news we write very short and concise. I don't think I write sentences that are more than like, 10 words ever. I just, I don't. And I think that I think you're exactly right. It's the personal connection.
Angela Tuell 23:56
Yeah. Do you do a lot of them call and reach out to you or just to the newsroom in general?
Stacy Sakai 24:01
No, they don't. No, they never do. No, they don't. We don't get any calls really. We only get emails. Yeah, I can't remember the last time when we've gotten a call from somebody that was in PR. I mean, we we work with hospitals, you know, and they say the Monterey Bay Aquarium or we have the Pro Am Tour here in Pebble Beach. Like Yes, then we know those PR people and they're basically PIOs. So we do speak with them, you know, all the fire officials, police officials, things of that nature. But no, I wouldn't say PR people call us. I've never received one. Yeah. And unless they're looking for video for something from us, and that's just like generally something that's like, you know, NPR, or public.
Angela Tuell 24:54
Right. Yeah. Well, that's a great tip. So I do have to talk about, before we go, we have to talk horses.
Stacy Sakai 25:02
Yeah. Let's do it.
Angela Tuell 25:02
Because I remember your love for horses. And you were doing a question team in college and have owned horses, and now you have the cutest little rider I've ever seen, your son. Do you still ride?
Stacy Sakai 25:19
So I've ridden a couple of times. But, uh, you know, I rode for, God, since I was 12 till I was 32. So I rode for like, 20 years hardcore. And, and then it's just, as an athlete, you break down. So, yeah.
Angela Tuell 25:40
Once you hit that 40 mark, right? We don't know that yet. But I always say,
Stacy Sakai 25:45
Oh, I'm 42. You know, it was definitely the 28 mark, that I realized, like I fell off and I and I, my back was just spasming. And I just thought, Oh, you don't bounce anymore.
Angela Tuell 25:57
You know, no, no, bird.
Unknown Speaker 25:58
Yeah, no, I've taken bad falls. And I'm like, Oh, no, anymore. Got it. Yeah. Now I'm an adult. And I that's not a thing. But yeah, so I've done a couple of I still do a couple lessons once. I mean, I also ride, I do trail rides. And I did a couple jumps a few months ago, but pretty retired. Just as on TV, I'm pretty retired from the jumping world. But Jackson still continues to ride and he's very naturally talented in the sense that it's very important when you're on a horse that you're relaxed and quiet. And I feel as if I moved too much all the time, because I'm just a fidgety person anyway. And he is, he just sits there like a block. And so the horses react really well to him. Animals react really well to him. He's actually, when we go to the barn. All he wants to do is like sit with the cat. He doesn't want to get on the horse.
Angela Tuell 26:58
And he's, he's four now, five?
Stacy Sakai 27:01
He's five and a half. I know, he's getting...
Angela Tuell 27:05
I know time flies.
Stacy Sakai 27:08
I know when I when I look at your baby. I'm just like, wow, that's your baby anymore.
Angela Tuell 27:13
Right? It's like how did that happen? My daughter's doing horseback riding lessons as well. She started eight and has been doing them for about a year, I guess now at this point. But
Stacy Sakai 27:24
Yeah, my son rides at Spring Down in Portola Valley. And it was really nice during the pandemic, because everything was so closed off that we were able to have that outlet. I started training there. And so he got to come to camp with me. It was during a time where everybody was stuck inside. And nobody was being able to do anything. And he got to spend five weeks at camp. So I can't say enough about that Equestrian Center. They are so good. And so kind. And yeah, we did a lot of fun stuff there.
Angela Tuell 27:57
What does he do on the horse and the horses?
Stacy Sakai 27:59
So he just he walks and trots. And then he does, one of the things in camp is we do a lot of games. At the end, we do red light, green light, we do playing through combs, and just a lot of the horse care. Yeah, and care of the horses. And just being kind, you know, I always tell them, I say, you can use your voice before you use your legs, and you can use your legs before you use your heels. You need to think about how you would want to be treated and Jackson's very, very kind. And he's very good about that. I remember when somebody told him, Hey, kick her and say let's go. And he's like, that's my baby.
Angela Tuell 28:44
Amazing advice in life, too. If we can all follow that it would be, it would be a much better world.
Stacy Sakai 28:53
Right? Yeah, I just know that I never with my horses, even my craziest horse that like I think for the first year I got her with like rear buck, hop, spin and get me off. She never stepped on me. And I was like, I think that's because I gave her like five pounds of carrots before I got on. But I'll never know for sure.
Angela Tuell 29:14
She wouldn't get any more if she stepped on you.
Stacy Sakai 29:18
She's like, I'm gonna get her off but I'm gonna go ahead and like not step on her head.
Angela Tuell 29:24
That's great. Oh, my goodness. Stacy it was so wonderful to talk with you. Thank you so much.
Stacy Sakai 29:29
You as well. Of course. Thank you for this great opportunity. Appreciate it.
Angela Tuell 29:47
That's all for this episode of Media in Minutes, a podcast by Communications Redefined, available anywhere you get your podcasts. You can find more at CommunicationsRedefined.com/podcast. I'm your host, Angela Tuell. Talk to you next time.
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