It’s not unusual for local TV news personalities to work at the same station for 20 or more years. But news directors, not so much. It helps if you’ve worked your way up.
Change is endemic in local TV television. Owners come and go, as do department heads, branding slogans and sometimes even the call letters. So, having a stable staff in front of and behind the camera bucks the system and should be celebrated. That stability is often a hallmark of success.
It’s not unusual for TV news and sports anchors, meteorologists and reporters to work at the same TV station for 20 or more years. But news directors, not so much.
The average tenure of a local news director is 5.1 years, according to Bob Papper, RTDNA researcher and adjunct professor at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School.
Shauna Ziegler has spent 20 years working in the newsroom at KFOX, Sinclair’s Fox affiliate in El Paso, Texas, for the last 10 years as news director.
Ziegler started at KFOX as the weekend assignment editor and associate producer in 2003. From there, she worked her way up to morning news producer, then became the late news producer, executive producer and assistant news director.
In early 2014, she was named news director.
(Here’s are two KFOX news stories from the 2019 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso that killed 23 people and injured 22 others. Ziegler says she was six months pregnant with twins at the time.)
During her tenure, the station has had two different owners and three general managers.
So, why has Ziegler gone against the norm and remained at one station for so long?
First, El Paso is home, Ziegler says.
She got her first job at KFOX right out of college at the University of Texas at El Paso.
“I just really liked the station, I really like what I do and haven’t really looked elsewhere,” she says.
Ziegler says when she started, she had no aspirations to be the news director. “I would have thought that’s crazy, that’s like big.”
(Here’s a compilation of KFOX news stories related to the winter storm that hit El Paso on Feb. 2, 2011.)
Ziegler says she never applied for any of the promotions she’s had at KFOX, the station just sought her out.
But the different positions she has held give her an understanding of “how things work together and understanding what it was like to be in those jobs.”
It gives her credibility in the newsroom. “It helps to make you more relatable,” she says.
Ziegler got the opportunity to be the interim news director when the news director at the time went on maternity leave, and then left the station.
“That was probably the game changer,” she says.
Ziegler says her approach to reducing turnover is “making sure people feel appreciated. We have a pretty strong newsroom culture of supporting each other.”
Her longevity as the news director at KFOX shows job applicants that “I like it enough that I have stayed this long. We have a lot of fun amidst all the stress and the craziness.”
Over the years, Ziegler has seen KFOX employees leave for other markets. Sometimes, they tell Ziegler that they regretted leaving KFOX.
“Sometimes it’s culture shock and not being used to it or they’re not treated the best when they go somewhere else,” she says.
And sometimes they tell Ziegler that everything they did at KFOX has prepared them for where they are now.
“That is what I want us to be,” she says. “I want us to leave a foundation and then help people do whatever they want to do next.”
When interviewing job candidates, she tells them “If you have a good attitude, I promise you we can help you with everything else. You need to give it your all.”
Ziegler says her time at KFOX has been “one big whirlwind really. I blinked and here I am 20 years later.”
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