Growing up outside of Chicago, Farah Jadran, a first-generation American, never saw herself reflected in the media. Though she admired female anchors like Robin Robinson and Connie Chung, the 5 o’clock news did not include a woman who, like Jadran, was of Mexican and Middle Eastern descent.
Now, as a news anchor for Seattle’s KING 5, Jadran says she hopes she can be that example for someone else.
“That really spoke to me in a way, to say, hey, that could be you, that should be you being that woman that someone sees when they’re growing up and they’re taking interest in journalism,” Jadran said.
“I kind of took that as a little bit of a calling at a young age, that maybe I don’t see someone I completely identify with, but I hope that I could be that person for a little girl growing up, wanting to be a journalist as well.”
Jadran is one of many nonwhite journalists who have joined the KING 5 team in recent years. These hires constitute the next generation of KING 5 broadcasters of color, one that follows the departure of several trailblazers who have left Seattle newsrooms in the last few years: Lori Matsukawa after 36 years at KING 5, Essex Porter after 39 years at KIRO 7 and Connie Thompson after 46 years at KOMO 4, to name a few.
Another giant of that generation at KING 5, Andy Reynolds, died in February of last year at age 81. Beyond his boundary-breaking career as a Black man in broadcast journalism, Reynolds was a civil rights activist, a member of the inaugural Leadership Tomorrow class, and a dedicated civil servant during his four decades in Seattle.
There are huge shoes to fill. Here’s a look at how KING 5 is going about it.
Leaving a legacy
Reporter Brady Wakayama grew up in Seattle, watching his role model Matsukawa on the nightly news. After graduating from Washington State University, he worked in Oregon and New Mexico before returning home in November 2021 to follow in Matsukawa’s footsteps.
“[Matsukawa] has been an inspiration and an instrumental mentor to me throughout my career,” Wakayama said in an email. “Before I even met her, she inspired me to become a journalist while watching her and the iconic yellow jackets on KING 5 every weeknight, paving the way for Asian Americans to be a voice and proudly represent the AAPI community within the media,” he wrote, referring to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Evening news anchor Joyce Taylor, who has been with KING 5 since 1988, also grew up watching KING 5 from Tacoma. In her early years with the station, she was inspired by KING 5 reporter Linda Kennedy and Micki Flowers, KIRO 7’s first Black female broadcaster, both successful Black journalists and mothers. Taylor also praised Hattie Kauffman, the first Native American to report on national evening news, whose departure from KING 5 in 1987 opened a door for Taylor.
And Taylor said she admires her peers, too. She has worked alongside Porter as a fellow board member for the Seattle Association of Black Journalists, and said Thompson has been a role model of hers for many years.
“I am honored to know both Essex Porter and Connie Thompson, both trailblazers in the Northwest — not only for their commitment to journalism, but also community service,” she said in an email. “I hope the people of Western Washington appreciate their contributions.”
Though KING 5 news director Julie Wolfe has only been in Seattle since June 2021, she is quite familiar with these names and the impact they have had on younger journalists.
“Ironically, you know, my exposure to those names is not from working with them, but as I’m recruiting the next generation of journalists, they remember watching them in the Seattle market and wanting to get back to that. I do think that speaks, in some way, to the legacy that they had to other BIPOC journalists as young kids growing up,” Wolfe said, referring to Black, Indigenous and people of color.
Breaking the norm has been a KING 5 goal since Dorothy Bullitt founded the station in 1948. KING 5 also employed the nation’s first female news anchor, Jean Enersen. Jessica Janner Castro, a KING 5 news anchor, said the station’s legacy of female journalists motivated her to come to the station in 2019.
“KING-TV forever changed the industry for all female journalists, and I feel honored to be a part of its story,” she said in an email. “It’s also an honor to be one of the first Latina news anchors in the Seattle market.”
A new generation
In an era tagged “the Great Resignation,” recruiting and retaining employees for multidecade careers is a tall task. In order to grow and maintain the next generation of KING 5 journalists, Wolfe and KING 5 president and general manager Christy Moreno said it’s important to prepare hires for future opportunities. By the time Matsukawa retired in 2019, for example, Taylor was ready to be her successor.
“If you wait for an opening to start recruiting, it’s a bad strategy,” Moreno said. “You have to have a deep bench and make sure that you always have people that you’re grooming and getting ready for the next role. And that’s the key.
“You cannot replace a Lori … but if you’ve got a deep bench, and a great staff of people that you’ve been working with for a long time, you have obvious successors at that point, and that’s when it’s a beautiful transition.”
According to Moreno, journalists of color make up 29% of KING 5’s content department, an 8% increase since 2017. As the COVID-19 pandemic has driven many Americans to job-hop or opt for retirement, Wolfe continues to prioritize recruitment and retention strategy, with an emphasis on diversity.
When it comes to recruiting a diverse staff, Wolfe said a similarly diverse committee and set of advisers must be involved in every hire.
“I think some of those things help get journalists in, but also make sure that they see a place for them now and as they grow into bigger roles — into leadership, into executive producers, into news director one day,” she said.
And to retain a diverse staff, Wolfe said it is important that employees not only have a seat at the table but have an influence in the newsroom.
“To me, recruitment is getting the right voices in the room, and then making sure those voices are heard is retention,” Wolfe said. “I want to make sure that we spend as much time really cultivating a culture of inclusion and making sure we’re elevating those voices to make sure that we can improve retention.”
Jadran said having diverse representation in the newsroom is important in order to better connect with, serve and validate members of the community where the reporting is taking place.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that because there’s a story today about Mexican culture that I have to do it because I’m half-Mexican. It means that I might bring a perspective, I might bring additional questions, I might bring understanding to whatever that particular story might be about, and that can help my fellow reporters go after the story in the best way possible,” she said.
Lionel Donovan, KING 5’s Tacoma bureau chief and a Black man, said representation is important, but that nonwhite journalists are not inherently without prejudice, either, and that a diverse school of thought is critical to making progress.
“While it is important to have different people being represented, if there isn’t a diversity of thought, or if these minority groups aren’t given the space and the authority to actually challenge some of the preconceived notions and the biases and the prejudices that are already present, they just become tokens at this point,” he said.
“That can do more harm than good because the community that they’re supposed to be representing isn’t being given a voice,” he said. “At that point, the company is using this one person to justify whatever problematic approaches they had that made them feel required to get a minority person in the first place. It’s just a cyclical problem; you’re creating the problem you’re trying to solve.”
KING 5 has launched multiple initiatives to address racial bias in its reporting. In 2021, every newsroom employee took part in a training by The Poynter Institute to “self-audit on-air and online content,” according to a KING 5 article. KING 5 also partnered with Horowitz Research to conduct an external audit of digital broadcast and marketing content. A year ago, KING 5 launched Facing Race, a weekly reporting series on racial inequity hosted by Taylor.
Facing Race reporter PJ Randhawa said it’s important that a newsroom is diverse to portray not just two but many sides of any story in order to serve its community.
“Many TV news outlets are losing ratings and becoming, sadly, irrelevant because people in the community who don’t feel represented by their coverage are turning off local news,” she said in an email. “Bridging the gap is difficult. It requires a commitment, time and money. I came to KING 5 because there is a commitment to learn about diverse communities in the Seattle area, cover their stories and advocate for them.”