It was a pleasure to visit with KMOV General Assignment Reporter Alexis Zotos at Silo Coffee earlier this month to talk about the news business, her perspective on some important issues facing St. Louis, and why she loves living in the CWE.
Why did you decide to get into broadcast journalism?
“For as long I can remember, I wanted to be an actress. When I was little, I would put on plays for my family and at Ladue High School I acted in school plays and in community theater productions. It was after I headed off to the University of Southern California to study film and theater that I discovered I liked journalism more, so I switched majors and earned a degree in Broadcast & Digital Journalism 5 years ago.
I loved living in southern California, but I missed the Midwest—most of my family lives in St. Louis. I’ve very close to my two sisters, who unfortunately live out of town. Brittni works for an art gallery in New York, and my younger sister, Krista, teaches English in an elementary school in Madrid. I am trying to persuade Krista to move back home.”
What was your first job after graduation?
“Right after graduation, I landed a job as a reporter for a station in Knoxville, Tennessee. Everyone in the USC broadcast journalism program learns how to be a ‘one-man-band’ reporter – you come up with the story idea, film it yourself, and then write the copy before appearing live on camera. After 2 1/2 years in Knoxville, I heard of an assignment opening up at KMOV. When I was offered a job on the 10 o’clock news, I jumped at the chance to move back home. I’ve been at KMOV for the past 2 1/2 years. One big difference between the two stations is that I have my own cameraman now and it’s so much easier to concentrate on an interview now that I have a partner.”
What’s a typical work week for you?
“I work Sundays through Thursdays from 2 p.m. until approximately 10:30 p.m., so mornings and early afternoons are when I go to the gym (Fitness Formula on Lindell), get coffee, walk my dog around the neighborhood, and often go out for lunch with my boyfriend. Whenever I can find the time, I love working on my blog.
When I get to the station I search social media and what’s going on at city council meetings looking for news items I want to cover that day. After my producer decides which of the ideas I should pursue, I head out with my cameraman from about 3 to 7 p.m. to conduct interviews. While I am in the field, I am constantly on Twitter and social media promoting the story I’m covering because no one waits until 10 p.m. to catch up on the news anymore, especially when there is something breaking.”
Zotos heads back to the studio to write up the day’s copy while her cameraman edits the video portion of the interviews. Zotos said she may spend 6 to 7 hours on that evening’s news item that will be condensed into 1 min. 15 sec. to 2 min. segment.
She said. “I love my job as a news reporter but I caution others who want to get into the business: If you don’t love it, you’ll hate it.”
Has journalism changed much in the 5 years since you graduated from USC?
“Yes it has. The challenge is to understand how viewers get their news. Especially the younger audience advertisers hope to attract. News is definitely shifting towards Facebook and social media, and reporters have to adapt.”
Do you aspire to becoming an anchor one day?
“I’m happy in the field. The favorite part of my day is getting out and meeting people and sharing news with others. There is also the adrenaline rush of covering breaking news that I would really miss.
Another enjoyable part of being in the field is the friendships I’ve developed with reporters from other stations. They are usually covering the same stories so we run into each other every day. This is such a crazy life, and they understand what it is like to be in the business.”
What is the favorite news item you’ve covered at KMOV?
“I get asked that question a lot and I must say it’s the people I meet that I remember, much more than the story. That being said, I got to tag along with a 5th grade class from the Ferguson/Florissant School District when they visited the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. The 5th graders lost a classmate to gun violence and the local police department raised the money to send them on the trip.”
When crime happens in the CWE, does it draw more attention than it would in other parts of the city?
“When crime takes place in a prominent area where it doesn’t happen very often, such as the Central West End, it becomes bigger news. The reality is that we live in an urban environment so crime is going to happen.
On a personal level I’m careful when I walk alone anywhere, frankly. I don’t wear earphones or look at my phone. You have to be aware.”
What is a big issue you see when covering the news in the city of St. Louis?
“The worries of families in the Central Corridor vs. those who live in North City and parts of South City are so very different, and that’s an issue we have to address. It’s hard for any reporter to cover sad stories day in and day out but it’s the good in people and the resilience in those who have experienced tragedy that I remember and hold close when I go home at night. Another thing that keeps me positive is working on my blog, which is a tribute to the fun side of St. Louis.
What are your thoughts on city elections?
This question was raised as we met on election day, April 3. “It’s too bad that voter turnout is typically so light for city elections in St. Louis, or anywhere else in the country for that matter,” she said, “as I think local elections have the biggest impact on people’s lives. It’s important to think about things we can do every day to make St. Louis even better. For instance, KMOV has a segment called Imagine a Better St. Louis, which focuses on the positive aspects of living in St. Louis. I also think about how we attract people who live outside the city limits to come downtown other than for sporting events.”
How do you view St. Louis?
“It’s an amazing time to be a city resident. When I came back home after being away for 7 years, I saw so many changes. There is so much to do. I love trying out new restaurants – one seems to open every week – and exploring different neighborhoods. And I can’t imagine living anywhere other than the Central West End.”
Zotos also participates in CWE events. Here she is as a judge, far right, at last Halloween’s dog parade.
Watch Alexis Zotos on the 10 o’clock news on KMOV Sundays through Thursdays. Find out more about her on her website, follow her on twitter, Facebook, Instagram—her favorite social media outlet—and on her blog.
I hope you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed interviewing CWEnder Alexis Zotos.