Andrea Stahlman was eight months pregnant with her third child when she was offered THE job: news director at WLKY-TV, where she had worked since college graduation. She has settled into her new role, and she is the only female news director in town, and we are thrilled to welcome her today as our FACE of Louisville!
What does your job entail?
I manage the news department at WLKY-TV, which produces news, weather, sports and special-event content, as well as at our second channel MeTV, wlky.com and our mobile site.
Have you always worked at WLKY?
I started as an intern in 1993 after graduation and soon took a full-time position as a weekend assignment editor. Over the years, I’ve been the weekend news producer, the 11 p.m. news producer, executive producer and assistant news director.
What was your favorite job in the newsroom?
I really enjoy being a news director, but I’m a producer at heart. I loved producing the weekend and 11 p.m. broadcasts, live breaking news and special projects. The control room is one of my favorite places.
Your least favorite?
When I first started working here, I was rolling newscast tapes and separating scripts. I remember thinking, “I went to college for this?” But I wouldn’t trade those experiences. I learned just how critical all roles are in a newsroom.
Do you have any advice for young women starting out in the news business?
Don’t get into this business because you want to be on television. Do it because you’re passionate about news and telling stories, about having an impact on the community or providing viewers with important information. There is a bigger purpose in what we do. Be willing to work extra and unusual hours and holidays. News is a 24-hour, 365-day-a-year business, and we need strong players at all hours. Also, realize it will have an impact on your family life. I’ve seen many talented women change careers because the craziness of TV no longer fits their lives.
Did you always intend to be in this business?
No, I lucked into it. I was planning to go to grad school to become an athletic director, and someone suggested that I do a sports internship at a TV station until the semester started. I called Fred Cowgill, and I’m still here. After a few weeks, I started hanging out in the newsroom; I loved the excitement of covering news. The news director at the time asked me if I wanted to be the weekend assignment editor, and I made a quick decision not to go to grad school. Once I became a producer, I knew this was the career for me. I love that every day is different and challenging.
The news business is notorious for long hours and a relentless schedule. How do you manage this with having a family?
I’m not going to lie, it’s difficult. But like a lot of working moms, I have a wonderful support system. We have three boys, ages 11, 10 and 1. When I became news director I was eight months pregnant, and my boss made it clear to me right away that balance between family life and work is a priority. My husband changed his routine and is super supportive. My parents help with school and daycare pick-up, sick days and anything else; they are life-savers! I’m blessed with several invaluable friends I can call or text at a moment’s notice, and they will pick up or transport one of the boys. Ultimately, I think balance is an unreasonable goal; something always takes priority. I strive for harmony.
What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?
Years ago someone told me I wasn’t going to be successful in this business unless I learned to be mean. (He used a different word.) I told him that just wasn’t me. Our industry has a reputation for people screaming and yelling and flying off the handle. News is pretty stressful, and that can certainly happen, but we spend too much of our lives at work to be miserable. I’m glad I work at a place where having fun is a priority. There will always be deadlines, breaking news, frustrations and mistakes, but my favorite sound in the newsroom is laughter.
What is best advice you have received in business?
Years ago, Hearst VP of News Fred Young asked me how my career was going. I told him I often wished I had experience working in other markets. He’s a legend in our industry, but at the time I didn’t realize he had worked the majority of his career at WTAE in Pittsburgh. We had a great conversation about the value of being at one place and all the ways you can learn from the people who come and go, while you stay. It really changed my perspective and had a huge impact on staying at WLKY.
If you were not in your current job, what would you love to do?
For a few months, I would do absolutely nothing. Then I would be a best-selling novelist, living in a beach house and writing serial novels that eventually get turned into movies.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Usually people are surprised to find out I played volleyball at Notre Dame. When I tell them I was there when “Rudy” was filmed, they find that much more interesting.
What is your favorite place to eat?
Where do you like to shop?
I’m lucky to get to the grocery on a regular basis, so I’m an extremely experienced online shopper. It’s not good when you have your credit card number memorized.
What is a treat or a luxury you do for yourself?
My husband gets me gift cards to Z Salon & Spa to get facials with Bella — she’s the best.
What is your weakness?
Baseball Nut ice cream at Baskin-Robbins.
What is your favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Running into people I grew up with. I love that everyone knows someone; the small-town feel of Louisville is awesome.
What are three things you cannot live without, besides faith, family and friends?
What are you reading right now?
I read and binge-watch TV series at the same time. I’m currently reading Strong Mothers, Strong Sons, and I’m obsessed with The Walking Dead, which I’ve watched entirely on my tablet. The book I’d recommend to everyone is Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN.
What are three of your favorite things right now?
Thank you to Andrea for giving us a window into her world and a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of WLKY. Visit their website at www.wlky.com.
As always, much gratitude to my FACES photographer Adele Reding and her fantastic work. See her profile here: www.facebook.com