FOX 6 anchor and reporter Jake Miller made several stops in TV news before landing in Milwaukee. The Indianapolis native worked his way up to this market, but he's happy he's here -- though, unfortunately, the Harley rider moved to town just after the 105th celebration in 2008.
Miller says he enjoys the serious side of news, but he keeps his colleagues laughing with spot-on impressions of the other station anchors. Miller is a golfer and a guitar player, though he admits he should be better at both by this point in his life.
We caught up with Miller over coffee last week to discuss his career, his hobbies and his Super Bowl prediction (he got that one wrong, by the way). Enjoy this latest Milwaukee Talks.
OnMilwaukee.com: You've spent time at a bunch of different stations. How long have you been working in news?
Jake Miller: I got into the business in '97 and went down to Bowling Green, Ky. I was a bureau chief and lived in Glasgow County, a dry county. It was interesting, it was a town of 14,000 people. My bureau was basically my house. I did that for about six months. You don't make much starting out, it's almost like grad school. But I'm a homebody; I was going back to Indianapolis every few weeks, and I wondered how I could stay in the business and work more regular hours.
I moved back to Indy and did sales for about two and a half years. But I didn't think I gave journalism a fair shot. I had an old tape that I sent out and wound up getting a job in Terre Haute, market 149.
OMC: Well, that's a step up, professionally. How long were you there?
JM: I was a general assignment reporter there for 11 months. I wanted to take the next step and do some anchoring, so I sent a tape to Peoria, Ill., and got the job.
OMC: What market is that?
JM: That's 117. I became a weekend anchor there, and they have a cityscape! This place has minor league baseball, arena league football and hockey. I was there for a little over two years. I've met great people along the way, but if you want to move up and make any money, you've gotta try.
The next place was a shot in the dark, the NBC affiliate in Fort Wayne, Ind. They were hiring a main anchor and executive producer. Kind of the big time.
OMC: Was this a move up?
JM: Yes, this was market 104. It was going in the right direction, and it was back on Indiana soil.
OMC: How old were you at this point?
JM: Gosh, 31, maybe. I became basically their Ted Perry and Brad Hicks. It was the highest news position I could have 80 minutes from home. I was making more money than I ever made in my life, and then I got laid off after a year and a half. After 9/11, that stuff happened. (In the other cities), I've avoided layoffs because I know how to edit and shoot. So I went to Quincy, Ill., in west-central Illinois. It's two hours north of St. Louis.
OMC: That sounds like it might have been a step backwards?
JM: It was, market-wise, but I was a little gun shy. It affected me more than I thought; I had never been laid off before. I had a day of mourning, and I went right back to work.
OMC: But then you made a huge jump to Milwaukee?
JM: There were some jobs that I turned down because they weren't the right fit. It wasn't just about market size, it was about where it was. I wanted a good, strong company. I even turned down a job in my hometown.
OMC: So what felt right about Milwaukee?
JM: I'm from Indianapolis, so I always wanted to report in a city that I'm accustomed to. Milwaukee has so many beautiful things that Indianapolis doesn't have. The architecture, the neighborhoods.
OMC: So this is the kind of place where you'd actually want to live?
JM: Oh yeah.
OMC: But do you get a reputation as the guy who moves from market to market? Is Milwaukee just another stop along your path?
JM: When you start out, there is a lot of movement in the smaller markets. But when you get to a city like Milwaukee, it slows down a little bit.
OMC: There are plenty of people who get to Milwaukee and stay, right?
JM: Sure. Some people want to get to New York or L.A. When you just start in the business, you're always thinking about the next step. I've tried to stick around the Midwest because I am very close to my family. It's always been a dream to report in my own town, but the older you get, the more you focus on the here and now.
OMC: And you're a Harley rider.
JM: I have a Harley and my last name is Miller. I had to come to Milwaukee. I just missed Harley's 105th anniversary.
OMC: You've only been here since 2008, but are people starting to recognize you around town?
JM: Actually, it happened a lot sooner than I thought it would. I was recognized after only a month. It's great when people recognize you and when they can say, "Hey, I love that story you did."
OMC: Do you enjoy anchoring or reporting more?
JM: It's a different kind of stress. When you report, you're devoted to just one story. You have to make it visually appealing. When anchoring and I do an hour and a half show, I have to make the whole show shine. Milwaukee viewers aren't fools. They know their news. If you don't know what's going on, they're going to see that.
OMC: Has social media changed your job? Do you get more feedback?
JM: Technology has changed so much. As a reporter, it makes you sharpen your game. I use Twitter. I follow my colleagues and they follow me. In a competitive way, you don't want to show your entire hand and lose exclusivity. I have a professional Twitter page but I have a personal Facebook page.
OMC: Is on-the-air Jake Miller different than off-the-air Jake Miller?
JM: When you're doing a newscast, you have to have a thick skin, because some of the subject matter is just horrible. You might have your own opinions, but you have to stay impartial. You have to shut it off like a light switch. But I've been told that what you see is what you get with me.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.