NOTE: In May 2007, Caroline Lyders, the co-anchor of the weekday edition of WISN "12 News This Morning," was romantically linked to singer Taylor Hicks, who became an international star after his victory on "American Idol" last year. Read the story.
A lot of local TV news teams boast of their veteran on-air talent, but lately WISN (Channel 12) has been demolishing local ratings with a squad of fresh young faces.
One of them, Caroline Lyders, has anchored the morning news alongside Patrick Paolantonio for two years now and has proved to be a successful part of WISN's youth movement.
Starting out studying music and philosophy, Lyders decided to instead follow a passion for journalism and got her master's in journalism at Columbia University. She has since interned at NPR and worked at CNN and in TV news in Columbus, Ohio.
She arrived in Milwaukee two years ago and we caught up with her recently to find out what she thinks of Brew City.
OMC: You moved around a lot as a kid, didn't you? Tell us a bit about your background?
CL: My dad started as a stockbroker at Merrill Lynch, then moved into management. That brought us from Minnesota to New Jersey, Florida, Iowa, Michigan and, finally, Arizona. I'm not sure how, but my parents somehow managed to keep us grounded through all of it.
OMC: Is there a place that feels most like "home"?
CL: It's really hard to say. We lived in Iowa the longest, but moved away when I graduated high school, so it doesn't feel like home. I guess Tucson feels like home, because my parents are there and I go visit any chance I get. I love it there, it's very relaxing, and I love hanging out with my parents!!!
OMC: You didn't always know you wanted to work in news did you? You studied music first, right?
CL: I did! I had my very first piano lesson when I was 5 years old, and still remember my first little piano book. I played competitively through high school and very briefly considered going to a conservatory for college. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't. Instead, I went to Smith College in Massachusetts, where I studied music, and actually had time to be young and have fun.
OMC: You've had some interesting musical experiences, too, haven't you? Word is you are friends with Wynton Marsalis.
CL: Interesting is a good word. When I was in New York studying journalism, my master's project in jazz education took me to clubs from the East Village up to Harlem. Somewhere in between, I met Wynton. He proved to be as musically compelling in person as he is in interviews and on stage. That reminds me, he also loaned me a book -- Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" -- which I really need to return...
OMC: Did you read it?
CL: Yes, I read the book. I loved it.
OMC: Do you ever think of going back and following music as your main path?
CL: Mmm, no. But I still love playing. And sometimes I think about trying to play competitively again. But only sometimes.
CL: I remember one Christmas home during college, sitting with my dad in our living room, watching Barbara Walters, of all people, conducting an interview. I'm not sure what possessed me, but I said to him, "I want to do that." And you know what he said? "OK. Do it."
From there, I did some internships in TV and radio during college. Then, in what really was a semi-miracle, I was accepted at Columbia University's graduate program in journalism, which helped in getting my first real job.
OMC: You probably had a few media jobs before arriving Milwaukee, too, right?
CL: Yes, I did some freelancing for News12 in the Bronx, right after I graduated. Then I spent two years reporting at the CBS affiliate in Florence, S.C. The debate over whether the confederate flag should fly on the statehouse dome was an ongoing story during my time there. After that, I reported at WBNS-TV in Columbus, Ohio. Then it was on to anchoring the morning show in Milwaukee!
OMC: Tell us a bit about coming to Channel 12. Did they seek you out or did you apply? What drew you here?
CL: I really don't know how it worked. My agent called and said the news director at WISN wanted to talk to me. I'm not sure how they found me. But I'm glad they did! I don't think I've ever had a job where I actually liked going to work, until now.
OMC: What were your impressions upon arriving in Milwaukee?
CL: I first flew in on a beautiful September day. The lake was so blue. The trees were just starting to change colors. I was tricked! Of course, when I actually started, it was gray for the next six months! Thank goodness I had something tangible to look forward to.
OMC: How has your view of the city changed in the two years you've been here?
CL: It's much bigger than I expected -- not in size, but in feel. There are so many good restaurants, so many things to do. It's also such a friendly city. Once I mentioned on-air that I had some sort of animal hanging out in my attic. I can't tell you how many e-mails I got from viewers, sharing all sorts of advice. At the grocery store, one woman told me mothballs are the key! For the record, it was a squirrel. And yes, it's gone.
OMC: What are some of your favorite places here? Where do you like to eat, for example?
CL: Where don't I like to eat?! Some of my favorites: Coquette Cafe, Bacchus, Roots, Crazy Water, Cempazuchi, Beans and Barley.
OMC: Is Milwaukee a good media town, especially as far as local TV news goes?
CL: I think so. I moved from another good media town, and it has been interesting to compare the two. I think what WISN seems to do well is rarely follow what the other stations are doing. There is a lot of enterprising. There is quite a bit of creativity. And something that seems to be all-too rare in local TV news. We have a lot of fun while we're at it.
OMC: Not to get you into trouble with viewers, but do local news shows spend a little too much time talking Packers and weather?
CL: Is that a hint?! All I know is the Packers are playing Sunday and it's supposed to be 54 degrees and sunny.
OMC: There seems to be something of a youth movement going on at WISN, with you, Patrick Paolantonio, Matt Salemme, DeMarco Morgan, Portia Young, Kai Reed, Chloe Morroni, Toya Washington and some others. Does it seem that way from the inside, too?
CL: I don't really think about it. Maybe because it's been that way since I started. Maybe because the younger people here seem more driven and inspired than "green." Or maybe because for every younger face here at WISN, there's a veteran reporter to balance it out.
OMC: You must all be pretty excited at the news that the news programming there has had great ratings, including for your morning news...
CL: What fun. 12 News This Morning is doing so well -- we just had our first-ever full-season win, meaning we were No. 1 for the entire 2005-'06 ratings season.
For all the fun we have, we work so hard. And for our morning crew -- Patrick and Sally and Portia and DeMarco and all of the producers and editors and floor directors and everyone else -- what those numbers mean is that all that is paying off.
OMC: Do you have wanderlust or are you hoping to stay in Milwaukee for a while?
CL: Don't we all have a bit of wanderlust in us? For now, that's what vacations are for. And yes, I hope to stay in Milwaukee for as long as Milwaukee will have me.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.