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Milwaukee Talks: Kathy Mykleby

Kathy Mykleby loves to talk. Good thing, since she's been reporting the news in Milwaukee for 24 years.

As the co-anchor of WISN's 5 and 10 p.m. newscasts, she's more than a fixture in Milwaukee, she's one of the city's most respected, watched and humorous news people. She easy-going, and that trait filters into thousands of living rooms every night.

In her college days, she helped develop the College of Communications Studies program at the University of Iowa, which is currently ranked among one of the top schools in the nation. And she hasn't stopped creating, having fun and making things happen since.

Recently, she sat down with OMC to talk about her career in Milwaukee, her love for the city, her role models, favorite restaurants and more. Enjoy this latest edition of Milwaukee Talks.

OMC: Please give us the brief "Kathy Mykleby story."

Kathy Mykleby: I grew up outside of Chicago and went to school in Iowa City, at the University of Iowa. Created my own major, the Communication Studies Program which has now been there -- for, how long ago did I graduate? -- back in 1976. Anyway, in sort of a freak moment when the journalism school was in an upheaval over something or other I freaked out and thought, "Oh my gosh, I need to have a legitimate major."

So, I called my parents in some sort of panic and said (my major isn't) accredited or whatever -- whatever the word was, they're not doing it for journalism! I didn't even know what it meant. My dad just said, "Then why don't you just start your own major?"

So, I did. Graduated in '76, got my first job at an FM rocker in Iowa City, did news on that station. And then got married. I met my husband in college, on the last day. At that time, he was in dental school and he needed to take another job in Oklahoma, so I got my second job in Oklahoma City at WKY radio.

Ultimately, Geoff (my husband) takes a job in Milwaukee as a dentist and I've got to find myself a job, so I start putting out some resumes and somebody from our radio station in Oklahoma City finds out I'm moving to Milwaukee where Channel 18 is owned by the same company -- so my bosses say, "How about television?"

And I say, "I don't know if I like those television people." But it's a job so I took it. And then within a couple of months I had offers from a bunch of television stations and the next thing you know, I'm working at Channel 12 in television. It wasn't something I planned.

OMC: What year was that?

KM: I got both of my jobs in television in 1980.

OMC: Did you do news on Channel 18?

KM: I did news on Channel 18. I made my own set. When I was on the air there was no one in the room to tell me we were on the air, so one day I came in with a saw and sawed a hole in my set so that we could put a television in there so I knew when I was on television.

I was at 18 for six months. I have 24 years now at Channel 12.

OMC: Do you remember what your first story or first assignment was here?

KM: My first story was about the Plankinton Mansion, it was across the street (currently the site of the Marquette student union), it isn't anymore. In the middle of the night the City of Milwaukee somehow, some people within the City of Milwaukee got the necessary permits to knock it down. It was very controversial. So, in the middle of the night a big old truck just ran into it and that was my big story. Took me 100 times to do my standup.

OMC: What do you think has changed the most in your 24 years in TV news?

KM: The technology has been amazing. I think of when I would go on a story and to make a phone call was a hassle. Now, obviously, everybody's got his or her own phone and the newsgathering has changed because we have an immediacy that we didn't necessarily have in the past. That's good at times, but it can be challenging mostly because you're going to get a lot of information just flooding in and you still have to try to figure out what is legitimate, what you're not going to get sued over. People will say anything, so you really have to monitor it.

And I think the business changes as you grow older, too. As you're in a community for awhile you're suddenly part of a community and that makes a difference.

There are so many more people in our business now, there's so much competition, you are competition -- the fact that people can kind of create their own television newscasts by either watching the Internet, looking at the Internet.

I don't worry about all that stuff, though. I think the most important thing to me has always been to put the best information on television. What's changed is how you can go about gathering that information. So it just makes it more challenging. It's good -- I don't know, the jury's out. I let people decide for themselves.

OMC: Are you still having fun?

KM: Oh God, I wouldn't do it anymore if I wasn't.

OMC: What are your thoughts on the Milwaukee TV news landscape?

KM: I think Milwaukee is pretty lucky. When I go to other cities (and watch local news) I feel like everybody looks like they're just out of school. We have people (at Channel 12) who have lived here a long time and want to be here and have a stake in the community. This helps Milwaukee's news. I have always felt that our news market is not as cookie cutter as some other markets in this country. Even New York, even Chicago, you watch their newscasts and you see a story about "This will or that will kill you" -- we don't do that.

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