Milwaukee Talks: Channel 12 anchor Craig McKee
OMC: Before you got here, how did you make the important decisions? How did you pick a school, find a place to live? That has got to be a difficult thing to work out.
CM: I talked to a number of people while I was here during the interview process. "What are the better areas to live, schools, what do you recommend?" Explaining that we are an outdoors family. We like to go outdoors. We like to fish. We like to do all that. And, of course, as soon as you mention fishing and outdoors everyone says, "you probably want to go to lake country; Oconomowoc area or Pewaukee, Waukesha or something near that area."
My wife started doing Google Earth drives on the roads, in different areas and looking at neighborhoods. We have some friends that live in Waukesha, and we questioned them. We said, "What do you think of the Waukesha area?" Of course, they had a lot to say, and ultimately it came down to us.
The day after we pulled into town, got settled, the next morning we woke up and we drove out to Pewaukee, we drove through Brookfield, and we looked at places literally all over. When we got out to Pewaukee, though, we drove around, and we were like, "wow this is nice, this is nice." We had lunch there and talked to some of the locals. It just really struck us as, "alright, we could fit in here. This is something that if my son and I or my daughter and I want to go fishing, we can do that. If my wife wants to go out and kayak in the morning for exercise, she can do that." That is really important to us.
OMC: So you guys did some research, but really what happened was you saw the place and immediately thought it was the right place. Had you looked at all in the city? Were you guys considering that at all?
CM: The outdoor stuff really played a role, and you know, we want green space. We want a yard. We wanted to be able to let our dog run around. There is something to be said about having to have a little bit of elbow room with neighbors. Everything just kind of fell into place.
OMC: So what are you looking forward to most – professionally or personally.
CM: I'm looking forward to Summerfest. I really like music and my wife does, as well, so we are really looking to Summerfest. People have told me non-stop things about how great it is. Even people who don't live here who were actually at my last stations, originally from here, said, "oh my god you're going to love Summerfest." My former news director, from San Diego, is from here.
You know we are looking forward to going out. We haven't been to the zoo yet, we haven't been to The Domes. We haven't been to so many places. I've got a laundry list of places that viewers have sent me and said: "You need to go here. You need to go here. Wisconsin Dells. You need to go there. You need to go there. Holy Hill. Historic Cedarburg is another." You know, in time those things will happen.
Professionally, we are looking forward to continuing the great coverage that WISN has had. They are the No. 1 station for a reason. And that's because they're not wasting peoples time, and we're giving them the stories and the contents that they want to see. I want to be a part of that.
OMC: Come October when the Brewers and the Cardinals are facing each other again, which hat are you wearing?
CM: The Brewers. When growing up I was a Cardinals fan, and then I fell away from baseball. I kind of sort of got disinterested, for many years. Then, I was working in Phoenix, at KPNX when the Diamondbacks franchise was created. Of course we had the World Series so we were covering that, so I was a Diamondbacks fan. You kind of support your home teams wherever you go. I supported the Padres, as well, and I'll support the Brewers here.
OMC: Your job kind of makes you automatically flexible.
CM: Kind of, but maybe not in all areas (like) when it comes to football... My wife has said, "yeah you may not want to say anything." I grew up as Kansas City Chiefs fan. I am a Chiefs fan. When the Chiefs came out to San Diego, I was all about the Chiefs and then the Chiefs would leave and go play somebody else, and I would support the Chargers. I think the same thing will go here. I'll support the Packers absolutely. (Every game) except the Chiefs.
OMC: Tell me a little bit about being an air force journalist.
CM: Nine years in, the first half of my career was in law enforcement. And then my cross training was in journalism. Stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, and had a blast. Did a rock radio show in the morning and then would grab my gear and we would deploy down range to Kosovo or up to maybe the Netherlands (and to Belgium) to cover the annual march for a Battle of (the Bulge at) Bastogne remembrance.
OMC: Was it the Armed Forces radio?
CM: American Forces Network, and the I worked for Air Force News. It's radio and TV. I would go and one man band and shoot stories – 10, 12 stories wherever in Kosovo or Macedonia or wherever, the Republic of Georgia and then we would either fly back with the tape, with everything, to spend the next week or so doing stories. Or we would actually voice everything in the field, rubber band everything together, give it to the pilot on the C-130 or C-5 and then they'd drop it off back in Germany.
OMC: Is that how you got into journalism?
CM: Basically, I grew up kind of around an influence of radio and TV. My grandfather had a show many, many years ago in Joplin, Mo. I had some other family relatives that were in radio. And then in high school, we had a TV station at the high school that we did morning and afternoon announcements. We went out and shot football game highlights. So I always had an interest.
OMC: That must have given you a real sort of guerrilla approach to do it yourself kind of getting out there and doing all the parts by yourself. That must give you some valuable skills that you can bring into the kind of environment that you are in now.
CM: I think so. The level of responsibility that was given to me at a very young age in the military, really affords me now the dedication and ability to concentrate, and say, "alright, I can look at it more like mission wise, like military wise. Our mission is to have this story on air by 5 o'clock, 6 o'clock, 10 o'clock," whatever it is, and you really can lay things out military style. We have to get this first and this first. Here are our tasks, this is what we have to accomplish, and you have a final a goal. Dedication and responsibility go hand-in-hand.
I think also I bring not only an interesting perspective from my military background. But when I left WOWK (Huntington-Charleston, West Virginia), which was the station I was at before San Diego, my position came up right as the recession hit. I was left unemployed.
I experienced things that a lot of our viewers have. I lost all my savings. I had to cash in my 401K to make sure my mortgage was okay. I wasn't going to foreclose on my house; I was going to do everything possible. I've experienced so much of what our viewers have gone through or are going through.
OMC: That's got to be very difficult and scary, especially with having kids, too.
CM: Absolutely. But fortunately for me, it was two and a half months and then the San Diego job came along, and I was very fortunate. That was a rough two and a half months. You have children. You have a wife. You have a mortgage. You have everything there and you have no money coming in.
I think that's not to say you can't still tell a good story if you haven't lived the experience, but I've lived quite a bit in my years. I just think it helps lend itself too, when I'm talking to people I can truly say, "I understand, I know where you've been."
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