By Judith Salkin
How many of us really know what path we want our lives to take at the tender age of 13?
“I always wanted to tell stories,” said KMIR 6 reporter and videographer Angela Monroe earlier this week from her Palm Desert home. “And honestly, I have to say, I really do have the best job. I love doing interviews and getting to know the people I talk to.”
It was at 13 when Monroe made the decision to follow her heart and set out to become a print journalist. “I loved writing and words,” she said. “I wanted to tell stories that could affect the people who read them.”
She joined the staff of her school paper, eventually becoming its editor. “I truly loved what I was doing, even when I was that young.”
But something happened to the blossoming journo from the Big Sky Country of Montana, and she wanted to add another lement to the stories.
“Right before college, I was all set to be a print journalist,” she said. “I don’t know what changed, but before I started my freshman year (at the University of Montana), I made the decision to go into broadcasting.”
There were some small obstacles for Monroe to overcome in the switch. “I did have a boss early in my career who told me that I was a bit long-winded, which was easier for print,” she recalled with a laugh. “And learning to tell the stories in a short piece of video is still a challenge.”
Monroe graduated in 2006 from the University of Montana’s School of Journalism and the Davidson Honors College. She began her professional career as an intern at KREM 2 News in Spokane, Wash., and worked in production and as web producer until she joined KAJ News back in Montana.
Through her college years, Monroe learned shooting her own video and photos to go with her stories. It’s not that Monroe is a control freak, but she has her own eye for the shots that enhance the story she is telling. “Pictures can tell so much of a story,” she said. “I’m always looking for that certain shot when I’m editing the pieces before they air, for that one picture that says what I can’t.”
Like Chet Huntley and Tom Brokaw, both great television journalists from Big Sky Country, Monroe grew up in the small towns with the stores of the men and women that tamed the country and they fascinated her. “I’ve always loved reading about the people who settled the country and then seeing it for myself,” she said.
Her early broadcasting jobs took her to those small towns. She worked as the bureau chief and anchor at KAJ-TV in Kalispell, Mont. “I was 24, just out of college and that was a bit scary at the start,” she recalled. “But it gave me the chance to really get to know the people I was reporting on and to grow.”
During her time at KAJ, Monroe interviewed First Lady Michelle Obama and covered the campaign visits of Vice President Biden and former President Bill Clinton. She also covered a 31-hour murder police standoff, did an investigative piece on the deaths of hundreds from contact with asbestos and the community reaction to the ensuing lawsuit of the mining company, and a boat crash that injured a Montana state senator and US Congressman.
She lived close to Glacier National Park in Kalispell and would have to cover stories in the park. “One of my first pieces was in winter and I had to drive the news truck into the park,” she recalled. “Suddenly, there was a car in front of me and I had to make a split second decision to hit the car or drive into a snow drift. I chose the snowdrift!”
For her work, Monroe won a Society of Professional Journalists award for break news coverage.
Her body of work helped to get her the job at KMIR when she decided that, like all journalists, it was time to move on and advance her career.
“California was always the goal,” she said. “I talked to my mother about it. We’d taken trips to California when I was a kid. And it’s the state that really has everything you could want in terms of environment, from the mountains and snow in the north to the deserts and beaches, so many different beaches, in the south. And the cities!”
While she sent out eight to ten demo tapes, KMIR was the first to respond and offer her an interview. “At the time, I didn’t know anything about the valley,” she said. “But by the time I came out for the interview, I knew the names and populations of every city in the valley.”
It’s been change Monroe has embraced wholeheartedly, but interestingly enough, it’s the stories of the everyday people, those who have suffered tragedies that still touch her heart.
“I’ve talked to George Clooney at the film festival, and that was great,” she said. “But I’d still rather do the story about the man in Banning who lost his home to a fire. Those are the stories I’m good at telling.”
Now, at nearly 30 (her birthday is Dec. 6), Monroe has settled into life in the desert, and says that it suits her spirit. “I grew up in a place where it could get to 120-below in winter and here it gets to 120 in summer,” she said with a laugh. “I’d rather deal with the heat.”
Coming from a place where snowcapped majestic mountains could be seen from miles away the small cities and towns she lived in and covered, finding the mountains that surround the Coachella Valley was comforting.
“It took a while for me to get used to mountains that weren’t covered in trees,” she said. “But sometimes they do get snow and that’s enough for me.”