By Judith Salkin
There are a couple of if/then statements (computer nerds understand this) that have shaped Karen Devine’s career.
If she hadn’t been a member of the San Jose Cinders team, then she wouldn’t have been offered a scholarship to run track and cross country at UC Irvine.
If the coach at UCI hadn’t told her that the scholarship was being withdrawn because of changes to the way he was running the program and to come back in a couple of semesters, then she wouldn’t have started looking at other schools to go to and found CalState Fullerton.
And finally, if she hadn’t injured her knee ending her running career, a college advisor might not have signed Devine up for the newly created broadcast journalism program at Fullerton and we wouldn’t have her bringing the Coachella Valley the news, with John White, week nights at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. on KESQ TV3.
Devine, 49 – “I’ll be 50 next July,” she said with a bit of amazement in her voice, earlier this week – has been a fixture on Coachella Valley newscasts since 1992. Her life has grown and changed along with her career in front of the cameras as long-time residents have watched her mature from an eager reporter to a seasoned broadcaster with a wealth of knowledge of the valley she covers.
Devine was born and raised in Saratoga, Calif., a small town about an hour south of San Francisco, near Silicon Valley. She started running for the Cinders, so named for the crushed cinders used to line the running track, starting at the age of 10.
Her coach was a former Olympian who would go on to coach other Olympians. She started her college career at junior college near home, and was ready to take her talents to UCI when she was sidelined by the coach.
After a semester of living with her sister and friend in Newport Beach, free for the first time in 10 years, “I had no one watching what I ate and making me practice,” she said. “I gained some weight and when I went back to running injured my knee and that ended my running days.”
She looked at CalState Long Beach in her search for a new school after being sidetracked by UCI, before making the decision to go to Fullerton.
“I had no idea of what I wanted to do,” she said. “I’d never thought of broadcasting as a career until my advisor asked me about it. He was the one who signed me up, I just did what I was told.”
Devine’s natural inquisitiveness blossomed in the program. And an internship with CNN’s “Showbiz Today” cemented the idea that she’d found the right career path.
“I loved talking to people and it was easy for me,” she said. “And getting the praise and encouragement, being told that I was doing a great job made just encouraged me more.”
One thing the internship also did was to convince Devine while she loved the atmosphere of the newsroom, “I preferred news over entertainment,” she said. “I was more interested in what was going on in the world.”
During her time at CalState, Devine worked for a cable station where she covered local government. “I liked going to the city council meetings and reporting on what happened,” she said.
Realizing that if she was going to ever move into network news, Devine set a goal of sending out one demo tape each week to one of the affiliate stations looking for reporters or anchors.
“I didn’t care where it went,” she said. “I had that goal and every week I sent out a tape.”
One landed at KMIR and following an interview with station management, Devine went on the air in February 1992.
She worked at KMIR for 17 year before moving to KESQ nearly five years ago. “I loved working at KMIR,” she said. “It was my first affiliate job and I learned all the lessons of working at a small station.”
It’s where she became “seasoned” as a reporter and anchor. “When I was first sending out tapes, almost every job description said they were looking for a ‘seasoned’ reporter and at the time I had no idea what that meant. But over the years I understood. You need experience to be really good.”
Devine has not only grown as a broadcaster during her time in the valley, she has raised her own family here. She met her husband, Bob Boetto at Fullerton. “He and I had a couple of the same classes,” she recalled. “Whenever they were looking for reporters or camera people, he and I and another friend always volunteered to get as much experience as we could.”
When Devine moved to the Coachella Valley, she and Boetto tried a commuter romance, “but after a year he said he couldn’t take it and proposed,” she said. They were married in 1993 and are the parents of two sons, Zach, 18, who attends University of Nevada, Reno, who chose the school for its proximity to the mountains of winter snow at Lake Tahoe and Tony, 14, who is in a freshman at Palm Desert High School.
She sees history repeating itself in Zach who was recruited to play baseball for UNR, but was asked to sit out the next couple of years by the coach. Instead, “he’s given up on baseball,” Devine says. “Now he’s a DJ on campus and in the broadcasting department.”
As for Devine, the switch to KESQ has been good one. “I feel very lucky to be here,” she said. “I’ve been doing more, interviews with Katie Couric and Jimmy Kimmel in Hollywood and President Obama on the tarmac when he was here and how they all relate to the valley.”
On a personal level, Devine sees herself at a crossroads. For the woman who has lived spending 90 minutes a day taming her wild curly hair and covering her freckles for the television camera, she is looking at a time when she can be herself.
“My husband and I are trying to figure out what we want to do next with our lives,” she said. “I can feel the change coming, I just don’t know what it’s going to be. I understand now why people say life goes so fast. For so long I’ve been bogged down with life that I haven’t had time to think about living. I want to be more spontaneous, and see what happens.”