Meet Jo, Reporter
Jo Kwon has been a reporter for CBS 2/KCAL 9 since July of 2017. However her experience in journalism, working for print, radio, and broadcast outlets, goes back more than a decade. She started with a newsroom internship at The Cambrian and various local TV news stations in 2002 while studying for a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism at the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Kwon said writing for a newspaper taught her that she wasn’t a fan of writing for print, but also that print is the “best foundation for a great storyteller/reporter” because of the detail needed to tell a story with only one’s words. From there, Kwon went on to work at a number of radio and television stations, including being a reporter and anchor for KVTA in Ventura, redesigning the show “Money 101” for CBS Radio, being Executive Producer Video Jockey for a 20th Century Fox online show about popular culture that she spearheaded the creation of, and reporting for KABC radio AM, iHeartMedia station KFI, 640 AM.
Since beginning her career, she only had a brief refrain from working in journalism to help pay off school loans. She spent about nine months working at an architecture firm in Downtown L.A., an experience she said reaffirmed the desire she has had to become a reporter since she was five years old.
Kwon uses social media like Twitter and Instagram as a way of connecting with her viewers in a way that TV personalities alone typically cannot. She said she believes the medium serves as a way to get out vital information fast or see behind-the-scenes tidbits for a given story. She said it also offers the general public an opportunity to see reporters from a different perspective.
What kinds of stories have you covered throughout your career?
Everything. As a reporter you're going to have to cover everything. Think about your typical L.A. story, I've covered it. But I ended up doing kind of funny features stories, and right now at my station I do a lot of the human interest and feel-good news. We have a segment called, "People Making A Difference", I do a lot of those. Just the kind of stories you're not going to find everywhere else.
Have there been any stories in particular that stood out to you?
There are the stories that are obvious, like the time I got to go up in a jet and feel some g-forces. That was cool. I get to go to places like Candytopia before the public gets to, so even if people don't get to go, they can experience it through my story. Hopefully I give them a good view of it.
I love meeting kids making a difference. I always ask 'was it mom or dad who planted it in your head?' you know, but oftentimes it's just the kid. [One local kid] saw there are a lot of homeless people in Downtown LA. He thought, "I get all these Christmas presents and I can't believe these people aren't going to get anything." So he started collecting backpacks with supplies, had this small goal that turned into this huge thing. I don't remember the exact numbers, but he made way more than his goal. He was this sixth grader in the South Bay. It was cool, I love that kind of stuff.
If you pigeonhole yourself into following this one lane and you don't open up to talking to that person on the side, or make the time because you're so busy, you'll miss the little things other people won't get. For me, I'm reliant all on myself. I have to film, edit, do everything myself. I've got to make my own connections and collect things for b-roll and such. I get the chance to connect with people and hear other stories that you wouldn't always hear doing the usual thing. I'm not calling anybody lazy, but there's an easy way to do things and there's another way to make your stories unique by finding those other side things, even for something as routine as a protest.
You said you've wanted to be a reporter since you were five years old. To steal from your own lexicon, was it your parents that instilled that interest in you?
You know what, yes! I was so shy. In junior high, I remember some of my brother's friends teased me about being a mute because I didn't talk. I was so scared, I don't know why. Then when I was five, I would watch the news with my parents. Connie Chung was on. I remember seeing someone who looked kind of like me. We're different, she was Chinese and I was Korean, but it was someone kind of like me doing this thing. My dad and my mom were like 'oh we could see you doing that.' I remember thinking... ‘Oh. Yeah I could do that!’ From there I was seriously that kid that would do every book report like I was a reporter. I would hold up a book like the graphics (on TV) you see now, and my dad is recording it on a VHS camcorder. Not only because I loved the idea of being a news reporter, but it also helped me to not have to do it live in front of the class since I was so shy. I've never really imagined anything else. I just always wanted to be a reporter.
Have you ever thought about the fact that you're probably a similar role model for someone else as a minority, woman reporter?
Obviously I'm not a super spring chicken anymore, but I feel like I'm young still. So when I have high school kids who are like 'oh that's so cool,' I'm always looking over my shoulder (as if they're reacting to someone much older). Yeah, I hope I can inspire the next generation of journalists. You have to love it. You can't just half-ass being a reporter. I don't think about being a representative, but I guess I kind of am. I hope, if I am, that I'm very approachable.
How difficult would you say it is to balance the many different jobs required of reporters in today’s media landscape?
For me, I've always said that you want to learn everything anyway. I don't ever want to be afraid of learning. For me, it's just something I enjoy, and I think it's a benefit for me, so I don't find it hard. Of course, it's difficult to learn new skills. Two or three years ago I started doing TV stuff at Time Warner Cable news before it became Spectrum News. It was up in the Antelope Valley (in LA county) and I was a one-man-band. I told the news director I had not edited a video in 10 years and that everything was foreign to me, but they said don't worry and that they would teach me. The hard part is the actual storytelling and enjoying what you do, so all that stuff (the technical side) is just kind of bonus for me. There are still people who don't want to learn, won't learn, and refuse to learn. But for me, because I like learning, it has been challenging in a good way. I like being challenged, mastering something, and finding new ways to do things. That's a long way of saying it's easy for me not to see it as a hard thing. I embrace learning.