Before arriving at WFAA/Channel 8 as Ron Corning’s new co-anchor on “News 8 Daybreak” — replacing the recently departed Alexa Conomos — Kara Sewell spent three years at WXIX-TV in Cincinnati. Before that, she had been in Wichita, Kansas, since 2008.
Those two jobs aside, Sewell is about as Texan as it gets.
“My entire family is all over Texas,” the Houston native says. “My parents are originally from the Panhandle, Amarillo and this tiny town outside of Lubbock, it’s called Floydada. One of my grandmothers still lives there, I still have family in Floydada, but I also have family in East Texas. My parents moved to Houston back in the ’70s. We’re all kind of everywhere, but I’m a third-generation Texan.”
According to her LinkedIn page, Sewell attended college at the University of St. Thomas in Houston and Stephen F. Austin State in Nacogdoches, beginning as a theater major. “Somewhere between sophomore and junior year, I decided, ‘Y’know, I really don’t think I want to pursue a career in acting. I should probably get a degree in something I can use,’ ” she says. “That was my thought process. ‘I’m good at writing — what can I do? [Pause] OK, I’ll be a journalist.’ ”
She changed her major, with a theater minor. But even after she earned her bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies in 2005, she still felt unprepared. She had worked as an intern at a radio station, but she had no TV résumé tape. She finally did an internship at KTRK in Houston, where she made the tape that ended up getting her her first job, at KOSA in Midland-Odessa.
“I really never had a direction on what I wanted to do,” she says, “but once I decided what it was going to be, I went for it 150 percent.”
Sewell spent some time with us on the phone for an edition of “Meet the anchor.” This is an edited version of the conversation.
On whether she’s a morning person: “I’m a morning person now. When I started in this business, I was the evening weekend anchor, so I was on the complete opposite schedule. I started weekend mornings in Wichita, and once they offered me the weekday job, I just kinda had to flip the script.
“It took me a long time to find the balance — and I don’t mean just a balance on sleeping, but also when to eat, when to work out, how to still have a life, because I was in my 20s at the time. [But] I’m a morning person now. I’m awake, I wake up on the weekends — I don’t wake up at 1:45 on the weekends, but I still wake up. And I’m usually ready to go to bed at like 9 or 10 o’clock, so I have no problem eating dinner at like 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon.”
Coffee regimen: “I have one of those Nespresso machines, so I would prefer to do a double-shot of espresso with a little bit of coconut almond milk, like kind of have a frother. I have my own little barista section of my kitchen. That’s really about it.
“I don’t drink a ton of coffee all morning long, but that’s because almost every station I’ve ever worked at, the coffee pot is disgusting, and the coffee is gross. But I will tell you that I’ve discovered that that’s not the case at WFAA, so I may be drinking a little more coffee. I don’t know if they’re investing in it a little more, but it’s actually Starbucks, so that’s a bonus.”
Before she was on TV: “I started working at Bath & Body Works when I was in high school. I worked there up through my first TV job, because it pays so little when you start in television. I worked [at the store] part time during the Christmas holidays so that I could have enough money to buy Christmas presents. People would come up to me and ask, ‘Are you that news lady?’ because this was in Odessa, and it was the only Bath & Body Works around. I worked there for a number of years. It was a great company; they were very good to me.”
First paying journalism job: “It was at CBS 7 in Odessa — it is the station that is inside the mall. So when people were doing their shopping, they could watch our newscast. We referred to our newsroom studio ... as ‘The Fishbowl,’ because there was this glass wall, and people could watch us.”
[I note that “News 8 Daybreak” and other WFAA newscasts are shot at the station’s Victory Park studio, where people on the Plaza can see the newcasts. She laughs.] “Except that people haven’t been tapping on the glass. But then again, there’s not a lot of people around at 6 a.m.”
First time on-air: “I remember my very first live shot, which may have been my very first time on television. I remember it was OK, except I got a little too descriptive. In college, you’re told to describe everything, take the viewer there, bring them to the scene, and I went a little overboard. Basically, there was a body that was found, and I was describing all the senses — how it looked, how it smelled. I got back and my news director said, ‘Don’t ever do that again.’ ”
[Update: After this story was initially published, we asked Sewell an additional question via email. Here’s her reply.]
Most memorable story: “My most memorable story was about a birthday ad that appeared in the Wichita Eagle. If you glanced at it, the photo and message appeared to be a normal announcement in the wedding/obit section but come to find out the man in the photo was a convicted serial killer! He killed three women in Kansas back in the 1990s (that we know of) and one of the victims’ family members saw the ad and was outraged. That led to a bigger story on how announcements are vetted, etc. Needless to say, the newspaper editor/management apologized and come to find out it was [placed by] some woman who was dating this guy in prison. If you stopped to read the announcement, it was clear the killer was in an orange jumpsuit, so it made for quite the talker.”
Any Ron Burgundy moments? “I co-anchored with someone who thought the Titanic hit the iceberg head-on. I remember this person saying that on television and I just looked at him like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ We had an argument on television about it not happening that way. But I don’t ever recall having a mega-embarrassing moment. I’ve always had to be careful not to do anything stupid, because I’ve always looked really young, and before [’Daybreak’], I was really blonde. So you’re always continually having to prove yourself.
“The only time I came close to having a Ron Burgundy experience was when I did this TV show called ‘Making News: Texas Style’ in my first job, in Midland-Odessa.” (The show aired nationally on the now-defunct TV Guide Network.) “I just felt like, ‘You’re 23, they’re following you around with a camera,’ and there were many moments where I look back and I have the mouth of a sailor and I don’t know what I’m doing, and it’s all captured somewhere on TV.”
The “secret life” of an anchor: “I thought ‘Making News: Texas Style’ was pretty bad. [Laughs] I have a YouTube channel on which I do a lot of makeup and beauty stuff. It started a year ago, kind of answers a lot of viewer questions. It’s super basic, more like hair and makeup. [And] hot yoga — I love to be in a 105-degree room and work out.”