Hanna Battah, who recently joined KDFW/Channel 4 and will make her debut as weekend anchor on Sunday, says she got into journalism because she was curious about — well, a lot of things.
"Growing up, I had so many different interest areas, whether it was politics, whether it was consumer issues, or just staying up on the news," says Battah, who will anchor the Saturday and Sunday editions of "Good Day" and contribute to the weekday editions as a reporter (this Saturday's edition will be pre-empted by FIFA World Cup coverage). "For a while, I was really interested in dentistry, also, which seems really random, but for me, as a result of all that, journalism became kind of a common-sense choice in terms of a career path. It allowed me to do something different every single day and never stop learning."
In her previous job, at KBAK/KBFX-TV in Bakersfield, Calif., she did a lot of serious stories, but she also did thing like tattooing the call letters of KBAK on a willing on-camera subject. But wait — what was that about dentistry? She considered a life of looking inside people's mouths?
Battah (pronounced "bah-TAH) laughs.
"I think a career as a lawyer or a dentist would have been a safer bet for me," she says.
Her mother is in the medical field; she has two older sisters and one younger one, two of whom are nurses and on who works on medical products at 3M such as Avagard, a sanitizer commonly found in hospitals. And her dad wanted to be a lawyer. "So those two career paths were things that I knew if I wanted to go into [them], they were stable, they're always in demand and it's a clear path on how to get where you want to go and still be well off."
Instead, she took the left turn to journalism and never looked back: In Bakersfield, she produced and co-anchored noon newscasts and reported for evening newscasts; at KOMU-TV in Columbia, Mo., she was digital-content specialist as well as an anchor and reporter, often acting as her own videographer and editor. At KOMU, she covered President Obama's visit to Kansas City and covered multiple Missouri elections.
Other stops included KPHO in Phoenix, where she was a Meredith-Cronkite Fellow working in the news department; Missouri Digital News in Jefferson City, where she was a political/reporter editor; WCCO in Minneapolis, where she did an internship in the news department. Originally from Minnesota, she earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.
We ran a few questions by her for our latest edition of "meet the anchor." This is an edited version of the conversation.
On whether she's a morning person
"I will say I'm not necessarily a morning person, but I'm definitely a want-to-be-a-morning-person. I'm sure you've seen all the studies about how morning people, because they start their days earlier, have more productive days. I know I have the best days ever whenever I wake up early, get a good workout in, and have coffee before I start my shift. That's not an option now, since I'm starting extra early on 'Good Day,' but it's been an adjustment and it's been a welcome one, and I've been able to do so much with my days since then." [Battah tries to get up at 1:30 a.m. at the latest for her shift on "Good Day," which begins at 4 a.m. and runs till 9 a.m.; Fox recently announced that it will add an hour on the back end in the fall.]
On her coffee regimen
"At my old job, I used to limit myself. I used to anchor the [noon to 1 p.m.] newscast. I would get in at 9:30, so I used to cut myself off from coffee at noon. It was just a way of moderating how much I was drinking. Here, I just drink unlimited amounts of coffee. I'll make a cup before I leave, and then I'll kind of base it off how I feel. I'm not gonna lie, I've made a couple of Starbucks runs this past week, in the middle of the show, when we have enough of a break to stop and grab some extra coffee." [As you'll see in her next answer, Battah knows a thing or two about coffee.]
Before she was on TV
"My first job was a barista at a chain coffee shop that doesn't exist here, but I wish it did. It's called Caribou Coffee. It's really popular in Minnesota, where I'm from. I used to be a barista there, so I actually kind of adjusted to that morning-show schedule working as a a barista, waking up, not only being awake to do your job but also being awake enough to wake other people up when they stop by the coffee shop and get their morning latte. It was a job that I got when I was in high school, so I was maybe 16 years old. I hated coffee. I never drank coffee, and if I was going to drink anything, it would've been a Frappuccino or something like that. Now I love coffee. I wish I'd had that love back then, when I could've taken advantage of it and tried more of the espresso drinks that they had."
On the weirdest drink order she remembers at Caribou
"We had a lot of regulars, so we sort of just learned their orders. Caribou drinks are similar to Starbucks, so you can customize them with syrups and toppings. There was a woman who would come in and she would always get a Cooler, which is what they call the Frappuccino-[style drinks] there. And she would add 15 pumps of the vanilla sugar syrup, and then she would add five pumps of a white-chocolate syrup, which is a little bit thicker. After we would put all of that in, it would take up at least half the cup, so half of the cup would be complete syrup. We'd throw some ice in it and blend it up, and she loved it. "
Her first paying journalism job
"It was at the NBC-affiliate station in Columbia, Mo.. I was an MMJ — a multimedia journalist — and an anchor at the station. I worked there for several years. Columbia is a small market, and I started when I was in college, but I wound up staying there for a little bit. I just really got along with the team there and loved the co-workers that I had. So in addition to those things, I also kind of became the resident photographer for the other anchors who needed someone to help them shoot their stories. I did quite a bit of plain shooting, a lot of summer work, basically just filled in wherever I was needed. I worked in sports, I worked in news, and I loved all of it. Anything and everything at that station, I probably did that job at one point."
On her most memorable story
"In Bakersfield ... I did a lot of work with people who fell victim to wildfires, which happened quite often in California. There was this woman who I ended up stumbling into the day of a fire called the Erskine Fire. It was up in a mountain area, and wind speeds just exploded, so this fire had just exponentially grown overnight. They ended up calling me in the next morning to go and report. I jumped at the opportunity to go into the mountain areas in Kern County. We were in the fire line, so no civilians were allowed there. It was strictly media and fire officials.
"By the end of the day, some of the residents had actually snuck in through the fire line to see if there houses had made it or not. I had been reporting at a trailer park [that] had been completely devastated by the fire. There wasn't a single standing trailer on one side of the street. I ended up running into a woman who snuck back in to see if her house had made it. It turned out that it didn't. It was an understandably emotional time for her and I remember just running up to her, a complete stranger, and saying, 'I know I don't know you, but do you mind if I give you a hug?' Just watching her realize that her whole life had disappeared in a matter of one night made me emotional. I ended up speaking with her on the air, and proceeded to do follow-up stories with her later as she struggled to find housing. California has a massive housing shortage. .... I really became attached to this woman and her story, and just the fact that she trusted me to tell that to other people in the hopes of fixing what is a huge issue in the state of California."
Another memorable story — from the sky
"I did a story about one of the only all female competitive skydiving teams in California. The story was done out of Skydive Taft. That day I showed up prepared to shoot, write and edit my own story. I remember being more concerned about gathering the components for my story that day than the actual jump from the plane since I was working on my own. As I was filling out the paperwork for the jump, I called my mom to let her know I was listing her as my emergency contact. Let’s just say she wasn’t as calm as me. I was really happy with the story and am excited to give skydiving another try. This time, I’ll give my emergency contact more advance notice. "
On whether she's witnessed any "Ron Burgundy moments"
"It's not really a 'Ron Burgundy moment' from the movie [Anchorman], but I kind of felt like it was a stereotypical 'What people think anchors do' moment. People don't realize that both men and women have to wear makeup on the air. The men will usually just wear white foundation or concealer to offset the HD lighting. One of my former co-workers mentioned to me that he sometimes just so happened to forget to take it off when he went out in public, because he liked the way that it looks on him."
The "secret life" of an anchor
"I run triathlons. I grew up swimming competitively. I swam competitively for 10 years. I also ran a lot. I love being outdoors and hiking and all that stuff, so now to stay in shape, I run triathlons. I have yet to find one here that I can try, but if anyone has any recommendations, I'd love to hear them. I definitely need that milestone to train for to keep me accountable in running and swimming and stuff."
"Good Day" airs 7-9 a.m. Saturdays, 6-8 a.m. Sundays, 4-9 a.m. weekdays on KDFW/Channel 4. During the next few weeks, times could be affected by FIFA World Cup coverage.