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TV buff lands dream job

Saturday, September 13, 2008 | 8:34 p.m. CDT; updated 9:52 a.m. CDT, Monday, September 15, 2008

COLUMBIA — If FX Networks sees 2.5 million viewers for the "Sons of Anarchy" premiere or a network launches a block of shows targeting one demographic, she's on top of it.

The eyes and ears of the industry, Kimberly Speight Nordyke, reporter for "The Hollywood Reporter" delves into behind-the-scenes action of the TV and movie world. Instead of asking Katherine Heigl what she's wearing, she's the one to nab the interview with NBC Universal President and Chief Executive, Jeff Zucker.

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"It's a trade magazine, so we don't focus on the gossip," Speight Nordyke said. "It's more news."

But that's not to say this self-described consumer of all entertainment journalism doesn't appreciate all aspects of the industry.

"Right now I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, People, US Weekly," she said.

But she hasn't always seen herself as a Hollywood reporter. Speight Nordyke's far-ranging interests led to her initial pursuit of a career in education. While always interested in entertainment, she didn't start by pitching stories on celebrities or taking a stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In fact, she began with trips to Jefferson City and learning about higher education. She began as a public information specialist. "At my undergrad at Southeast Missouri State, I was editor of the newspaper on campus, and my hometown newspaper," she said.

"By the time I got to Mizzou I wanted a change."

After interning with the Missouri Department of Higher Education, Speight Nordyke focused on the public relations side and decided it was what she wanted to pursue.

"I wanted to teach journalism, and with a PR background I was more well-rounded," she said. For her it was an invaluable experience.

"Now when publicists call me, I'm more empathetic."

After graduating in 1999, she used her public relations and marketing savvy to get ahead, or at least get a job.

"I sent out about 50 resumes, all to LA," she said laughing. "I targeted about every PR and journalism agency I could find."

While she got some calls back, she found her location worked largely against her.

"When you're all the way in Missouri, they don't take you as seriously," she said. But someone did. In 2000, LA called back.

A call from "The Hollywood Reporter", and a friend's offer to let her move into her Los Angeles apartment was all it took.

"I was fully prepared to wait tables if I had to," she said, recalling the experience. But she didn't have to.

In June 2000 the girl from the boot of Missouri, who had so easily shrugged off entertainment journalism before, thinking it would never happen for her, ­ became a copy editor, and began to build her way up.

A good foot in the door, the job allowed her to learn the style of the magazine, improve her own writing through editing and learn industry terminology.

Four years later, a story about televised poker and the world poker tour became her testing ground. Never had the stakes been so high. Though she didn't know it at the time, the story was her TV-reporter tryout.

"I would have been a nervous wreck had I known," she said. When the story ran, Speight Nordyke learned that she was being promoted to reporter.

"When they told me," she says, "I think my jaw hit the floor."

Since then, Speight Nordyke's job has been a television fan's dream. She writes about the industry for the industry.

Whether interviewing Howie Mandel and Bonnie Hunt on their shows going into syndication, or previewing what's next in line for actor/producer David Arquette and the MTV network, she's always in the loop.

Among the most interesting articles for this TV buff are the features.

"I did a story on the second life of celebrities through reality shows," she said. Interviewing Danny Bonaduce, of former "Partridge Family" fame, and Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia in "The Brady Bunch," were just one of the many perks.

"I probably shouldn't admit it," she said with a chuckle. "But I'm a fan of some of these shows."

But, like many journalists, for Speight Nordyke there's no comparison to getting the scoop.

"I had an exclusive on a TNT spinoff for ‘The Closer'," she said. "I got a tip, followed it, and the story was on page one."

While she hopes to someday get her PhD and teach journalism to college students, Speight Nordyke loves the job she has now. "I love TV, watch a lot of it," she joked, "I couldn't think of a better job."

 

 

 


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