When word came down that she’d been nominated for two Emmys, Kate Siefert, ‘17, hadn’t even told her mother before the congratulations from former professors started flooding her inbox. But that’s just indicative, she says, of the relationships she built while in the Digital Media Journalism and Sport Communication programs as an Ashland undergraduate.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support and guidance I received from my professors at Ashland,” Kate says. Now a successful field reporter for WSYX (ABC 6 and Fox 28) in Columbus, Ohio, she points to Dave McCoy, John Skrada, Gretchen Hoak and the late Matt Tullis as instrumental in her growth as both a television journalist and a person.
“They directed and pushed me. They were teachers, friends and a support system. Colleagues that went to bigger schools don’t have those connections. If I need something, if I need advice, I reach out to them first.”
The Emmy nominations are for a series of stories she did just before Christmas 2022. After an Amber alert went out for infant twins abducted from their home in Columbus, she contacted the father during the early hours of the panic.
Her skills as a journalist convinced him to allow her to tell the story. And her ability to create instant human connections prompted him to go one step further and invite her to join the family on the search.
When one of the babies was sighted at Dayton International Airport, she traveled with the family and was present for the reunion. “I was with the family throughout the search. When the second child was found in Indianapolis, the mother called me and thanked me for helping. And I thought: that’s what this job is all about. It’s not about being on television. It’s about making a difference in people’s lives.”
Growing up in Cleveland, however, a television career wasn’t even on her radar. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I thought maybe I would be a teacher.” Her initial interest in Ashland University, in fact, only happened when a member of the volleyball coaching staff approached her at a tournament. But once on campus, she saw an opportunity to pursue something she might be interested in.
“I came to Ashland to play volleyball,” she says. “I had no idea what I was going to study. I interned at a local television station in Cleveland during high school, so when I saw a digital media journalism class offered, I thought I might be interested. I love to write. I love connecting with people, hearing their stories and getting to know them personally.”
So, she went for it. But even as she began to show promise within the classroom, her professors saw something in her she had yet to identify. “I was so involved with volleyball,” she says, “that by the end of my freshman year, that’s all I was doing. Dave McCoy came up to me one day and said, you need to get involved in more things. You have something–he didn’t say it was the ’It Factor,’ necessarily, but it was almost to that level–and you could be good at this. But if you don’t get involved outside the classroom, you’ll never get a job.”
For the second time that year, she again went for it.
By her junior year, she had a radio show on WRDL, was anchoring both the news and sportscasts on the university television station and was the sports editor for the Collegian before taking over the managing editor role shortly thereafter.
“I would never have done any of it,” she says, “if they hadn’t cared enough to push me.”
After graduating with majors in digital media journalism and sport communication, plus a pair of minors in public relations and entrepreneurship, she landed a job covering sports at a television station in Steubenville, Ohio.
“Again,” she says, “my first job only happened because of a recommendation from Dave (McCoy) and Matt (Tullis). They said this will be a great place for you.” After one of the regular station anchors went on maternity leave, Kate stepped up to fill in–which led directly to a full-time anchor job at a television station in Michigan.
“The advantage you have with learning digital media at Ashland,” she says, “is that you are exposed to so many things. I can go to my current boss and say, ‘I can do this and this and this,’ because I learned to do each part and, even more importantly, understand how it all works together.”
When the opportunity to move near her fiancee–Mitch Cox, 2017–in Columbus arose after a few years at the Michigan station, she took it. “I loved being an anchor. And maybe I’ll do it again at some point in my career. But when the opportunity to be a field reporter opened up, I took it. I love being in the mix, getting to know people, telling their stories.”
Along with the larger, more attention-grabbing stories that lead to award nominations, Kate is just as interested in the smaller, more human ones that might still significantly impact the lives of those involved. She points to her recent coverage of a city-owned retention pond that had started flooding a neighboring family’s basement. “They called and called, and nothing happened,” she says. “No response from the city. Then we did the story, and the city fixed it right away. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to anyone else, but it’s huge for the people it affects. That’s what I love about my job.”
In light of achieving so much success this early in her career, her advice to prospective students is twofold. “First, get involved. Especially for digital media majors, Ashland offers so much beyond just the required classroom experience. What you learn in class is important. But what you get in terms of real-world experience is invaluable.”
And second, wisdom so universal it should be written in stone:
“Food after college isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” she says. “So enjoy Convo while you have it. Man, what I wouldn’t do to go back in time for just one more Country Fried Steak Night!”