United Tribes News
News reporting is storytelling
April 5, 2016
Former TV network correspondent visits UTTC
By Alicia Hegland-Thorpe, United Tribes News
Retired TV network reporter Hattie Kauffman shared her story March 10 at United Tribes Technical College.
United Tribes News photo Dennis Neumann
In the early 70’s, Hattie Kauffman was a 17 year-old college freshman ready to change the world. She had ideas to explore, people to meet and stories to tell. But she didn’t know how to get started.
When she was a youngster, her family left their home Nez Perce reservation in Idaho. She and six other siblings grew up alone, without electricity and many times without water, in Seattle Public Housing projects.
“When you have alcoholic parents, bills tend to not get paid,” she told a group at United Tribes Technical College.
But she learned to survive, and she believes it was those “survival skills” that enabled her to become successful as a reporter.
Kauffman is a media icon and role model in Indian Country. She spent 40 years in television news and holds the distinction of being the first Native American to report a news story on one of the major TV networks.
Now, in a book and on the speaking circuit, she intertwines her experiences in broadcast news with her personal life, telling of lessons learned over the years.
Kauffman says she considered dropping out of high school. But a Native community leader convinced her otherwise, saying, “Hattie we don’t need more Indian dropouts, we need more Indian graduates.”
Kauffman attend the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis because she followed one of her sisters there. At the time, the American Indian Movement was making headlines. She recounted that during a meeting of the American Indian Student Association, a radio producer asked if anyone might be interested in reporting “Indian news” on the college station.
When nobody raised a hand, she did. She was on the air the next day. And her reporting led to a scholarship and a job on WCCO Radio, the popular Twin Cities CBS affiliate.
Though her broadcasting career started in radio, like many, her career path turned to television news reporting. She started in TV at KING 5 News in Seattle, where she won four Emmy awards. She became a network TV news correspondent and substitute anchor for ABC’s Good Morning America and later worked at CBS. Her reports were carried on many nationally televised programs, including 48 Hours, Street Stories, CBS Sunday Morning, CBS Radio, CBS Special Reports, the Early Show, and the CBS Evening News.
Kauffman says that Native Americans are, by nature, story tellers. Before retiring in 2012, she covered a wide range of stories from volcano eruptions, plane crashes, and presidential elections, to red carpet galas and backstage interviews with Hollywood stars.
Now, she spends her retirement traveling, speaking and attending book signings. She also paints. Her book is titled “Falling Into Place.”
Find out more about Hattie Kauffman at www.hattiekauffman.com.
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