Kari Lake is one half of the longest-running news team in the Valley, “Hook & Lake,” with co-anchor John Hook on FOX 10. The Iowa-raised Lake has been on Valley airwaves for nearly 20 years and can be seen weeknights on the 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. newscasts. The Phoenix resident says she’s perfectly content with her career and offers up advice for aspiring anchors. Keep scrolling, too, to see a video of her name her five favorite reasons for living in Arizona.
What brought you to Arizona?
A job at Channel 12 brought me here in 1994, but I also had family here, as well. I had sent my sister a tape just to say, “Hey, look, I’m on TV! Here’s some of my work.” I didn’t even apply, but she knew somebody who knew somebody who was at Channel 12.
All of a sudden, I got a call one day from Sean McLaughlin (now an anchor for Channel 5) who said, “Hey, we want you to come out and interview for the job.” It was for news and weather anchoring and reporting.
What was your professional career like before you got to Phoenix?
When I was in my last year of college, I was already working in TV. The station where I was interning hired me as an associate producer, a behind-the-scenes job. One day, someone had called in sick, and I was asked to shoot a story with a stand-up. It was a story on old historic homes that had been renovated. I did an entire piece on it, and it ran that Sunday night at 10 o’clock. It was one of my most proud moments — my first story that made the news!
I found out there was a job opening in town for anchoring, weather and reporting. With the piece that had made air, I put that on tape and had a friend get me on the green screen for weather.
Once I got on the air, I was horrible at weather. My first live weathercast was New Year’s Eve. I didn’t get to the set in time to catch my breath, so I proceeded to pant and hyperventilate through the entire weathercast. It was painful. I was really nervous and unskilled for about a year, but then I thought, “You know, I can do this. I just need to take a positive attitude.” When I changed my attitude, things improved really quickly. I spent about a year and a half doing that before I got my job in Phoenix.
I came to Arizona on one of the hottest days of the year and immediately loved it. I like to joke I slithered into Phoenix, the happiest reptile on the planet.
I wanted to be the main news anchor somewhere because I was doing weekends at Channel 12. They wanted me to stay, but I wanted to spread my wings and do something different. I had received an offer to do a tabloid type show out in Hollywood, but I just didn’t feel like that kind of person.
I went to Albany, New York, which is a really serious news market. It’s also a very political news market. I love politics and wanted to cover them, and I learned so much in the little over a year I was there.
My current news director called me and said, “I may have an opening here (in Arizona.) You’re the first person that came to mind. What’s your situation?” I said, “I will figure out a way to get back there.” My husband and I were really missing the sunshine.
What’s your first memory of wanting to be an anchor?
I wasn’t someone who wanted to be an anchor since I was little – I wanted to be a teacher or a beautician. I never even thought about wanting to be an anchor because we weren’t allowed to watch TV as kids. We had nine kids in our family, and one day my dad said, “No more TV.” I was maybe 8 or 9. We’d only watch TV on Saturday nights, and it was a lot of The Love Boat and Fantasy Island.
When I went off to college, I was going to be an elementary school teacher, and after two years, I ran out of money. I dropped out of school and got a job at a radio station, which shared a building with the TV station. I didn’t even know these jobs existed. I knew Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw, but it didn’t hit me this was a job anyone could do until I got into radio sales.
I worked in radio sales for a year, then moved to Minnesota to help with a sick relative. I started watching a lot of local news there. A year later, I went back to college and decided to work toward becoming a news reporter instead of a teacher. I was incredibly focused and really motivated.
What’s your typical week like?
I get in at 1:30 p.m. and have an editorial meeting. I have promo shoots, more meetings going over the early shows, and I help pick stories for the late show. I go out on the set around 4:30 for the 5 p.m. show.
I take a quick dinner break, then we have a meeting, go over stories and scripts, record voiceovers for the 9 p.m. show, and we go on the air for the late show. I’m usually out the door by 10:30.
It’s not a perfect schedule, but I really like it. If I have time for a dinner break, I try to drive home and see my kids. We try to prioritize weekend time for the family. For my life, I like working nights. I’m a night person.
What are your goals?
I don’t have any major goals. I always feel like goals keep people living too far in the future. I try to live in the moment. As long as I have this job, I’ll do it. I don’t keep my eye too far on the future. I try to keep it on the present.
What are your predictions for the local news business with the emergence of digital citizen reporters on social media?
It’s changed so much in the past five years. We’ve brought social media into the fold, so every story we’re covering is being put out on social media.
We also have received so many story ideas, tips and pieces of video from our social media contacts. I think it can all work together. And it’s exciting to see how it’s all changed and evolved in such a short window of time. I don’t think local news is going anywhere. We still tell stories, and if you do that well in a compelling way, people will be interested.
Why is it important for people to tune into local news?
It’s important if you want to know what’s going on in your local community, and more than that, I think people tune into FOX 10 because they like the people giving them the news.
I work with a lot of great journalists and people who have lived in the community a long time. We’re not a revolving door here. The people bring the depth of living here for a long time to what they cover. They’re likable people and fun to be around.
What makes a great news anchor, and what makes you a great news anchor?
You have to feel a connection to what you’re doing, whether you are an anchor, a dishwasher, a teacher, or a firefighter. When you’re present in the job you’re doing, you’re going to do great at it. I’m passionate about what I’m doing no matter what it is, whether it be anchoring the 5 and 9 p.m. news, cooking a Sunday dinner, going over homework with the kids, or cleaning the garage. Give it your all, and you will succeed.
A good news anchor is also someone you like and trust, and someone who can make you laugh a little bit.
What are your tips for interviewing?
Whenever I do an interview, I try to understand where that person’s coming from. Sometimes you’re interviewing someone people don’t like, and I’m still trying to understand, “Where is this person coming from?” I believe people make decisions based on experiences they’ve had and the information they have. They’re not choosing to be bad people.
Listening is important. Sometimes you want to ask a bunch of questions and not let the other person talk. Listening is an important skill that must be mastered to do good interviews.
What are your tips for interviewing someone who doesn’t really want to talk to you?
Sometimes silence can be uncomfortable, but it might make the other person uncomfortable enough to speak and give you that answer. Try not to ask questions with “yes/no” answers, and try to get them to expound a bit. Don’t be tempted to jump in with another question before they’ve had time to answer.
What’s your most memorable interview?
I’ve interviewed a lot of amazing people, but sometimes it’s the person on just your average news story, the person you interview whose child is in the hospital, for example, who makes a huge impact. They’re not people who I could give you their name, but I remember the story touched me. Some everyday people I’ve interviewed have affected me where I’ve walked away from them with goosebumps.
What’s a notable issue you see affecting the Arizona community?
I think immigration is huge and goes beyond Arizona to Washington (D.C.) I think this is ground zero for immigration, and it’s going to cause a lot of angst in Arizona on both sides of the issue, because not everybody is going to get what they want.
I really believe we all need to come together. I feel like we all get really set in our beliefs. I really enjoy sitting down with someone I feel has completely opposite views than I have, because I get to understand where they’re coming from. If we all start understanding why people feel a certain way, we can come up with an idea that at least makes everyone a little bit happy with the situation.
How do you stay calm under pressure when things go wrong?
Things go wrong all the time. I think the key is not to act like nothing’s going wrong. There’s a line between “don’t draw attention to this” and “let the viewer in on it.” When there’s a complete meltdown, sometimes you just have to throw your hands up and say, “Let me say that again,” or “We’re having some problems here.” Sometimes it’s not obvious to the viewers at home, and there’s no reason to draw attention to it. Never get mad when things are going wrong on live TV.
What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
I’m such a hermit. Whenever I have time available, I’m usually home with my kids and my husband.
Learn more about FOX 10 anchor Ron Hoon here on Phoenix People.