By Leslie Jones
KEYE TV anchor and managing editor Judy Maggio spent more than 30 years in broadcast news, covered all kinds of stories, and was voted “Best News Anchor in Austin” many years in a row by the Austin Chronicle.
Among top career highlights, Judy lists covering three presidential inaugurations and four national political conventions. At the end of May, she will be leaving KEYE TV so that she can enjoy weeknights off (for the first time in 30 years) and pursue new opportunities outside the high-stress nightly news environment.
Judy will be honored at the 41st Banner Brunch on Saturday, April 12. Ahead of time, she shared more with us about her amazing career.
WCA: What’s been the most rewarding part of your career?
Judy: The wonderful friends I’ve made along the way. You work incredibly closely with colleagues in a newsroom and you become like family very quickly. Friendships I’ve cultivated both at work and out in the field have truly enriched my life. That’s by far, the greatest gift of my decades in television news.
WCA: What’s been the most fun?
Judy: I’ve sung with Willie Nelson on his bus, walked through the wildflower center with Lady Bird Johnson, swooned over Patrick Swayze as he did an interview with me at Zilker Park (and then kissed me on the cheek when it was over). I’ve interviewed Dan Rather, Walter Cronkite, Ted Koppel and Peter Jennings… I had the good fortune to work in television news when there was plenty of money to spend on travel and on taking time to really do in-depth stories. Basically, I’ve been blessed.
WCA: What was something you had to learn early on in your career?
Judy: My mentor, Carole Kneeland, taught me not to be intimidated by politicians and people in positions of power. When I was her intern at the State Capitol, I was in awe of the way she would question the governor or hold lawmakers’ feet to the fire on an issue. I learned very quickly that they put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us.
WCA: What was the most difficult part of your career?
Judy: When our house burned down in January of 2006. My husband was a special projects producer at KEYE at the time and we were both out in California covering the Longhorns in the National Championship. We got that dreaded call in the middle of the night and returned to a home where there was very little left. Our beloved cat was killed in the fire too.
But it was a bittersweet time because the outpouring of love from this community touched my heart and made me feel a bit like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. Every kindness we’d ever shown anyone was repaid tenfold.
We handled the tragedy with the love and support of family and friends. For about a year after that, it was very difficult for me to read any story dealing with fire, but it also taught me so many valuable life lessons. Everyone says the most important things in life are not things at all, but until you’ve lost everything you own – yet the people you love most in the world are safe and healthy – you can’t really comprehend the insignificance of “stuff.”
WCA: How has the work environment in broadcast news changed for women over the course of your career?
Judy: I think the biggest change is the number of women in management. When I first started in 1981, women were just cracking the glass ceiling in television news and rising above “token” status. Though I’ve never personally felt discriminated against, it’s been invigorating to watch women take over the anchor desks at the networks and run major news operations and broadcast companies.
WCA: What do you think television news will look like in another 30 years? Are you optimistic?
Judy: That’s a tough one. Remember, I started in the business when cable was just being installed in people’s homes and only three networks were really doing news. Now we compete against our cell phones, online news, hundreds of news channels, etc.
I don’t honestly think in 30 years folks will be sitting down at a designated time to watch a newscast on television. Heck, no one under 40 does that today… I’m not optimistic about the future of television news. In our drive to put things on social media as quickly as possible, the accuracy of information is not vetted as fully as it should be. We old-timers in the business are greatly concerned about this. My favorite news director used to say, “It’s more important to be right than to be first!”
WCA: What are you going to do come June?
Judy: Oh my gosh, I’ve already started collecting a wardrobe of flip-flops! This summer I plan to do a lot of swimming, yoga and traveling. I volunteer to sing at nursing homes and I will have more time to do that. My daughter graduated from St. Andrews University in Scotland (no, she did not meet a prince there) and we will attend her graduation in June and then do some vacationing abroad.
I’m just looking forward to having weeknights off! For the first time in 30 years, we can actually meet friends for happy hour or go to a concert that’s not on Saturday night! You will see me at Barton Springs … a lot!
I do plan to continue writing and working in journalism in some form or fashion come January. I just haven’t figured out how that will play out just yet. I’ve worked full-time in a very stressful job since I was 21, and I’m lucky that now I can take a break and explore new opportunities.