Like a true Austinite, Quita Culpepper loves live music and breakfast tacos. Quita has made a successful news career in Austin, and it is clear that the community loves her. She won best TV anchor in the Austin Chronicle Best of Austin Awards in 2014 and 2015, won best TBV reporter in 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2014 and has won numerous AP awards from the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters.
Quita began her broadcast career in radio and later became a General Assignments reporter at KVUE TV where she has stayed since 1998. In 2015 she was assigned the anchor seat for the 5 p.m. news. That same year, Quita was named one of eight Most Influential Women by Austin Way magazine. Most recently, Quita Culpepper has won WCA’s Outstanding Austin Communicator Award and, as a result, WCA asked Quita to share about her career origins and about the ever-evolving city of Austin.
Would you please share a little more on how you started/evolved in your communications career?
I’ve always known I wanted to be a journalist (or a rock star). I can remember playing with my dad’s tape recorder, trying to use my most serious voice as I recited made-up news stories into the microphone. When I was six I started my own newspaper. I loved writing stories for my family, my brothers, anyone who did (and didn’t!) ask for one. A love for storytelling is in my blood. I majored in Radio/TV Broadcasting while attending Southwest Texas State University, and my first job was as news director for 88.7 KAZI, a public radio station here in Austin. Working at both places was a great experience. Television was a little different than radio, it took some getting used to, but I think I may finally have the hang of it!
Having been one of the few Austin newscasters who has stayed in Austin through the years, how have you seen the city change? What do you love about Austin? Who have been some of your favorite local personalities?
Austin has gone from a sleepy little town, where everyone seemed to know everyone else, to this huge thriving metropolis, and it is still experiencing major growing pains. The cost of living, and everyone’s favorite thing—traffic, both have undergone big changes in just the past few years. But I love this town. I can listen to incredible musicians, eat delicious foods at a four-star restaurant or at my favorite food trailer and, of course, hiking through the greenbelt is an experience everyone should enjoy. And there’s no end to the fun places I can take my niece and nephew! Overall Austin is a great place to live. There are so many talented personalities in this town. In the past I’d watch Ron Oliveria and Judy Maggio (and had the pleasure of working with both of them!). Also Tonya Cooke and Neal Spelce made a huge impression on me when I first started watching Austin news. When it comes to radio, some of my favorites would be Dale Dudley, Bama Brown, Debra Cole and Dave Jarrot.
What are some bits of advice you would give other women who are starting on a career path or even changing a career path, particularly in the Communications field?
Always believe in yourself. When I first started looking for a reporting job in TV, I had a news director tell me to my face that I’d never make it. That just made me work even harder to achieve my goal. And never try to be like someone else, just be the best you that you can be and things will work out.
What are some challenging aspects of your job and what are some highlights of your career as a news anchor?
The biggest challenge is the hours, you’re on call all day every day…that means missing holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. It can be difficult but it’s what’s expected in this business. And not letting the emotional aspect of a story affect you. There are times your heart is breaking reporting the death of a child or a tragic accident, but you can never show it. I could say the highlight of my career was covering a Presidential election, or breaking a big story, but honestly, it was meeting a little girl at North Oaks Elementary school. She was trying to speak in front of a crowd and began to cry. I comforted her and told her how I still get scared speaking in front of people, and made her laugh. Years later her mom called and told me thanks to my being so kind, her daughter planned to study journalism in college. That is something I’ll always remember.
How do you find balance in your professional/personal life?
I’m not sure I have, lol! For me journalism is more than a career, it’s a true passion. Thankfully, I have a very understanding family and significant other. They keep me grounded.
Noemi Ortiz is a copywriter and editor with more than five years of experience in various industries, including fashion.