Hi, I’m Katie McCall. I love to tell people’s stories, so it’s been a privilege for me to make my living doing it.
My 17 year career has taken me from Tucson, Arizona, to Houston, To Chicago, and here to Tampa/St. Petersburg, where I was working as a news anchor, when the Pulse Night Club shooting happened in Orlando. Those are the tough days. But it’s stories like that one that make being a storyteller important. Listening to people describe the lives of talented, vibrant young people, who had so much ahead of them, mattered a great deal to me. Our job as media was to make sure that the victims received more attention than the terrorist who took them from their loved ones, and from this community.
I’ve been fortunate to have been in some interesting places, at just the ‘right’ time. I was working in Chicago, when I got to cover a little-known Illinois Senator, named Barack Obama, who was running for president. The first time I heard him speak, in person, was in a high school auditorium, standing on risers, with my camera guy. My stint in Chicago would prove to be action-filled. Not one, but TWO Illinois governors would end up in prison, including then-Governor Rod Blaojevich, who ultimately dared the feds to record his calls, yet still attempted to sell Senator Obama’s seat. Former Governor George Ryan was nearing the end of his prison sentence on federal corruption charges. In Chicago, I saw singer R. Kelly go on trial, and be acquitted by a jury of his peers, for allegedly having sex with an underage relative, which had allegedly been recorded. A dermatologist was called to testify about one of his moles. That was a strange day in court. Northern Illinois University became yet another campus where I was sent to cover a mass shooting. There were also uniquely funny moments. When James Brown died, on Christmas Day, none other than the Reverend Jesse Jackson gave me a one-in-one interview, in which he did his James Brown impersonation. Can you imagine? We laughed a lot together, but he also said something profound about the singer: “Only James Brown could steal the spotlight from Jesus, on His birthday. James Brown was born in the slum, but the slum was not born in him. James Brown and Jesus had a lot in common.” It was one of those moments when I thought “I am SO glad to be a television journalist today.”
Other days are not so fun. I went to the prison in Hunstville, Texas when the “railroad killer” Angel Resendiz-Ramirez was giving interviews in Spanish, prior to his execution, and I had to translate his psychotic ramblings from Spanish, into English, to relay his final words to those affected by his killing spree. I was in Houston when Hurricane Katrina turned the Astrodome into the “refuge of last resort,” for hundreds of thousands of people. Their stories were so chilling, yet I also saw an incredible resilience in people who hadn’t just run, but had swum, out of the lower 9th Ward, in New Orleans, and ended up riding to Houston, on a commandeered school bus. They said they were blessed to be alive, at a time when I think many people would have been extremely unhappy. That’s the power of having an “attitude of gratitude.” Watching the children and hearing them talk about what had happened to them made me appreciate what a gift life is, and that children really have an almost magical ability to remind you of what truly matters. When Tropical Storm Allison flooded the Texas Medical Center, I was in my hip waders, interviewing doctors, and watching as Blackhawk helicopters landed on the rooftops, to take patients to safety. The doctors and nurses had to bag people by hand, and didn’t lose one patient.
Trials have been a big part of my career. I saw the rise and fall of Enron, and witnessed the destruction of people’s dreams, and 401k’s. I told the stories of the employees who had their life savings in Enron stock, and had to start over, many at retirement age. I returned to interview many of the same people, years later, when Jeff Skilling’s sentence was reduced. In the aftermath of the Enron collapse, Arthur Anderson, one of the “Big Five” accounting firms, also went under, and I later covered the reversal of the conviction, when there was no company left to save. I saw the trial of Andrea Yates, who was twice tried, and, ultimately institutionalized, for drowning her 5 children, after being released from a mental health facility, a day earlier. I listened to her parents, her lawyers, and her husband talk about what might have happened, had she only received the mental health care she clearly needed. As an emcee, at a “fun run”
I had to tell a crowd of runners that the Space Shuttle Columbia had exploded, and that the astronauts on board were all dead. I then covered all of their funerals, along with a memorial for Elan Ramon, the Israeli member of the crew, who was well-known in Houston’s Israeli community. Those are unforgettable moments. Rick Husband, who was the commander, called his kids from the shuttle to read bible stories to them. I was at my tailor’s shop the day before the Super Bowl, when Janet Jackson had her “wardrobe malfunction.” The next day, I obtained an exclusive interview with him, because I knew he was the guy who’d worked on her “flawed” (wink, wink) costume. I was the anchor in the studio on a day when we had Meryl Streep, live, via satellite, for an interview. THE Meryl Streep! I about died of excitement, and found her to be probably the most gracious and dynamic person with whom I’ve ever spoken. Whether you’re a president, a movie star, or a hurricane survivor, everybody has a story. My job is to let you tell it to the world. I invite you to do so, and I’m thrilled to be here.
You may have heard my voice in HBO’s recent documentary “The Jinx,” recounting the life of Billionaire Robert Durst, who killed his Galveston neighbor, dismembered his body, and threw it into the bay. Durst was acquitted but recently charged with yet another murder, largely because of evidence arising from the documentary, which pulled real news footage from reporters like me, who had covered Durst. He is in a New Orleans jail on a drug and weapons charge. I am also featured in an episode of “Snapped” on Oxygen, because of a trial I covered in Chicago.
Since I’m often asked about my education, I’m a Cum Laude graduate of Vanderbilt University, where I majored in English and Spanish. I studied for a semester at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and I loved Spain! I was in the Honors English Program, so I’ll go ahead and tell you that I am a “grammar nerd.” If and when we have stories that are grammatically flawed, call me with your complaints. I think viewers deserve good writing, along with good storytelling. I completed a fellowship at Loyola Law School, in Los Angeles, called “Law School for Journalists,” because I am fascinated by the law, and I find trials to be very interesting.
In my free time, I am very involved in philanthropy, and I generally gravitate toward events that benefit cancer patients, and research centers that serve people who are battling a disease that has affected two people who were close to me. Children’s charities and causes that preserve the environment are also very important to me. I am an avid water-skier, a lifelong SCUBA diver, a lousy golfer, a recovering runner, and a general lover of the sun and sand. I think we are responsible for taking care of each other, and the earth. I love reading Dr. Seuss books to my nieces and nephews, and doing the voices of “the scary characters” in Disney movies.
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