Where Are They Now? - Q&A's With Notable Jenks Grads
Katie den Daas - ABC News Producer
In only 10 short years, Jenks grad Katie den Daas (Class of ’03), has enjoyed a rapid rise through the hyper-competitive world of television news. A producer for ABC News in New York City, den Daas completed her climb to the top of the industry before her 30th birthday. From the yearbook staff at Jenks High School to covering presidential elections and natural disasters, den Daas has repeatedly demonstrated her ability to find facts, share stories, and connect with an audience. Read more about her role and responsibilities at ABC, and find out which news event stands out over all the national and global stories she has covered.
Katie den Daas (left) poses with her colleagues at the Emmy Awards. She was part of two Emmy-winning teams at ABC - one for breaking news coverage of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, and one for "The President and The People," a town hall with President Obama.
What are your fondest memories of attending Jenks High School?
Jenks was a great place to grow up. When I have something big in my life, the lifelong friends I made at Jenks High School are still my first calls.
Was there one particular teacher or principal who inspired you or made a lasting impact in your life?
I had SO MANY great teachers, counselors, and principals throughout my career at Jenks. Mrs. Paliotta made me believe I really COULD do math. Mr. Downey, Mrs. Frie and Mrs. Hester turned me into a decent singer and dealt with the fact I was a horrible dancer. Mrs. Cooper talked me off the ledge as I applied for college. Every English teacher I ever had helped me learn to love writing. The one who stands out the most is Donna Hall. First, she was my English teacher and then she became my yearbook adviser. My time on the yearbook staff solidified my love for journalism. Her encouragement is the reason I’m a working journalist today.
How did you become interested in journalism and when did you realize you wanted to turn an interest into a career?
After my stint on the yearbook staff, I knew I wanted to major in Journalism. I tried my hand at being a newspaper reporter – it wasn’t the right fit. I tried advertising - still not right. Then I had a professor at the University of Oklahoma who told me I should be a producer, to which I replied “What is a producer?” I listened to him – and a few months later was producing the most-watched morning show in Oklahoma on News 9.
Katie den Daas and ABC News co-workers go over election night coverage with ABC anchor, George Stephanopoulos. (photo courtesy: New York Times)
In only eight years, you went from a college newscast at the University of Oklahoma to ABC News in New York City. How would you describe your career journey?
Improbable. Unlikely. Impossible. Crazy. That’s how a few people described it when, as a college student, I plotted out my course from Oklahoma City to Dallas to New York - all before I turned 30. If I’m honest, I knew it was a little nuts. Network news producers are generally groomed from within the organization. Rarely do people jump markets that quickly. I knew it was a long shot. But I worked hard and prayed harder – and here I am, incredibly blessed to literally be living my dream.
What are some of the more memorable moments or events you have produced or covered during your time at ABC?
The best part of being a journalist is having a front-row seat to history. I was one of a handful of producers in the control room during this historic presidential election. I’ve been in hurricanes and wildfires. I covered the US Women’s Soccer Team as they won the World Cup. But out of all of those events, there is one that stands out – and it was long before I came to ABC. I coordinated News 9’s coverage of the 15 year anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. It was a privilege and an honor to tell the stories of the victims and heroes of that day and to celebrate the resiliency of our state. It doesn’t matter how long I stay in New York, I’ll always be an Okie.
Katie den Daas (right) poses with reporters during coverage of Hurricane Matthew, a Category 5 storm in 2016 that caused significant damage and flooding in the southeastern United States.
How would you describe the pressure of working in a national newsroom?
Pretty relaxed, low stress, mostly we just kick our feet up! Kidding – it can be incredibly stressful. But ABC is full of top-notch professionals I’m lucky to call my colleagues. They can make TV magic in just a few minutes. However, more important than making air, we get to write history. And that privilege far outweighs the stress.
What are some of the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of your job?
Since I’ve started answering this – I’ve received about 31 emails (and it is a slow news day). We are attached to our email and on-call 24/7. So maintaining work life balance can be tough. On big days, we hold our elected officials accountable, and that is incredibly rewarding. On slower days, we warn Americans about household dangers that could save lives and tell stories that inspire people – and that is just as rewarding.
Many viewers might think most newscasts – national and local – are very similar. In your opinion what separates a truly outstanding, award-winning newscast from all the others?
Awards are won and lost on the opinions of just a few people. But there’s an old saying in journalism - "If you don't get the fact right, nothing else matters." Find the news organization that is getting the facts right and consume that one. I’d recommend ABC News ;)
What is next for you both personally, and professionally?
I’m still working on producing the rest of my life – but I’ll keep you posted!