“There I was [in May 1980], focused on completing my last month at WSU, and Mount St. Helens erupts,” recalls Kathi Goertzen ’80. “I spent the next few weeks basically living at the KWSU studio, not only reporting the news aspects, but also interviewing local farmers about the ash that had covered Eastern Washington and what affect that would have on their crops. I guess you could say that was my first ‘breaking news’ story, and after that, I had it in my blood.”
Her degree in broadcast communications in hand, Goertzen joined KOMO-TV in Seattle as the assistant to Art McDonald (’55, Speech Communication). After covering the 1980 presidential election and the state legislature in Olympia, she became the news anchor for KOMO-TV weekend news in 1982. She has been co-anchor of weekday editions of KOMO News for more than 15 years and is a reporter for all KOMO newscasts.
“When I first came to KOMO, we used film for our news reports, which of course needed to be developed before it could go on the air,” Goertzen says. “Now everything is done digitally, and we are able to watch events as they happen, regardless of how far they are from our studio. Knowing how to react in those types of sometimes unpredictable situations is important, and I think that working live as a reporter helped me make the transition to being an anchor.
“Regardless of the technological advance that we have seen, or those that lie ahead, the basics of reporting will always remain the same. You need to know how to ask questions, how to write, and you need to be able to communicate clearly with your audience. It is those fundamentals that were instilled in me so well by professors like Glenn Johnson while I was at WSU.”
Goertzen has earned a number of awards for excellence in broadcast journalism, including an Emmy for a series that documented the juvenile justice system in Washington. Another of her news series, “Mission to Mexico,” profiled children living in a garbage dump in Mexico and won 10 awards, including two Emmy Awards, two United Press International Awards, and awards from the Washington Press Association and the regional chapter of Sigma Delta Chi.
“I have had the opportunity to do so many amazing stories. I was live in Germany for the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. I covered the death of Princess Diana, the WTO riots here in Seattle, and, of course, the tragic events of September 11th,” says Goertzen. “On the lighter side, . . . I have done several stories on the Puget Sound’s whale population, which is always great fun. And, of course, as a Cougar fan, covering the Rose Bowl was a true highlight of my career.”
In late 1998 Goertzen was diagnosed with a tumor near the base of her brain. The tumor, which caused facial numbness, was attached to nerves that control swallowing and, most significant to her career, speech.
“I underwent surgery for the meningioma in November of 1998 and then had a one-time dose of radiation,” Goertzen explains. “It was a bit of a difficult road back, but three years have passed, I go in for regular check-ups, and so far everything looks like it was a total success.”
Goertzen is a trustee of Seattle’s Children’s Hospital Foundation and is co-chair of a capital campaign for the YWCA. She has served as a Washington State University Foundation trustee since 1994 and on the Campaign WSU Communications Committee and the College of Sciences and Arts Advisory Board. In recognition of her “great Cougar pride,” she was honored with WSU’s Alumni Achievement Award in 1999.
“I am just so pleased with where my life has taken me,” says Goertzen. “I have two beautiful daughters, I am committed to the community that I live in, and I can honestly say that I love coming to work every day and doing my job. As I said before, it’s in my blood.”