“Failure is the best teacher in the world,” says Mark Wright (’89 Comm.), “if you make the right correction.”
Attracted to Washington State University by its bowling team and taking business classes because he thought it was what he should do to make money, Wright was flunking out. “My provost recommended I go home and figure it out,” he remembers. “I came back and tried broadcasting. My professors and administrators at Murrow College took a student who was struggling to find his way and sparked in me a passion that lives to this day. Once I aligned myself with my abilities, I did well.”
He did very well, capping a 34-year career in local broadcasting with four Emmy Awards and induction into the 2020 Murrow College Hall of Achievement.
Like many Murrow students, he began his career working for WSU’s Northwest Public Radio station. Now known as Northwest Public Broadcasting, the network turns 100 this year.
“One of my professors, Betsy Krueger, told me to take a paid internship at KBSU radio in Boise as a legislative reporter during my last semester—best advice I could have gotten.” All the professors, especially Glenn Johnson, longtime mayor of Pullman and announcer for Cougar football games, helped students find their first jobs in the industry. More than three decades later, Wright and Johnson remain friends.
Wright’s first job out of college was with KXLY radio and TV station in Spokane. He started in the overnight radio position at five dollars an hour. “I looked about 12 years old and frightened,” he says, “so not ready for TV.” He slept in the sewing room in the home of the parents of his future wife, Jamie (Brown) Wright (’91 Ed.). “Her father would wake me up because I was a heavy sleeper, to tell me there was breaking news and I needed to go into the station.”
Wright ended up staying 10 years at the Spokane station, transitioning to reporter, then evening anchor. He won his first Emmy for a story about a multiracial couple shot by a white supremacist. After more than 4 years with KSTU-TV in Salt Lake City, Wright got a chance to work in his home market. He was born in Seattle and grew up on the family organic farm in Ferndale. He spent 8 years at the Fox affiliate, KCPQ 13, and 10 and a half years at KING 5, the last 6 years as evening anchor.
“I’ve done everything I wanted to do. My wildest dreams have been blown away. Doors kept opening and opening and opening,” he says, downplaying his own hard work to continually improve his writing, reporting, and on-camera persona. His goal, always, has been to “honor people by telling their stories … to be completely human first and then a journalist.”
He earned his other three Emmys for coproducing a documentary about a young woman who went missing and was killed, for a feature on a local casino preparing for a potential mass shooting, and for news anchoring.
“The biggest story I covered was the pandemic,” he says. He pushed his drum sets to the side of a room in his Mukilteo home so that it could become his home studio for remote broadcasting.
The drum sets are back to the front of the room since Wright left his position at KING 5 in February. “I was a band geek in high school,” he says. “During the pandemic, I felt I needed a drum mentor to make progress.” He has been receiving lessons from Ben Smith, drummer for the rock band Heart. The drums can be loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear. “I liked when a kid getting off the school bus started dancing to my music.”
As he transitions from broadcasting, Wright will be wearing many hats—and a pair of muddy boots.
He plans to join a mortgage lending firm in Seattle, partly because, like broadcasting, “it relies on who you know and who you can trust,” he says. “People come up to me all the time and say they miss me on the news; I’m looking forward to getting to know them face-to-face.”
The downtown Seattle Rotary Club, where he served as president from 2017 to 2018, will continue to be a big part of his life because of its emphasis on service, as will participation in the Community Development Round Table and local charities.
And the muddy boots?
Wright gets those from helping his two older brothers run Wright Brothers Farm near Ferndale. It’s an extension of an organic vegetable farm run by Wright’s uncles in the 1970s on property settled by his great-grandparents in 1903. Neighbors called it the “hippie farm,” and Wright and his brothers worked in the fields as kids. His mother still lives on the farm; his oldest brother left work as an attorney and CPA to run it full-time; and the middle brother, an aerospace manufacturer, designed the irrigation system and automated greenhouses.
No matter how many directions his life takes, the farm is a place where he and his family—including wife Jamie, sons Brandon and Austin, and all their cousins—can stay grounded.