This story originally appeared in the spring 2014 Harker Quarterly.
Harker alumna and broadcast journalist Tiffany Liou ’08 doesn’t know the meaning of a “typical day at the office.” And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Life on the job as a news reporter/ producer is always an adventure for Liou, who just two years ago graduated from Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business and soon after landed a job as the overnight assignment editor at the Oakland-based KTVU (channel 2).
It was at the Fox affiliate (serving San Francisco and the greater Bay Area) that Liou honed her journalistic talents by finding story ideas, researching, interviewing and fact-checking. She quickly put those skills to use by going behind the scenes, providing back-up research, which aided in such breaking stories as the deadly San Mateo limousine fire and the controversial Zimmerman trial and protests.
“I used to listen to scanners overnight and make beat calls to every police station in the Bay Area. I would find breaking news that would air first thing on the morning show. I gathered all the facts of a story and gave information to our writers, producers and reporters. Being part of the assignment desk sharpened my news judgment. It taught me how to be a thorough investigator and reporter. And, working with the pros at KTVU taught me how to be a better writer and speaker,” recalled Liou.
After a year and a half at KTVU, Liou was recruited to work as a reporter/producer at KTVE/KARD, an NBC affiliate in Louisiana. She wrote and stacked stories (ordering them based on themes and segues) for the three-hour morning show, as well as covered stories in the field for the station, whose signal can be seen in 18 counties throughout Arkansas and Louisiana.
While a great career move, Liou concedes that relocating to Louisiana wasn’t easy. “I spent 23 years in the Bay Area. I’m born and bred Californian, and it’s true … you can’t take the California out of me. But I look at it as a temporary adventure. It’s a lot slower paced, the food is fried and delicious, and Southern hospitality is very comforting,” she said.
Still, her ultimate goal is to return to the Bay Area as a reporter. (Just at HQ press time, Liou started a new job in Iowa. See related story for details of her eventful first day!)
Liou first got bitten by the reporting bug after graduating from Harker, while simultaneously attending Santa Clara University (studying business and communication) and Ohlone College in Fremont, where she was part of the school’s television broadcasting program.
At Ohlone, Liou gained practical, hands-on experience working for The Ohlone Network News, which is broadcast live on a local Comcast channel and is run entirely by students.
While in college she also did a marketing internship at KGO-TV, an ABC-owned and operated television station in San Francisco. There, much of her time was spent doing Nielsen analysis about the news broadcasts. “That’s when I realized I wanted to be the one delivering the news and not analyzing it,” she said.
Reflecting back to her time at Harker, Liou said she wasn’t directly involved in journalism, but was part of other extracurricular activities like the Spirit Club, student council and Junior State of America (JSA), all of which likely paved the way for her future career in broadcast journalism.
“During the weekly school meetings, I was always that girl from Spirit Club standing at the front giving announcements. I would emcee events like homecoming,” she explained.
“Being part of so many different clubs and sports was amazing, and I honestly don’t think I could have had that experience at any other school. I was able to study, play basketball and golf, and be part of all these different clubs. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Harker,” she affirmed.
Liou fondly recalled how, before getting that first breakthrough TV reporting job, she would shadow reporters at KTVU and shoot stand-ups, essentially working as if her stories would really air.
“Sometimes I would just bring my DSLR [digital single-lens reflex camera] and go out to an event and cover it. All of these mock stories actually built up my news reel, which is what got me my first job!” said Liou, adding that reporting is her passion and she will “go anywhere at any time to cover a story.”
Liou Survives Emergency Plane Landing En Route to New Reporting Job
Just as this issue was going to press, we learned that Liou, on her way to a new job as a reporter at KWQC-TV in Davenport, Iowa, was on board American Eagle flight 3400, which was forced to make an emergency landing after pilots reported smoke in the cockpit.
The plane, with 45 passengers and a crew of three, landed safely in Greenville, Texas, just 15 minutes into the flight. A failed electrical component is suspected of causing the smoke.
“The bond I share with the other passengers and three American Airline crew members is different than I have ever felt before,” said Liou, recalling that “reporter mode” kicked in after she and her fellow passengers had landed safely.
At that time she sent a single tweet about the incident which went viral, prompting the Today show, CNN and NBC Dallas to contact her for an eyewitness account. “And that’s when I went from being a scared and helpless passenger to being a reporter,” she said.