As a household name in Arkansas, it would be easy to believe that Kevin Kelly, evening news anchor at FOX 16 News in Little Rock, spent his childhood playing journalist in preparation for his storied career. However, the San Diego native said he got into the news business purely by accident.

 

“My college roommate’s father was an executive producer in Hollywood and produced several Oscar-winning movies,” he said. “One summer, my roommate invited me to work with him on the set of a movie being filmed in Mexico City. Of course, I said yes.”

 

That movie was “Miracles,” a 1986 flick starring Teri Garr, Tom Conti and Paul Rodriguez. While working on the film, Kelly also met several other celebrities, including Barbra Streisand, Michael Douglas, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Jane Seymour. 

 

“It was an incredible experience and inspired me to want to pursue a career either in front of a camera or behind one,” Kelly said, “but I was also interested in pursuing my childhood dream of becoming a professional soccer player.”

 

After two years at Menlo College in northern California, Kelly took two years off to pursue that dream. He returned to his hometown and tried out for the San Diego Sockers Indoor Team, but his plans changed after he got into a car crash on the way to practice and sustained a back injury.

 

“I don’t think I would’ve made the team, but the back injury forced me to reevaluate my future,” he said. 

 

He went back to college at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where he studied communications with an emphasis on broadcast. Three months before his graduation, a TV news reporter visited one of his classes to discuss the industry and showed the class her video resume on VHS tape.

 

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“I saw her doing a ‘live’ report in front of a building on fire, and I was immediately hooked and remember saying to myself, ‘That’s what I want to do,’” Kelly said. “I went up to her after her presentation and asked her if she taught others how to get into the business. Lucky for me, she said yes.”

 

After graduation, Kelly hired her to show him the ropes of the news business. He met with her twice a week for three months to learn about news writing and conducting interviews. She even took Kelly into the field so he could put together his own video resume. 

 

“I sent my resume tape to at least 30 stations in three weeks,” he said. “Then, out of the blue, I received a random phone call from a news director at WOWL in Florence, Alabama, who offered me my first reporter job over the phone.”

 

He worked at the station for five months before taking a reporter job at WHSV in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he stayed for six months before accepting a job back in San Diego, where he worked as a reporter and fill-in anchor for nearly a decade. In 2001, he moved to KPNX in Phoenix to be a morning news anchor and worked there for three years.

 

“Then Little Rock, Arkansas, called,” he said. “The news director told me they were gearing up to launch a brand-new 9 p.m. newscast on FOX 16 and needed a male news anchor. I flew out, did the interview, and then they offered me the job. That was 20-plus years ago.”

 

In addition to anchoring the 5:30, 6:30 and 9 p.m. newscasts on weekdays and helping create each day’s newscasts, he said he has several hard-hitting stories in the works that will air later this year and is working on his first podcast, which should be finished by November.

 

He said his day starts the moment he wakes up when he checks the local and national headlines to see if any news broke overnight. Then he works out by running, swimming, biking, and sometimes playing golf or tennis and returns home at 1 p.m. to check emails and make phone calls. 

 

The news team decides what stories to cover during the afternoon editorial call, and then Kelly writes and records topicals–brief promos that tease the evening newscasts–before helping write stories, reviewing scripts as needed and taking a final look at the evening’s stories. Finally, Kelly goes on air to share the news of the day with viewers across central Arkansas. 

 

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“I am blessed and honored to have the career that I do, and I don’t take it lightly,” he said. “What I enjoy the most are the people I get to meet. I’m grateful they trust me enough to share their story with our viewers. Everyone has a unique and compelling story. You’d be surprised how someone else’s journey can help others find their way. I’ve seen it firsthand and have had viewers tell me, as well.”

 

After more than 30 years in the business, Kelly has met his share of big names, from rockstar Alice Cooper, who he interviewed on a studio rooftop while hitting plastic golf balls into blow-up kiddie pools in the parking lot, to Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, Sen. John McCain, and actors Jennifer Aniston and Dennis Quaid. 

 

He also covered four Super Bowls and two World Series, including the 2001 World Series after 9/11, and he spent a week in Hollywood after Arkansas native Kris Allen won “American Idol.”

 

His work has garnered three Edward R. Murrow Awards and nine Emmys. He also earned a Sigma Delta Chi National Award for a story about his brother, a two-time bladder cancer survivor. 

 

In 2014, he launched an anti-bullying campaign called “Step Up, Stop Bullying.” 

 

“At the time, my daughter was being bullied in middle school, and I felt compelled to do something to help her and other young children,” he said. “Since I launched the campaign, I have been to more than 200 schools all across the state, teaching kids about the dangers of bullying.”

 

He is also actively involved with the FOX 16 Victory Over Violence campaign and the Arkansas Martin Luther King Jr. Commission. He hosts a number of events and is a board member of the Arkansas Society of Professional Journalists.

 

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He advises those interested in becoming TV news journalists to pick a college or university with a strong reputation in the field that has a TV studio and produces an on-campus newscast.

 

“I would also strongly recommend that you consider a minor in political science or some other relevant and interesting topic,” he said. “You have to know a little about a lot once you get into the business.”

 

Prospective reporters can also reach out to reporters or anchors they trust and admire, asking for 10 minutes of their time to discuss the business, or even email them for advice.

 

“Most of us in the business have been in your shoes and are willing to help,” he said. 

 

Kelly said his wife is his “rock” and his “best friend,” and the couple has four adult children. He recently completed his first full Ironman triathlon in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

 

“I just want to thank our viewers for allowing me and trusting me to share the news with them,” he said. “It’s hard to believe I have been doing this for more than 20 years in this market. I am truly blessed and honored to be given this opportunity.”

 

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