It may be a happy accident that this news anchor landed in her chosen profession, but she’s discovering just how much she loves her new job in Rockford.
As the old saying goes, life works in mysterious ways. When Kristin Crowley moved to Rockford in March, to become the new 6 and 10 p.m. co-anchor at 13 WREX, she wasn’t sure it was a good idea. After all, she was comfortable in her job at WSIL, the ABC affiliate in Harrisburg, Ill.
That is, until Crowley discovered all that Rockford had to offer a young journalist.
“I wasn’t looking at the whole picture,” she says. “I wasn’t seeing the market for what it was. There’s an opportunity here to grow, and to learn to love a new city. There’s so much to do here. There are plenty of restaurants and shops. I’m a Bears fan, and I haven’t lived by this many Bears fans for a long time. It’s been a breath of fresh air, and I realize I can be really happy here.”
Crowley grew up in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, Ill., with her parents, Christine, a floral designer, and father, Patric, a business consultant. Her older sister, Jennifer, is a physician and lives in San Diego.
Early on, the youngest Crowley had no plans of pursuing a journalism career. She was more into sports: she participated in basketball, swimming and soccer, despite her propensity for getting injured.
Crowley rattles off a laundry list of injuries she’s sustained over the years. For starters, there’s the broken nose she suffered at the age of one, when she flipped herself out of her stroller and landed face first on a set of railroad ties. At age 6, Crowley broke her arm in a playground accident. Four years later, she broke her nose again, when she was hit in the face by a softball. In high school, Crowley was working as a lifeguard, when she partially severed her big toe during – of all things – a safety training class. She once twisted her knee walking off a bus on the way to a soccer match.
“I’m very clumsy,” she says. “My parents didn’t want me, initially, to play sports, because they worried about me getting hurt.”
Still, Crowley is game for almost any adventure. An outdoor enthusiast, her bucket list includes parasailing, zip lining and water skiing. She even went skydiving on her 25th birthday. “I’ll try anything once,” she says.
Following high school, Crowley attended the College of DuPage for two years, where she took her first journalism class and was encouraged by one of her professors to consider a career in the field. As a freshman, she landed an internship at Chicago radio station 103.5 KISS FM, which later turned into a full-time job as a morning producer. She thought radio was her future, until friends in the business encouraged her to look at other options.
After transferring to Columbia College in Chicago, Crowley considered a newspaper career, even as she accepted an internship at ABC TV in Chicago, and later a job as production assistant at Fox Chicago, just to gain additional experience. After graduation, she started sending out resume tapes to television stations across the country with little response. The inactivity left Crowley feeling frustrated.
“I was in the worst limbo period of my life,” she says. “I poured all this money into my education and had nothing to show for it. I got a job at Fox Chicago as a part-time production assistant, making $10 hour and living in Chicago paying $700 a month for rent. I was squeaking by. So I set a deadline, giving myself nine months to find a job. If I didn’t find a job, I was going to switch gears again.”
Finally, with her self-imposed deadline looming, Crowley landed a job as reporter and weekend anchor at a television station in Lafayette, Ind. She worked there for 14 months, before transferring to a sister station in Green Bay, Wis., where she spent two years as a reporter. From there, she moved on to southern Illinois for nearly 18 months before coming to Rockford.
After some initial uncertainty, Crowley is finally comfortable in front of the camera. “I never thought I could love my work as much as I do,” she says. “I love the satisfaction of helping people. Being a journalist is being able to help people who don’t have a voice. It’s a great responsibility and privilege.
“I did a story in Lafayette about a guy who was about to be foreclosed because he couldn’t pay the bank on time. After our story, the bank decided to give him an extension, which wouldn’t have happened if the media hadn’t become involved. It was such a good feeling, knowing that this man, his wife and three kids had a roof over their heads, because of our involvement.”
Like any broadcast journalist, Crowley believes experience is the best teacher. “There will always be things I have to work on. That goes for anybody in any job,” she says. “But I definitely see growth. I look back at some of my old stories and I think they were terrible. I didn’t realize the art of telling a story.
“You go to college and earn a degree, but nothing compares to actually doing it. My first job taught me so much; my second and third jobs taught me even more. The more I’ve moved, the more I’ve learned. And you get to the point where you learn from your co-workers. They become mentors who help guide you through the areas you need help on.”
In her free time, Crowley enjoys spending time outdoors; walking her two “mutt” dogs, Rudy and Koda; hiking at Starved Rock State Park and visiting family and friends in the Chicago area. She’s also busy decorating her new home and planning her fall 2014 wedding.
These days, life is good for Crowley.
“I can see living in Rockford for a long time,” she says. “It’s not how I pictured it, but that’s been the story of my life. It’s funny how things work out.”