The newest member of the 13 Today crew may be new to WREX, but he’s no stranger to the Rockford region. Meet this Rockford native and discover what drew him back home.
Austin Love probably could have started his broadcasting career anywhere in the country. But the Rockford native couldn’t imagine a better scenario than coming back to work in his hometown.
Love is the new reporter on 13 Today, the 13WREX morning show that airs daily from 5-7 a.m. In December, he joined anchor Elliot Grandia and another Rockford native, meteorologist Morgan Kolkmeyer, as part of the morning crew.
“I made the right decision coming back,” Love says. “Rockford is what I know. And the support I’ve received from people has been unbelievable. Coming back has given me the opportunity to realize how much Rockford means to me. Nothing beats your hometown.”
Especially coming home to family. Parents Dave and Jill, who’ve been married for 35 years, still call Rockford home. Dave is a businessman and Jill is a retired school teacher and principal.
“My parents are excited to watch me on TV,” says Love. “I had to help them clean up their DVR. They’re getting messages from friends who see me on TV. Being home has also given me a chance to reconnect with people I haven’t seen for a while.”
Love also is close to his two older brothers. Nate is a sales rep for a food company in Chicago and Ryan is a teacher in California. Last spring, Nate appeared as a contestant on Season 6 of Fox’s “MasterChef,” a TV cooking competition. He won an open competition in Chicago and was one of 40 home cooks who showed off their culinary skills for the chance to win a cookbook deal and $250,000. While he didn’t win, the entire Love family traveled to California for the taping of the show. “It was a fun experience for all of us, something we won’t forget,” says Love.
Growing up, the younger Love was all about sports. Summers were spent on local baseball fields. Unfortunately, his baseball career at Boylan High School was cut short by injuries. As a sophomore, in 2010, he broke his leg by colliding with a teammate as he was attempting to catch a fly ball during a windy day. Later that year, he threw out his shoulder during fall baseball and needed total reconstructive surgery on his labrum. “It wasn’t my best year,” he says. Boylan is also where Love discovered the field of journalism.
Following high school, Love moved on to Rock Valley College, where he attempted a comeback in baseball to no avail. He instead focused on his grades, which earned him enrollment in the University of Iowa, where he majored in communications.
In college, Love spent a summer as a news intern at WTVO-17 in Rockford, which gave him a taste of the business. “I helped reporters with whatever they needed,” he says. “It was a free-for-all. I loved it.” During his senior year, Love worked for the Daily Iowan, a nonprofit student-run television station associated with the university, where he learned to anchor and report.
Some of Love’s best work came at a Republican watch party in Des Moines in 2014, where he was among a throng of local and national media, including CNN and NBC. “It was the perfect way to get my feet wet,” he says. “It was real-world experience. Things took off from there.”
Love enjoys the variety that comes with journalism.
“I chose communications because I had a fear of having to get a 9 to 5 job, sitting at a desk,” he says. “What I love about my job is that every day is different. I love being on television. I get to report on what’s happening and what people need to know. I like seeing my work on display. Just the opportunity to meet new people every day is a thrill in itself.”
Love earned a summer internship at WFLA Channel 8 in Tampa, Fla. He started out in news with 10 other interns and volunteered to help in sports, where he reported on beach volleyball, Tampa Rays baseball and Tampa Bay Buccaneers football.
After graduating from Iowa last December, he landed his first job at WREX.
“Austin is very talented for his age,” says news director Josh Morgan. “His reporting skills and camera presence are solid. You don’t always see that with a young reporter, but Austin has a real confidence about him. That’s hard to teach. Either you have it or you don’t. Austin has that “it” factor. Now the next step is improving and expanding on that.”
Love got right to work after he returned to Rockford; he covered a fire on Christmas Day, filed a live report from the YMCA and has even filled in on the anchor desk. The biggest adjustment, he says, is learning to wake up at 1:45 a.m. to be at work by 3 a.m. He’s already comfortable pitching stories to his news director.
“Being from Rockford has given him a leg up,” Morgan says. “He’s jumped right in. That familiarity is an important asset.”
So far, Love has clicked with his co-workers. He and Grandia, who graduated from Michigan State, like to tease each other about the rivalry between their alma maters. He and Kolkmeyer, who graduated from Harlem High School, reminisce about their high school days.
“I’m extremely fortunate to be in the position I’m in,” Love says. “I’ve received so much support from my co-workers. The comradery is unbelievable. I’m blessed to have my first job here at WREX.”
But Love knows he has a long way to go. “I can always improve my writing,” he says. “I like to go back and critique my work. I like to reach out to mentors, always looking for feedback to improve my skills. With journalism, the only way you’re going to get better is to make your mistakes, learn from them and move on. But I’m getting more comfortable every day.”
“We’re excited about Austin,” says Morgan. “It’s not often you get homegrown talent to start working with you right way. For Austin to be from the area and want to come back to work for us is exciting. With Morgan being from Rockford, and Elliot being from Rockford, Mich., we can say we have a real Rockford feel to the morning show.”
Love is equally excited about getting more involved in the Rockford community. “I want to find ways to give back,” he says. “This is my town.” He’s already returned to Boylan to speak to a media class. In his free time, Love enjoys hanging out with friends or just unwinding at home, playing guitar.
It’s been three years since Love left Rockford for college. He’s impressed with the changes that have taken place during that time. “I love it that downtown is being revitalized,” he says. “There’s so much history down there.
“It’s cool to come back and see things are turning around. There are new restaurants, shops, and events like Stroll on State and City Market. It’s an exciting time to be a reporter here.
“I’m just starting out, but I’m invested in this town. No matter where I go in the future I’ll always have a soft spot for Rockford.”