Alumni Hall of Fame: UW mentors influenced journalist Katie King

By Kirsten Johnson –

When Katie King (BA, 1983) came to UW as an 18-year-old from the tiny city of Sultan, Wash., she hadn’t the slightest inkling of what she wanted to study. “All I knew is I really liked literature,” she said. “And I was interested in writing and current affairs around the world.”

Katie King

Her indecisiveness soon changed. After four years in the Department of Communication where she studied under the wing of several influential faculty members, King earned a double degree in Journalism and Spanish Literature and went on to achieve an impressive career as a journalist. On Oct. 16, along with four other alumni, King was inducted into the Department of Communication Alumni Hall of Fame for her achievements.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she laughs. “I thought, ‘Why me?’ I saw some of the names of the list and thought, ‘Goodness me, I’ve never won a Pulitzer Prize and I’m not a governor of Washington State.’”

After she graduated from UW, King moved to Spain and served as associate producer of a PBS documentary about Spain’s transition to democracy called, Spain: 10 years After, A Reporter’s Notebook. Later, she returned to the United States and completed a master’s degree in Journalism at Columbia University in 1985. Post-graduation from Columbia, she spent 16 years working for Reuters as chief correspondent in Mexico, Central America, Panama and Brazil. She reported on events including the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama and the 1992 Carandiru prison massacre in Sao Paulo.

In 1994 she launched Reuters’ first daily multimedia news publication and later served as Senior Vice President for Reuters Global General News where she worked with  global clients for Reuters including Yahoo!, MSNBC.com, AOL and The New York Times to develop multimedia, Internet and mobile products. In 1993 King studied as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, researching the impact of digital technology on journalism. She now serves on the Nieman Foundation Advisory Board.

Post-Reuters, King held an array of other positions, including communications lead for the Center for Public Integrity, and digital media strategist for global communications firm Burson-Marsteller. She also taught online journalism as an adjunct professor at The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. She’s been a member of the Online News Association since 1999 and was co-founder of the ONA International Committee.

King resides in London with her husband, Paul Brannan, an English journalist, and serves as a Trustee for the Index on Censorship, a nonprofit free speech group. In September, she left a position at MSN UK and is now translating Spanish poetry into English full-time. Her current project is a poetry book by Luis Garcia Montero called A Form of Resistance.

She looks back on her days at UW with nostalgia. She wrote for The Daily on occasion, interned at the West Seattle Herald and interned for two years at KCTS on the news and documentary team. “I think one of the best things that the university does is encourage work experience and encourage international study,” she said. “I got to do a lot of that while I was an undergrad.”

King returned to Seattle this past week for the Hall of Fame ceremony and had the opportunity to chat with current Communication students and revisit her old stomping grounds.

“It’s one of the most beautiful campuses I have ever seen,” she said. “I’ve been on many college campuses but it’s just stunningly beautiful. I was very impressed with the students — everyone is double majoring and taking languages and all had foreign study.”

She tells students to stay optimistic about job prospects in the Communication realm, despite the decline of many print publications. “I think there are still a lot of interesting jobs,” she said. “Most are not as a traditional journalist but there is just a lot more variety and interesting opportunities now. There’s just a wider range of things going on.”

In her spare time, she said, she enjoys reading and taking walks with her husband. She doesn’t foresee slowing down anytime soon. “Life is so interesting,” she said. “You never know what kind of opportunities could come up. Opportunities just come up and you have to jump. I don’t know what the future holds but I’m looking forward it.”

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