Pet People: KMTV’s Jennifer Griswold

By on June 6, 2014

As we sat in the Green Room at the KMTV campus, both expressing our shared affection for animals and glowing with that proverbial optimism that comes to soon-to-be parents, I was reminded of a familiar passage from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby:

“That’s my middle-west–not the wheat or the prairies or the lost Swede towns but the thrilling, returning trains of my youth and the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark and the shadows of holly wreaths thrown by lighted windows on the snow. I am part of that…”

From her hometown of Hubertus, WI, an unincorporated farm community, through her high school days in Milwaukee and college career in Madison, to the Twin Cities of Minnesota and now the “little big city” that is Omaha, Jennifer Griswold is one thing for sure- a Midwestern girl through and through. She embodies Nick Carraway’s “Middle-west” and it translates into a warm smile and sense that Jennifer, or “Jenny” as she likes to be called, is one of us.

Griswold reminisces, like many Midwesterners, of her childhood in the fields and forests of the Heartland. Her father, a psychologist, is from the farms of Wisconsin. Her mother, a city girl and social worker, compromised and settled on building the family home on a 9-acre plot of land just outside of Milwaukee.  Her parents in professional fields filled with necessary empathy, listening and aiding those in need, Griswold says “We talked a lot in our family.” Honesty, openness and family. Again, so Middle West.

Her love of nature, a gift from her dad, is the first memory of childhood Griswold brings up when asked about her youth in Hubertus, a place, she jokes, that even people from Milwaukee are unaware of. “My mom always says I was a quiet kid- introspective. I’d go on scavenger hunts in the woods (7 of the 9 acres of the familial plot of land were dense forest). It sounds kind of lonely, but I always had a cat with me,” she says. Jenny and the cats spent most of their time outside. Mom was allergic.

Though no cats were official “pets,” the family always had them in the barn. “Farmers would have a litter of kittens and we’d sometimes take them in,” she says. The family pets were two dogs: First Harley, an older American Eskimo her uncle gave them, then Sam. Sam, another Eskimo, came to the family as a pup, so Griswold has a special place in her heart for him. Her love of nature came easily, as did the animal part. Along with the two pups and the myriad of farm kitties, she had fish and a rabbit named “Easter.” Griswold scoffs at the simplicity of the bunny’s name even today.

After high school in Milwaukee, Griswold started her collegiate studies at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Yes, the place the Badgers hail from- don’t hate her for that, Husker fans. Taking after her dad, she took a number of psychology courses. Her real dream was to become an actress, but her mother persuaded her to pursue something “a little more practical.” Because of the ease in which she spoke to an audience- a result of her time in forensics- through internships where she was “bitten by the news bug,” and because of her love of writing, she settled on broadcasting as a field of study and career to embark upon.

The news bug bit her during an internship in Milwaukee one summer. “The experience brought a new interest in news and current events,” she says. Over a decade into her news career and with an Emmy in her pocket, the choice to stick with broadcasting was and still is very fruitful. She’s currently the main anchor for KMTV along with Craig Nigrelli. Before her rise to the position she currently occupies, she had to learn the ropes.

Straight out of college, Griswold took a job as a morning anchor for WAOW in Wausau, WI. “It was the biggest growing experience I’ve had,” she says. “The experience got me comfortable in front of the camera- we were allowed to make mistakes and learn.” The job also provided her with some perspective and independence. “It was also the first time I was really away from home, on my own.” Two-and-a-half years into her first job, she “lucked out.” Chris Berg, News Director at KSTP in Minneapolis/St. Paul, saw Griswold’s potential and took a chance on her. “I was only 25- probably the youngest reporter in the market.” Six years in the Twin Cities brought much experience and afforded her some great opportunities to cover massive news events.

The Republican National Convention came to town and Griswold covered not only those proceedings, but the riots and protests seen outside the convention center. She witnessed civil unrest and was even exposed to tear gas during one of the uprisings adjacent to the hosting venue. Baptism by tear gas. She also covered the infamous Interstate 35 bridge collapse. “It was terrible to cover given the nature of the tragedy, but incredibly humbling,” she says. “Everyone has a story to tell about that event. It’s one of those things where everyone recalls where they were when it happened.” Being in a big market, witnessing and covering giant news stories that were not only relevant to Minnesota but the entire country, her news chops were officially tested.

In 2012, after not being able to attain an anchor position in Minnesota, Griswold made a life-changing decision. “I loved reporting and enjoyed KSTP,” she says, but if one wants the perks that come with being a main anchor (more money, more exposure and prestige), one must take a chance to “move on up.” Omaha’s KMTV came calling and she jumped at the opportunity to come to “The Big O.” Andrew, her fiancee, “was a trooper” and supported her decision to make the leap, too. In the span of one month, she quit KSTP, got married, went to Asia on her honeymoon, accepted the job at KMTV and moved to Omaha. She and Andrew were starting their lives together in Omaha and they immediately felt at home in this new, “little big city.”

Being in Omaha for nearly two years, Griswold has ascended to become a top anchor and has a growing family to boot. Eight months ago, she and Andrew adopted a golden retriever puppy, full of energy. After spending months thinking about a name, the couple settled on Reggie. Todd Brandt, co-host of Z-92’s “Todd and Tyler” radio show, had a Golden he was breeding. When offered the chance to have a puppy, Griswold took it. Andrew had never had a pet, so Griswold helped foster his newly-found love for animals. Andrew is a freelance web developer who often works from home, so he and Reggie spend quite a bit of time together. “He says Reggie is now his best friend,” Griswold says happily. “Reggie is an absolute lover. He always wants to be beside you. He’s a sweetheart,” she says, but has recently taken it upon himself to “redecorate” the home by chewing up rugs. Hopefully just a puppy stage…

The couple enjoys spending time outdoors, especially with Reggie. Walks, bike rides and camping trips like their recent adventure to the Grand Canyon are among their shared interests. “We also just like to relax and unwind,” she says. As two became three 8 months ago, three will become four at Halloween time.

From the time I set up the interview with Jenny, she wanted to know when the story would run. Her marketing director, and Jenny, had a timeline to consider. It seemed a little odd when she asked, but I know the reason now.

I told her the story would run on “this” day, and Jenny said “Perfect.”

“What’s with the timeline,” I said.

“Well, I’m 19 weeks pregnant and I wanted to tell you that, but didn’t want it announced before I told viewers on the air,” she said.

We spent about an hour together for the interview. The first five-or-so minutes were used to tour the studio, the newsroom and more. “Do you want a picture of yourself at the news desk?” she asked. I declined, saying I have difficulty smiling and taking good photos. The next 35 minutes, we spoke of her career, family, upbringing and puppy. After the revelation about her pregnancy, we spent the next 20 minutes speaking as prospective parents do. (My wife is about 13 weeks pregnant). How to choose a name? What about Jackson? That’s too popular of a name. What about Katherine? I love Katherine! Are you finding out the sex of the baby? Are you showing? Have you had to lower your chair at the news desk to hide the baby bump? We went back and forth with delight about the merits of this and that and shared our excitement together. Jenny has the opportunity to find out if it’s a boy or girl in two weeks. She says she’s not going to. Wants a surprise.

Each interview I do, I’m always glad to hear about occupations, upbringing, hobbies and animals, but I was once again reminded of why I love this process so much. Jenny is a celebrity, like many of my interviewees, but she’s also a lot like me. A growing family. Midwestern values. Omaha resident and community member. She’s not just an anchor, she’s a mother. A wife. A daughter. A real person.

Our time together was fun and insightful, but the most fruitful product of our meeting was the building of a new relationship. Just acquaintances, mind you, but two members of our community getting to know each other and that brings us all closer together. We all share a lot in common and I hope readers feel as good about that as I do.

Jenny is a wonderful anchor and a great asset to our city. She’s a true Midwesterner and we can all appreciate that. “I don’t know any other way,” she says.

That’s just fine with us.

 

Follow Jenny through social media using the links below:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/griswoldtv?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/griswoldkmtv

Instagram: http://instagram.com/griswoldTV#

Also, check out some more photos from Jenny’s youth in the gallery below. Pictured are Sam the American Eskimo and Easter the Rabbit.

*featured image care of Rick Billings photography

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