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USU alumna proves early bird gets the worm

staff writer

Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 17, 2013 13:01


USU ALUMNA KERRY BRINGHURST goes on air at Utah Public Radio. JESSICA FIFE photo


Not many people can say they started a career before they could drive. Kerry Bringhurst, however, doesn’t always do things typically. 

At age 14, Bringhurst learned to balance junior high and full-time job as the Vernal, Utah, local radio station news reporter. Now, the USU alumnus is the news director and host of “Morning Edition” at Utah Public Radio. 

“As an eighth grader, the news director asked me and a few of my friends if we would be interested in working at the radio station full-time after school,” Bringhurst said. “Honestly, I thought I would be cleaning toilets or something. I never imagined it would be an on-air job.”

Darting out of school at 3 p.m. to make it to work on time and get home by 9 p.m. was her lifestyle. Attending meetings and interviewing people was a new experience for her, but she learned quickly. 

“I would do the newscast, interview people, go to the city council meetings,” she said. “It was such a great experience.” 

Bringhurst has four boys and said she couldn’t see her 15-year-old son doing taking on the same things she did.

“I think about him doing something like that,” she said. “It pretty much blows my mind.”

Vernal had population of around 10,000 people at the time of Bringhurst’s arrival as reporter, and Bringhurst’s was the only news radio station in the city.

  “Because it was such a small community, everybody knew when I made a mistake, but everybody was so helpful too,” she said. “I remember this one time in particular I was interviewing the state senator from Vernal and I didn’t tell him I was recording what he was saying prior to the interview. He kindly told me I need permission before doing that. He taught me a big lesson in a kind way.”

Mackinzie Hamilton, a sophomore majoring in journalism and communications, works at UPR as the assistant news director and said she has become very close to Bringhurst.

“I knew Kerry before she was my boss, but there are times I have had some pretty bad days and she will sit me down and we’ll talk about it,” Hamilton said. “She is almost like my second mom.” 

Bringhurst said even having many tasks at UPR, she still has time to raise her family and get to know her interns and co-workers. 

Tamara Smith, the accounting assistant at UPR, said the work Kerry puts into her career is what has created her success. 

“She is extremely dedicated and hardworking,” Smith said. “She is always busy helping the people she has hired as reporters to do their job the best they can.” 

Utah Public Radio accomplished a huge task this past year during the election season with the Vote Utah 2012 campaign, Bringhurst said. The campaign was the joint effort of media organizations across the state.

“Utah Public Radio posted the most stories of any public broadcast organization in the state, and I am really proud of that,” Bringhurst said. “We were super busy, but it was such an important subject, especially with the new congressional district and all the other races like Senator Hatch, Mia Love and of course busy covering what was happening in the world.”

Bringhurst said UPR believes in involving students in big sections of their program, not only for experience but because students with the willingness, knowledge, and determination can get their foot in the door early.

“We give students the opportunity to gain practical experience, earn credit towards classes and also to support their local radio station,” she said. “The majority of our funding comes from our listeners, so we can’t afford to hire a lot of reporters. Students have the opportunity to step up and learn a lot.”

Unlike most other radio stations, UPR does not have commercials. Saving listeners time is what they strive for, Bringhurst said. 

She said having UPR reporters spread out across Utah makes their stories extremely diverse and bring small community stories out into the public’s understanding.

“We have underwriters, which are like sponsors, but on air they only say their place of business and that they sponsor and support UPR,” Bringhurst said. “We have reporters in Moab, Vernal, Salt Lake and Cedar City.”

Bringhurst’s fondest memory of her years as a broadcast major at USU were the many hours spent in the basement floor of the Agricultural Science building. The editing room was no larger than a broom closet, she said.

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