A Conversation with Jodi Whitworth

Jodi Whitworth may be young, but she's already pretty successful. She's been a reporter at WHO-TV (for you locals, that's Channel 13) for the last two years. If you watch the local stations, you've probably seen her on TV! And if you're like me, whenever she pops on you're all I know her! If I bumped into her on the street, we could have a conversation! Or am I the only person who does that sort of thing?

It's easy to see why she's found success in what she does. Jodi's a good listener, a natural storyteller, and her responses are both fast and thoughtful. Basically, she's journalist through and through. I would argue it's in her blood (in fact, it is!)

After the six o’ clock news finished filming, we proceeded to the sound stage where we sat down to talk about her work and who she dreams of interviewing someday. Enjoy, guys!

How did you become involved in journalism?

Journalism actually runs in my family! My dad, brother, and mother all have experience working in radio. 

Personally, I went to school for broadcast media and it taught me the basics of it all. I used to think that I'd quickly be taught how to read a teleprompter and just begin writing the news - but it's not that glamorous immediately. When I began interning, I learned what journalism was really all about. 

What did you learn that came as a surprised to you?

I've found that the human aspect can be difficult to handle. When you're thrown into situations with the potential to be very uncomfortable, such as someone who has just lost their child, you can't really prepare for it. I could've never learned how to handle that in school, it only comes through experience and a willingness to be real and vulnerable with them.

I’ve found that it's easier if you're genuine with the people you're interviewing. I try not to think in terms of this is a news story that will be on at five o ‘clock tonight. I approach it more from the perspective of this person lost their child. this is not a story that will only impact them for a day; this will impact them for the rest of their lives. When you approach a story in that way, you begin to feel genuinely concerned for them. 

Due to your job, I imagine you see a quite a bit of tragedy. Is it difficult to find the silver lining?

What I take away from all the negative stories I cover is just a different perspective on my own life. You begin to realize how bad some people have it and how good other people have it. Last week, four out of the five stories I covered were tragedies, so it's always nice when a good story rolls around. Those are refreshing for us as reporters. 

Tell me about a story that has impacted you in a personal way.

There was a student out of Ames who was struck and killed while training for a triathlon. He had a twin sister who was also training for the same triathlon and she went on to compete in nationals. I remember covering that story from death first occurring, to when his sister competed in the nationals. That was a really cool journey for me to witness.

I’m sure you are aware of how Des Moines is touted as an “up and coming city." I’m curious what your opinion is of our city. Do you enjoy living here?

(Laughing) Well, there’s Des Moines and then there’s Iowa. I think that Iowa and Des Moines are different things. But I'm proud of our city; it's a hidden gem. It's a large city, but it still feels small. You can get anywhere in twenty minutes, but you still have space for yourself.

If you had the opportunity to interview someone (dead or alive) who would that person be and why would you chose that particular person? 

First, I would interview my biological parents. I was adopted when I was just thirty-two hours old, so I would like to find out more about them. I'm curious what my biological mom was thinking and feeling when she made that decision to give me up. I wonder: was she scared or pressured at all?

She was only nineteen when it happened and there were two other babies ahead of me, so I often wonder why I was the only one adopted out? It would be interesting to see if we look or alike or have anything in common.

When people look back on the last few years, what will be some of the most defining stories?

On a national scale, I'd say one story would be Ferguson. I'd never seen anything like that before. As I was watching it unfold, I told myself I am watching history! You could not believe what you were watching. I understand that, perhaps, an injustice occurred between law enforcement and the African American community, but I’m not sure if how that community reacted was necessarily the answer. That being said, it was interesting to witness because it was just so historic. 

As for something more local, the Yonkers fire was huge. I covered that when it was happening, but I didn't know the importance of the building or the memories it held for the generation before me. So many people kept coming up to me with all these memories of spending time there. So that was a big moment, too. 

Do you prefer reading the news online or in print?

I get most of my news from Twitter. I just scroll down, that’s my rule of thumb: scroll down, scroll down! 

I don't know the last time I opened a newspaper. I'm not even sure I'd know how to navigate one! (Laughing)