Anna Kooiman on the "1on1 with Jon Evans" podcast
When you work in television news, you have to be ready, willing and able to go where your job takes you. Assignments and stories have taken Anna Kooiman across the United States in the dozen years since she graduated from UNC Wilmington. But, it's not a job that now has the reporter/anchor/host more than nine thousand miles from her childhood home in North Carolina. Anna left Fox News Channel in New York last year, when her husband Tim got a job opportunity in his native Australia.
"It's hard to get used to, to be honest," Kooiman says of living in a new country. "In November, it's starting to get chilly there in North Carolina, same when I was living in New York and Ohio. We did celebrate thanksgiving with some of our American friends who live here in Bondi Beach. It was weird being in the grocery store looking for cranberry sauce and things. People are looking at me like I have three heads going 'What, cranberry sauce? Right now? What is Thanksgiving?' since they obviously don't celebrate Thanksgiving here for the most part."
Growing up near Charlotte, Kooiman did not have her sights set early on being in television news. Her first job as a teenager was in the warehouse of her parents' business, the Peppermint Forest Christmas Shop in Pineville, NC. She played sports at Meyers Park High School, softball and track, and continued her track career when she enrolled at UNCW. Kooiman majored in communication studies, but she says she still wasn't positive about what she wanted to do.
"Seems like a lot of newscasters are going around with their Fisher-Price microphone going 'Oh, I want to be the next Barbara Walters or Katie Couric'," she says. "I wasn't one of those. But, one of the professors recommended me for courtside reporting at UNCW (basketball) games, and they were broadcast live on Fox Sports, and of course I thought I was really good. I don't think I was, now looking back. That kind of game me the bug."
In the Summer of 2004, Kooiman got an internship in the news department of local ABC station in Wilmington. I was the main nightside news anchor at the station during that time. Kooiman remembers the very first day of that internship, which she talks about at 4:30 of the podcast, helping solidify her desire to work in this business. Kooiman turned that opportunity into her first job as a television news reporter, which often meant going out and covering stories as a "one-man band", where she would shoot and edit her own video for the stories she covered.
"I took it as a challenge Jon," Kooiman said in a Skype interview while walking her dog Baxter along Bondi Beach. "I never thought that wasn't for me. It just lit a fire in me, and I said 'what am I going to do to get to the next thing. I remember we (the reporters in the newsroom) would all think about our resume tapes, and how do you get to the next job?"
As Kooiman's talents grew, so did her responsibilities. She added weekend anchoring duties at the station in Wilmington before leaving in January 2007 for a morning anchor and reporter job at WNWO-TV in Toledo, Ohio. That led to the opportunity for Kooiman to go "home", when she was hired by (then-Fox affiliate) WCCB-TV in Charlotte to co-host a four-hour morning news show.
"I had this really quirky co-host who was just awesome," Kooiman remembers with a smile. "He's still a friend of mine and came to our wedding, his name is Mark Mathis. He's in San Diego now. I felt like I learned how to be a TV host, rather than just a news anchor, when I was in Charlotte because he would throw the craziest things at me. He was the guy who made the wacky weatherman phenomenon really take hold I think."
The years working in the Fox affiliate Charlotte solidified Kooiman's talents, and in 2011 the network came calling. Kooiman was hired as a reporter for Fox News Channel's bureau in New York City. She covered news in the northeast, blizzards, court cases, political campaigns, for the network, but set her sights on a network program similar to the one she co-hosted in Charlotte, the "Fox and Friends" morning show. Kooiman talks at 11:15 of the podcast about the extra hours she put in as a reporter that helped her land that opportunity. She started filling in as co-host for the "Fox and Friends Weekend", and then became the permanent weekend co-host in 2013.
"It's a very, very demanding show to do because it is almost exclusively Teleprompter free, outside of the headlines and intros to the interviews," she says of the co-host role. "You have to know the issues inside and out, so it's a lot of studying the night before, a lot of not being able to go to dinner with your friends or go out with friends. Always being in early, getting up early. Three o'clock in the morning that alarm goes off and you have to be "on" for four hours, and you're switching gears from interviewing (then candidate) Donald Trump, to sliding down a water slide they brought in on the Plaza for some reason because it's summer time and we like to have fun on that show. The next story might be about gun control, and the next story might be about abortion, and the next story might be about terrorism. You just have to know the issues to be able to jump from this to that to the other."
Kooiman continued her reporting duties at the network along with co-hosting the weekend program. She covered breaking news stories like the Pulse Nightclub Shooting in Orlando, the terrorist shooting rampage in San Bernardino, Hurricane Sandy in the northeast and a deadly tornado outbreak in Oklahoma. Her high-profile career as a network reporter and host led to a trip back to Wilmington, as Queen for the 2016 North Carolina Azalea Festival.
"It was so cool when I got crowned there by the (then) Governor, because Pat McCrory was actually my mayor in Charlotte growing up," Kooiman said. "As he's doing that, I looked out into this sea of people and I saw you, and a lot of other people from my time there. It just felt amazing to be back in the Port City, and be honored with something like that. I feel like it meant so much more to me than it may or may not have meant to some of the others (Queens) because I have real ties to the area. It was cool getting to go to the hospital, see the schools, go to the Coast Guard Cutter Diligence, and USS North Carolina, the fun parties and the fun gowns. That was a great experience!"
It was just four months later that Kooiman made the announcement on the air that she would be leaving "Fox and Friends Weekend". Her husband Tim's job opportunity took them to Australia, near his hometown of Sydney, where they live with Baxter, their ten-year-old Golden Retriever.
"When Tim and I met, before we were even engaged, I promised him I would do this, that I would get to know his family and get to know his culture and where he grew up, and all of his friends," Kooiman says. "It has been such a worthwhile experience for me as a person to expand my horizons. But also, it's been so good for my marriage, to get to know why my husband is the way he is. He's been able to spend so much time in North Carolina with my family, and I would have never been able to do this otherwise."
Kooiman still does some freelance work for Fox News Channel. She recently reported the network's "Proud American" coverage of North Carolina's Fourth of July Festival in Southport. Kooiman has also done work for Network Ten in Sydney, on top of launching her own fitness, travel and lifestyle website, www.annakooiman.com.
"It was very methodical," Kooiman says about the change from covering daily news to the more upbeat digital product. "America is so divided right now, politically. It's just sickening and really disheartening. It's nice to take a breath of fresh air and be away from all that. So I said, 'You know what? I'm going to concentrate on the things that I love to do that I want to share with other people', and hopefully they become passionate about some of my passions."
You can listen to the entire interview with Anna Kooiman on the free "1on1 with Jon Evans" podcast:
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