Barry McNamara  |  Published November 17, 2022

This Just In: Knute ’01 Wins Two Emmys

Kansas City news anchor describes her award-winning stories, details a shift in her industry and offers advice for Monmouth students.

THE BIG NIGHT: Accompanying Caitlin Knute to the 46th Annual Mid-America Emmy Awards in St. Louis... THE BIG NIGHT: Accompanying Caitlin Knute to the 46th Annual Mid-America Emmy Awards in St. Louis was her mother, who often serves as a sounding board for the Kansas City news anchor.MONMOUTH, Ill. – During her award-winning career in broadcast journalism, 2001 Monmouth College graduate Caitlin Weinstein Knute has not yet given a commencement speech. But the talented news anchor for television station KSHB-41 in Kansas City was able to reply very quickly with advice from her career for the students at her alma mater who’ll soon be entering the workforce.

“Step out of your comfort zone and try different things,” said Knute, while seated with one of her two children – her 7-year-old daughter, Charlotte – at McLain’s Bakery, a Saturday morning hotspot in the KC neighborhood of Waldo. “Don’t be afraid of failure. There’ll be bosses who are not what you’re hoping for and jobs you don’t get. I can’t imagine doing anything other than what I’m doing now. I knew what I wanted to do and I kept going after it. If opportunities aren’t there, create them.”

Her other advice ties into the “award-winning” portion of her résumé: “Don’t let anyone put you in a box.”

When Knute was getting started in the industry, she was told her strengths lie in covering lighter stories (think Jim Carrey’s character reporting from a community blood drive at the conclusion of the film Bruce Almighty).

“Now, I’m an investigative reporter,” said the former sports stringer for the Monmouth daily newspaper.

Her Emmy stories

And she’s a good one. Knute brought home two honors from the 46th Annual Mid-America Emmy Awards. One of her winning pieces, titled “A Hero for Homeless Students,” won in the education/schools category, while the other Emmy winner, “Bonded Through Tragedy,” earned the top honor in the societal concerns division.

“I can’t imagine doing anything other than what I’m doing now. I knew what I wanted to do and I kept going after it. If opportunities aren’t there, create them.” – Caitlin Knute

The latter piece profiled two mothers from different backgrounds who lost sons to “police-involved shootings,” then struck up “a genuine friendship despite, on the surface, not seeming to have much in common.”

“One of the mothers lost her son in a shooting in Overland Park (in 2018),” said Knute. “He was white, 17 and the police shot into his minivan 13 times. He was hit six times. The case created a lot of attention.”

For the other incident – a 24-year-old Black man killed by police in 2013 – there was far less media coverage.

“The moms met at a support group, and we came to learn about it as a potential story,” said Knute. “When talking with them, the one mother pointed out that the coverage for the Overland Park shooting far outweighed the other shooting. Upon reflection, I thought, ‘This mom’s right.’”

Knute’s piece not only chronicled the friendship, but also examined what the police can be doing better.

“It was not an anti-police story by any means,” she said. “It’s just a push for more police transparency.”

The other story grew out of Knute’s larger interest in reporting on homelessness in Kansas City. While doing that reporting, she came to learn about Arthur Seabury, who teaches at Hogan Prep Academy, which has the highest population of housing-challenged students in the metro area.

“He’s bought a washer and a dryer for the school so kids can have clean clothes, and he’s bought basic hygiene items and food to have on hand,” said Knute, listing just some of the many ways Seabury “plants seeds of hope” at the school. “’Mr. Sea’ is an amazing character. It was a feel-good story.”

What’s new in news?

It was a story, Knute said, that she wouldn’t have been able to tell, or at least tell as fully as it deserved, in her early days in the business.

“The thing I’m most grateful about how news has changed during my career is that everything used to be short, fast and less content,” said Knute. “Stories were 20 or 30 seconds, and at the most you could maybe go a minute-fifteen or a minute-twenty. Your editor would say to you, ‘If you don’t cut it down, I will.’”

“We realized that people have an appetite for longer stories. … Both of my Emmy stories were longer pieces. It’s become more about quality than quantity, and I think that’s a great change.” Caitlin Knute

But over the years, she said, binge-watching on streaming services such as Netflix changed that approach.

“We realized that people have an appetite for longer stories,” she said. “It became OK to have a five-minute story. You don’t think twice about it now. You need time to tell these stories. Both of my Emmy stories were longer pieces. It’s become more about quality than quantity, and I think that’s a great change.”

C.K. IN KC: Knute is pictured with her family -- her husband and two daughters, ages 9 and 7. C.K. IN KC: Knute is pictured with her family -- her husband and two daughters, ages 9 and 7.Fair and honest journalism was already the mantra for Knute and the majority of her colleagues over the years, and the current polarized climate has made that type of integrity even more important.

“I’ve had to explain many times that we don’t have an agenda,” she said. “And we also have to be very conscious of not sensationalizing the news. We’re very intentional about that.”

A recent example, she said, is her station not using police mugshots on its newscasts unless there are extenuating circumstances, due to the way those photos “disproportionately affect minorities.”

Knute said “getting other opinions and talking to other sources” is critical to her work.

“Sometimes, I’ll be working on a story, and I’ll show it to my mom, who was an English teacher,” said Knute. “I’ll ask her, ‘Does it seem fair and balanced?’ … I might report on something you don’t like, but I’m going to be fair about it.”

Knute’s mother accompanied her to St. Louis for the Emmy gala as her “date” for the evening. In addition to winning this year, Knute also earned an Emmy during her days with WEEK-25 in Peoria, Illinois.

“That one was special,” she said, “because we had to go up against the Chicago stations to win in that region.”

Knute has also won a regional Edward R. Murrow award in her career, which has taken her to stations in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Des Moines, Iowa, in addition to her time in Kansas City and Peoria.

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