From West Michigan to New Zealand to finally landing in Atlanta, Amy Kiley has dedicated herself to journalism since before she could drive, having conducted her first interview at 14 years old. She hopes to share her knowledge and experience with UWG mass communications students as a panelist at the 35th annual Media Day.
After graduating from Northwestern in 2004 with her bachelor’s in journalism, Kiley went on to get her master’s in music at Rider University in 2006 and another master’s in music and liturgy from St. Joseph’s College in 2007. Her range of interests, however, has never distracted from her first passions: the news and storytelling.
“The only year I think I didn’t engage in the media was my first year at a music conservatory, but by the second year I was working for a classical radio station,” admitted Kiley.
While some chose to start at an entry-level position and work their way up the ranks of a single station, Kiley chose a more nomadic approach. She worked as a host and show reporter at Milwaukee Public Radio in Wisconsin, then at WMFE in Orlando, FL., as the host of the local “All Things Considered,” and finally landed in Atlanta where she has been the host of “All Things Considered” and “Marketplace” at WABE for the past year.
“There’s kind of two options when it comes to moving up in journalism,” said Kiley. “You can move to a smaller station and progress from there, sometimes roaming around a bit, or start with an unpaid internship and try moving up at a single station. I chose the roaming version.”
Having tried her hand at both broadcast and print journalism, Kiley sees the benefits of both styles of reporting.
“Broadcast is more immediate and more concise,” said Kiley. “We can do 15-second readers, so it allows us to do short stories about what is happening right now, and I like that. With print you might write multiple pages, so you can go into the story a little deeper and spend more time with it.”
Before starting her professional career in the United States, Kiley ventured to New Zealand to work as a print journalist and then Argentina where she taught English classes in exchange for Spanish lessons. These experiences abroad gave Kiley new insights into people and have aided her in her endeavors as a reporter.
“You have to meet people and learn their stories so quickly, so having a background in language and culture enables you to dive into a person’s story more quickly and readily.”
A particular story that echoed with Kiley was her piece “Milwaukee: A Hub for Child Sex Trafficking” at WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio. Kiley interviewed 28-year-old Laura Johnson, who had been lured away from her family by a pimp at the age of 14 and began working as a prostitute. Johnson was eventually able to escape the abusive pimp and return to her family in Milwaukee at the age of 17. Interviewing Johnson allowed Kiley to shine light on her heartbreaking story and bring attention to an issue in the local community.
“To me what matters is giving a voice to somebody who might normally not have a microphone up to his or her lips,” said Kiley. “Sure, we sometimes interview governors or prominent community figures, but what matters more to me is finding people whose stories aren’t as readily available or aren’t as often told.”
At her current position in Atlanta, Kiley has been able to continue telling stories, such as that of Esau Gonzalez, a DeKalb County high school student who immigrated from Mexico with his siblings for the chance at a better life, and the Atlanta Homeward Choir, which is comprised exclusively of homeless men from Atlanta and was invited to perform at the White House in December 2015.
“What attracts me to public broadcasting is that we’re mission oriented and based on community service,” continued Kiley. “A story that reveals something listeners might not otherwise know about in a way that engages and helps the community is extremely fulfilling for me. It makes me feel like I go to work everyday and do something positive for our community and for our broader world, and those are the types of stories that make me proud to be in this industry.”