Karen Sloan

Content Manager of International Online Video

at Associated Press

Degree(s):
MA '82
Whereabouts:
Washington, D.C., United States

Middlebury College in Vermont

Before attending the University of Missouri, Sloan attended Middlebury College in Vermont for her undergraduate studies. She worked at the college radio station and fell in love with the radio industry.

“When I first stepped on campus as an undergraduate, they had activities with open houses,” says Sloan. I stopped by the radio station and I was just knew this was it. This was my fit, I loved it.”

Middlebury College, a liberal arts college, did not offer a journalism degree, so Sloan majored in history, adding courses in international politics and Spanish to broaden her understanding of the wider world. She attended Middlebury at the same time as a number of students who would go on to become prominent journalists, including Frank Sesno, former CNN correspondent, anchor and Washington bureau chief, and Jeanne Meserve, who’s had a long career at CNN and ABC.

Karen Sloan, MA '82

Karen Sloan, MA '82, covered the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton outside Westminster Abbey in London.

“It was a good environment to be in,” Sloan said. “I didn’t learn journalism academics; it was from just being at the radio station.”

After graduating from college in 1976, Sloan worked at various radio and television stations throughout the New Jersey area. After six years of reporting, she decided it was time for a change. Sloan began looking at graduate programs in reporting with a television emphasis.

The Missouri School of Journalism was appealing to Sloan because of the real-world experience it offered. When she was accepted into the program, she and then-husband Jeff Baron, MA ’82, who went on to work at the AP and The Washington Post, packed up their lives and headed to Columbia.

The Missouri School of Journalism

Sloan enrolled in broadcasting, camera work, editing, and producing, along with other academic courses. She took courses from broadcast news professor Dean Elmer Lower, past president of ABC News, and Professor Phill Brooks, now the director of the School’s state government reporting program in Jefferson City, Mo.

She did not take any courses in radio, but instead worked at many radio stations in the area during her time in Columbia, including KFRU 1400 AM, KBIA 91.3 FM, and KTXY 106.9 FM. But while exploring television and working at KOMU, Sloan discovered she enjoyed learning about the television field, but her true passion came from working in radio.

As a student, Sloan worked at KBIA 91.3 FM, an NPR-member station that is affiliated with the University of Missouri. She compiled pieces for the breaking news show, “All Things Considered.”

“Everyone was busy, the atmosphere was humming, and each person has his or her role to play to the get news on the air,” says Sloan. “It was definitely a lesson in teamwork.”

“Everyone was busy, the atmosphere was humming, and each person has his or her role to play to the get news on the air,” says Sloan of her time at KBIA-FM. “It was definitely a lesson in teamwork.”

Sloan also served as a teaching assistant in the History of American Journalism course.

“From grading papers, working shifts at the radio station in town, driving to Jefferson City to do the 5 p.m. shifts, doing NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’, and producing for KBIA in the afternoon, there was no time for anything but journalism,” says Sloan.

All of Sloan’s hard work taught her valuable lessons.

“It gave me practical experience,” Sloan says. “It gave me the skills to work where I wanted to work and skills that I held on to for decades.”

Another important aspect of Sloan’s Missouri Journalism experience was her participation in the Washington Program. The program allows graduate students and undergraduate seniors the opportunity to work in the nation’s capitol with top professionals in the country.

A friend of Sloan’s from her radio days in New Jersey put her in touch with someone who connected her to the Associated Press, which gave Sloan the opportunity to cover Capitol Hill hearings. Sloan’s friend also allowed her to live in her apartment during her time in D.C.

Sloan attributes her start at AP directly to the School. After only two month working on Capitol Hill, she was offered a full-time position with AP. Sloan took the job and hoped to eventually advance within the company and become a foreign correspondent.

“Mizzou enabled me to get that first step in the door to get the kind of job I wanted,” Sloan says. “It wouldn’t have happened without going to school at MU, there is no question about that.”

The Associated Press

During Sloan’s seven-year career at AP in Washington, Sloan went above and beyond to prove herself capable of a foreign correspondent position. She was the overnight supervisor in the broadcast newsroom Monday through Friday. If a national story broke during the weekend, she would volunteer to cover the story.

“I would finish my shift, pack a bag and be back in one day and be back on the job from midnight to eight,” Sloan says. “But it gave me a track record to say to people, ‘Yes I can land in a strange country and give you the content you want.’”

Sloan’s first, big international story broke during a weekend after working overnight during the week. She got the assignment to head to Colombia to cover the mudslides that had devastated the town of Armero.

“It was a terrible, terrible scene,” Sloan said. “I have never encountered bodies stacked up like that in one place and the mental images have stayed with me fairly clearly to this day.”

Sloan’s experiences covering international breaking stories gave her the experience she needed become a foreign correspondent. She was given the position of European Radio Coordinator for AP based in London. Coincidentally, one of her schoolmates from Middlebury, Frank Sesno, had held the position before Sloan.

During her 15 years at AP’s London office, she has reported all the major international events. When she began working at London’s AP office, AP’s radio network was very small and only had one foreign correspondent in London—Sloan.

“Whatever the big stories were, they were mine,” Sloan says. “It was really cool to see the most amazing things in the world.”

Sloan said the biggest story she covered while working in the field was Diana, Princess of Wales, death in 1997.

“The death itself was such a shock, completely unexpected, and the mysterious nature of what happened means that there will likely be a certain level of speculation about it for years and years to come,” says Sloan.

Throughout her years reporting at the scene, Sloan spent a lot of time with the military in war zones and has traveled to Haiti and Somalia.

“I traveled to a lot of places that are not very nice to live in and not very nice to visit,” Sloan says. “It makes you very grateful for what you have.”

Sloan experienced tragedy during the 2005 London transit bombing. She had just transitioned to her new position as senior headline desk editor so she was reporting from inside the AP office.

“Having seen what happened in the States, it wasn’t unexpected, but that they went after public transportation was unexpected,” Sloan says. “There isn’t that much you can do, people still need to get on the Tube and get on the bus. There is very much that attitude that came out of World War II, that you just keep carrying on.”

In 2009, Sloan changed her focus again, and began working as AP’s content manager of international online video. Sloan attributes her Mizzou education to the ease of her recent transition from radio to video.

“What enabled me to make that change over to video was what I learned back at Mizzou in 1982, at KOMU and the courses in the J-School, about what you needed to do to put together TV stories,” Sloan says.

“What enabled me to make that change over to video was what I learned back at Mizzou in 1982, at KOMU and the courses in the J-School, about what you needed to do to put together TV stories,” Sloan says.

In addition to her formal education, after being the reporter out in the field, Sloan feels she is better prepared to package online stories.

“Being out in the field so long makes me better on the desk,” Sloan says. “I have a picture of what the story might be and how they should be presented. I know how to tell it, that’s my job as a storyteller.”

Sloan had found that her work in video has been more challenging than radio due to the added visual dimensions.

“I am a storyteller,” Sloan says. “While having video is a very powerful tool to add to your collection, you always have to be aware of it. It is always the driver. If you lack pictures, you don’t have a TV or video story.”

While Sloan may be thousands of miles away from MU, she has had the opportunity to work with a few journalism alumni throughout her career.

Sloan had some visitors stop by the AP offices from the School’s London Program during the summer of 2010. Missouri students along with Professor Suzette Heiman were taking a tour of the AP offices.

“Suzette stopped by my desk and said, ‘We are from Mizzou,’ and she found out I went there and almost had a heart attack,” Sloan says.

Sloan had the opportunity to talk to the students and even take advantage of a photo opportunity.

Looking back on her career thus far, Sloan attributes her success to the practical skills she learned during her formal education at the Missouri School of Journalism and her hands-on experiences at the local Columbia radio stations.

“If you didn’t have a practical program, you really wouldn’t know if you aren’t suited for this kind of work,” Sloan says. “You get some of that weeding-out process in school.”

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