Kayla Green: A Name You Can Trust

Kayla Green reports on the University of Rochester Emergency Medical Team returning from the COVID-19 front lines of New York City for WROC News 8 outside of UR on April 14, 2020.

By Kari Ashworth

Brockport Beat Managing Editor

Kayla Green is, locally, a household name. As a reporter at News 8, Green has covered a variety of stories impacting the local community, solidifying herself as a name you can trust.

Green grew up in Cheektowaga, New York, with her parents – Sharon and Tom – and her brother, Eric. She said she is also “super close” with her extended family, with there being a lot of love and large family gatherings.

Attending Maryvale Senior High School, Green’s closest extracurricular to journalism was yearbook club, where she learned how to shoot and edit video on “a very basic level.”

When it came time to make a decision for college, Green wanted New York University, but in the end, she ultimately didn’t get in. Her “fallback” schools were University at Buffalo (UB) and The College at Brockport, and she chose the latter, saying getting into the Honors Program “sealed it” for her.

“UB was more just, if I want to stay home, I’ll go here; I didn’t really love love it,” Green said. “But with Brockport you get there and it just feels like a good environment. The people are so great. I loved seeing the TV studios when I visited, so that kind of sold me, too. Hearing about the video classes, which I ended up taking with Ginny [Orzel] and stuff, just sounded really cool to me and a good place that I can be. And it’s a medium sized school, so I liked that. Nothing too small, whereas UB was huge for me. And I think it just kind of – everything fell into place.”

The next hurdle was discovering what she wanted to do as a career. Green began with a video production concentration, hoping to possibly shoot music videos, movies or something of the sorts. While Green continued with her concentration her entire four years at Brockport, two internships changed her career trajectory – one at WIVB in Buffalo in between her sophomore and junior year and another for video production at a marketing company.

“I did two – I did that one [WIVB], and then I did one with a video production kind of marketing company, which was more what I thought I wanted to do and it was the opposite,” Green said. “I didn’t enjoy that internship as much, and I really enjoyed the one at the news station.”

Green found TV incorporated what she loves, which is writing, shooting and editing.

“It’s not just writing; it’s also video shooting and editing,” Green said. “It’s also on camera presence – I never was someone who thought I would be on camera, but now that I do it, it’s a fun challenge. It’s interesting; it was unexpected for sure. But I guess just combining a lot of different aspects, specifically I think with video. I love the visual medium of TV.”

Following her internship at WIVB, Green came back to campus with the ambition to create a real news department at Talon Television, which she credits as a place where she learned from trial and error.

“I just kind of started doing newscasts with a couple of my friends, just from what I learned at the internship,” Green said. “And at that point, I was writing scripts every week, I was learning how to write for broadcast. I was learning how to be on camera, how to edit a newscast, what went into it, just all of it was pretty much through Talon. And that’s just because you get that free rein opportunity to explore and learn, and there’s nothing really at stake – you just do it.”

Green also did a few on-campus internships, like the Writer’s Forum and one in the marketing department, as well as a few other off-campus internships at Channel 10 (WHEC), Spectrum News in Rochester and at CNN in Washington, D.C.

Associate Professor Ginny Orzel taught multiple classes Green took at Brockport and was Green’s advisor and mentor. Orzel said Green had a paid position at a local station as a weekend producer, a job Orzel said Green didn’t feel was the right fit for her. (In Green’s words, she “found out that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I found out reporting was for me; I didn’t like being stuck inside all the time.”)

Orzel said the pair had a conversation about Green’s future, and Green made clear she wanted to explore more opportunities, to go to Washington, D.C. or New York City. Orzel encouraged Green to try for the CNN internship, despite any fears she may have.

“I said, ‘then do it,’ and she was afraid; she thought that people might not like her, and I said you can’t make a career decision on what people are going to think of you,” Orzel said. “You have to make a decision based on what you want to do, where your passion is, because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. You’re never ever going to please everyone, and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what they think. It matters what you think and if you’re doing the best thing for you.”

Green graduated in December 2018 and said she began her job search in October, “applying to every station in the state.” She understood how competitive the job market is and how few stations there are in the grand scheme of things, so she wanted to start early. Green also has the Excelsior Scholarship, which stipulates you must stay in New York for five years after graduation, so she could not leave the state for a job if she wanted to keep the scholarship.

“I was hoping for something in Elmira or in Utica, like a smaller town; I was not expecting to get a bigger one – that’s kind of what I was always told, that you can’t start in a market that big, so I wasn’t expecting it – but I was still sending them the resumes I sent to Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester, all of them,” Green said. “And I knew someone who worked at News 8, someone else who I was in Talon with – Johnny Nixon was a photographer [at News 8]. So I kind of said, ‘you know, I see they have openings and I know it’s probably a long shot, but would you put in a good word for me?’ And he did, and I ended up getting an interview there. I also interviewed at a station Elmira, around the same time, and Elmira offered me the job first.”

Green said she decided to contact News 8 to see where the station was in the decision process.

“I kind of just emailed them and said, ‘you know, I have another offer. I’m just wondering where you’re at with your decision,’ and then the next day, they ended up offering me the job like two hours before I had to tell Elmira if I wanted their job or not,” Green said. “So it really just – everything aligned.”

Green jokes that her persistence is what likely solidified her job at News 8, saying she “kept emailing them after interviews,” sending in more of her work and continuously checking in on where they were in the decision process.

“I kind of made them make a decision when I wanted, which is kind of bold, but it worked out so I don’t regret anything about it,” Green said. “But I really, really wanted that job, and it was pretty exciting. And I would have been happy to go to Elmira too, but it was just nice to be able to stay in Rochester and be near Buffalo and not start completely with unfamiliarness.”

Orzel described Green as someone who “takes any opportunity she can and she’s willing to try new things.”

“She’s really brave, and she has a lot of courage,” Orzel said. “She goes for what she wants; she takes risks and the risks pay off.”

Those risks did pay off. Green was officially hired by News 8 in November 2018, starting on air in January 2019 two weeks after graduating college.

News Producer Alex Charron said some of his coworkers were hesitant of the idea of a recent graduate starting in Rochester, but they quickly came around.

“As a coworker she takes her job and journalism very seriously,” Charron said. “She has the kind of wisdom and attention to detail one would expect from a seasoned reporter, without losing the curiosity and energy that make young reporters so likable. A lot of my co-workers were skeptical at first about hiring a Brockport grad straight out of college, but it wasn’t even two months before she earned the respect of everyone here.”

Green admits she was also nervous when she first started at News 8, as she was a recent graduate and didn’t necessarily have as much experience as other reporters at the station.

“I was nervous going in about everybody being more experienced than me or everybody being older and people being unsure of me because I was right out of college,” Green said. “But it ended up being, I work with so many great people, and a lot of them are in my age group and we all just get along so well and everybody cares so much about what we’re doing. And I feel like right now, we’re a very forward thinking station, with our digital first movement, and we’re just doing a lot to keep TV modern in a time like this. I think it’s cool, and there’s a lot of people there that I really care about and I’m happy to work with. So it’s just a really good environment, too.”

As for her favorite part of her job, Green says she has “always been curious” and loves meeting new people and learning about new topics.

“All the people that I get to meet and interview, that’s my favorite part about it,” Green said. “That’s why I do this job because the stories are so interesting. I learn such a wide range of topics, and a lot of them are just things that I never knew anything about, so it’s pretty interesting. It’s just a very diverse perspective. And a lot of it’s challenging stuff that I have to really research to understand and know what I’m saying so that I can tell viewers what they need to know. And it’s just different every day; it challenges me so much, and I love that and just meeting people that are passionate about what they do. I mean, it’s just cool; I love it.”

Kayla Green in a live shot of a “News Minute” while a student at The College at Brockport.

Charron shared a few stories Green has reported on during her tenure at News 8 that show the diverse range of topics she has covered. Green is “so proud of her alma mater,” Charron said, yet she was able to “put journalism first and fronted several stories about the administration at Brockport” when former Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) Cephas Archie, Ph.D., was fired.

“Never once did she appear to have a conflict of interest,” Charron said. “She kept reporting the story equally and fairly even though I knew the allegations against her school were hard for her to take.”

Another story Green covered involved the death of Brennan Moody, a 17-year-old from Albion, New York, who was in a fatal car crash a week before graduation last spring. Another student, Sean Weis, was also injured in the crash.

“Kayla had no hesitation in driving all the way out there,” Charron said. “She stayed there for days giving us updates, interviewing pretty much everyone who knew him and writing web stories without missing a beat. Many other reporters would have gotten sick of it after a few hours and gone home.”

Charron said before he met Green, he was questioning if journalism was right for him. However, Green’s love of the job “rubbed off on” him.

“She’s doing the job for all the right reasons,” Charron said.

Outside of reporting, Green enjoys hanging out with her friends, family and boyfriend, watching Netflix and attending concerts. (Charron can also attest to Green’s qualities as a friend, saying “she’s always looking out for her friends and will defend them to the end, and her attention to detail means she’ll notice even subtle things that are bothering others, doing her best to help.”) Of course, during the COVID-19 outbreak, some things cannot be done the same way as before.

Even at News 8, Green, along with the other reporters and the photographers, are not allowed in the building in an effort to practice social distancing. A makeshift studio has been created in the garage attached to the station building for reporters to do live shots, and interviews are often being done over Skype or Zoom.

“It’s very different, and it’s working out though,” Green said. “I just miss the normal flow, like you don’t even realize what you have until it’s gone, which a lot of us are realizing in a lot of ways, but I just miss the actual interaction with people because as I said, that’s my favorite part. I mean, over Zoom it’s still interesting, but it’s not the same.”

Green’s journey to her career at News 8 may seem like a short one, but through multiple internships, campus involvement and networking, she was able to get to where she wanted. Those are tools she would suggest to anyone wanting to break into the field.

“Get involved with the campus media, that would probably be a big thing I would say because I learned a lot in class, of course, I learned a lot in internships, but that’s not the majority of it – like yeah, you’re learning but the hands on is actually doing it,” Green said. “So I would say that, definitely get involved in campus media if you’re interested in one of those three areas. Do internships early because you’ll figure out something you don’t like and something you do. I definitely did internships that I was like, ‘OK, this is not what I want to do.’ And just go for everything. I know it’s scary, but use your connections, make connections, find out who else you can connect with, because you never know who’s going to know someone who might be in a place where you want.”

As a reporter, Green has to be bold in order to secure interviews and get stories out to the public. While she never anticipated becoming a reporter, she doesn’t regret it. Trying something new is what got her into the field, and she believes others should do the same, despite any reservations they may have.

“My biggest thing would be don’t not go for something because you’re afraid,” Green said. “Because the worst thing that can happen is it doesn’t happen and you keep moving on and you keep trying.”

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