Matt Mrozinski, director of photojournalism and KING 5 in Seattle, joins Voices from the Field to discuss his career, his current role at KING 5 and offers thoughts on where he sees local broadcasting and storytelling in the next decade and the challenges facing local news.
Edited and Paraphrased for Print
I am happy and delighted to be joined today by Matt Mrozinski, the director of photojournalism at KING 5 and we're going to we're going to talk to him a little bit about what it's like to be behind the camera a bit. Welcome, Matt.
Thank you for having me. It's great to be here. Virtually.
Tell me when you first had th realization that you wanted to go into broadcasting and working at a TV station.
I'm kind of I'm one of those people that knew they wanted to do some form of video production since I was probably in the eighth grade. And just being behind the camera always sort of was inspiring to me. It felt like a natural fit. Though, I would say that half the time I probably had no idea what I was doing. Maybe I still don't. But that's kind of the fun of it. I guess that passion has really never faded to this day. I never had my sights set on being a journalist or a photojournalist until the junior or senior year of college. I went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania - people often confuse that with Indiana University - it is not the same. But we had a partnership there with a local TV station, WJC TV, just a small market station in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. And each year they would have the students from the TV station work as stringers for them. So they go out to shoot a lot of high school football, the occasional breaking news story. And for some reason, I don't know if it's because I lived at the TV station, which I wish I did. Plenty of parking tickets to prove it (ha ha). But the seniors pass that on to me. And I think at that moment, I had this sort of realization that this was a practical way for me to get a job. Because my dad had always kind of preached to me and drilled in my head. He's like, "I don't care what your degree is. But you better get a job doing something in the field." So I didn't see myself moving to Hollywood. So a lot of career decisions that I've made my life I just kind of walked through the open door.
Is there any one person or any one event that inspired you? Maybe that was your dad, so you can get a job? Or is there anybody else that was around that inspired you?
We had plenty of classes in high school that worked heavily television production things. So some of the teachers there, it's hard to pin it on one possible thing. I never imagined I would be a journalist until it actually started to happen. And I had a lot of on the job training. There was so many people along the way. I don't know if I can pinpoint one person.
Can you tell us a bit about your job? What what is what does an average day, if there is such a thing, in this business?
Well, like you said, I don't know that there is an average day. That's kind of what's great about it. Each day is unpredictable and we just kind of flow with the day's news events. And you know, obviously, well this last year is like Groundhog's Day. But my job at KING as director of photojournalism is kind of a hybrid position, where I kind of see myself as a utility player. I can wear a lot of hats depending on the need, whether that's managing teaching, storytelling, special projects, news, things like that. So typically, it's a combination of management duties and field duties. A lot of my time is spent managing about 30 people: photographers, editors, tour managers that report to me do lots of oversights, that a lot of policies, storytelling, logistics, capital equipment, purchases, coaching, critiquing and making sure everyone is kind of accountable to all those things. But I also shoot in the field, which is probably what you want to hear about most, I would think. I shoot in the field one to two times a week, so working with reporters or alone, chasing news, doing live shots, hopefully telling memorable stories. So it's quite a balance because the management duties never stop, even when you're shooting on deadline, the phone can ring with whatever the latest management fire is, and they expect you to put it out regardless of whether or not you're trying to make slot like everyone else is trying to do so. But I don't know that anybody really understands that maybe quite like some of the other chiefs and DPS and other assistant photographers out in the field that have to deal with that.
You talked about juggling a lot. Is there anything in particular that you love? What's most rewarding for you when you come into work each day?
I enjoy all the things, management gives, you know, teaching coaching, all of the stuff I mentioned before, feeling that you get when you're in breaking news, the adrenaline rush, those sorts of things I love. But I think, if I can narrow that down, it's just getting to have one of those really diverse experiences that you get in this business, telling stories from people across a wide variety of cultures, religion, race, socioeconomic backgrounds and so on. I mean, there are few jobs like working in the field as a photographer and a reporter, where we get to experience such a wide variety of life events and people's stories. Some of them can be horrifying, some can be inspirational, and getting to have one of those experiences to me is a perfect day. And it's shaped me in profound ways. I'm just a small town kid from western Pennsylvania, and the things I've gotten to do in this career, I'd never imagined doing it in my life. So it's been amazing.
So you talk about all these diverse experiences and stories and people and places. Are there particular projects or stories or anything in particular that stand out that you're really proud of proud of being a part of?
A lot. People ask me that question a lot. They asked me that in the field. You know, when I go and do workshops, things like that. Yeah. And I generally hate it. To be honest, every project I've done kind of has a special memory, holds a special place in my heart. I did a virtual reality story where I sat in a homeless woman's tent under a bridge with a dozen cats and it just wreaked of urine. And then, a few weeks later, I'm going to interview Richard Branson, the billionaire, so I remember those things. Kind of marvel at it sometimes. But in terms of just projects, I'd have to say that some of them are more sentimental to me that maybe most people wouldn't understand. Back in the day, it was the 80-year return of Old Dominion University football in Virginia, and in Norfolk, Virginia. Getting to work in a story like that with my colleagues at the time and winning a few awards for it was really just a very sentimental feeling. There was the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub several years ago, and we put on a community town hall called Pride and Peace for that. And I was director photography for that. And it was just beautifully done. And it was such an important conversation, especially for us to have in the northwest in Seattle, and having such a huge LGBTQ community really was one of our finest moments. And when people ask me, that that's one of the first things that come to mind. But there were more things. We did a whole revamp of our local news. We did a documentary called Bob's Choice that won an award that I got to be a part of that that was actually this past year. I just played a small a small role in it, but just to be a part of that team and see it, help it through the process was pretty amazing. And then probably the last thing would be our Facing Race series that we just launched this last year. It was 13 episodes we did that shined a light on important issues involving race. That, again, played a small role in that helping shape some of the content and I did a few stories myself. But we ended up winning at Scripps award for that and were nominated for a Peabody. I keep mentioning the awards, but awards aside, it's really the impact that the work had. And the camaraderie of the team at KING 5. It's just a special place to work.
I want to look ahead a little bit. You've been doing this a little while. Where do you think you're going to be five to 10 years from now? Where do you see broadcasting fit into the lives of communities here?
That is a billion dollar question. Maybe more than that. I was thinking back to like, 11, 12 years ago. I'm sitting in a restaurant with my former chief Jeff Meyers in Norfolk, Virginia, and he said to me, "This Facebook thing, it's, it's really something. I have no idea what's gonna happen but things are going to change." And I was kind of baffled at that moment. Now, you know, here we are here, and it literally changed everything. Social media has changed everything. So I think it's really anyone's guess, as to where we are, and we're at the mercy of technology, too. And any discovery right now can change the way that we communicate our message. And unfortunately, I think a lot more intelligent people than me are working on this at the company level. So thankfully, I'm sure they're trying to take the guessing out of it, but, you know, rather than hoping we hit the bullseye. Just in terms of a prediction what's going to happen? Yeah, success should be more determined by just kind of landing on the target somewhere. The other thing is, 10 years from now, or 10 years in Seattle versus 10 years in, say, your more conventional market is really going to be quite different. I would think, giving a prediction at five years, I would think change is gonna come, but perhaps not fatal. Unless, what happens when professional sports are universally available without cable, which they is, to some degree now, but not entirely. I feel like that would be like the kill shot for a lot of us, but kind of getting to your question, in five to 10 years, I think digital over the top options will probably really start to reign supreme. I mean, there's a real moment of reckoning that's coming to see who is positioned to deliver a local news product that people will want to consume. And I'm so happy to work at TEGNA and I really mean that, because the company that I work for is not in denial about what's coming. They speak the truth about what's coming down the pipe and the changes we need to make, some of which are very uncomfortable at times. But I will go bold with your 10 year mark, because in my head, I see us kind of coming to a couple of options. I can see us regionalizing and combining resources from the northwest, let's say Seattle and Portland team up in, combine a news station and doing joint newscast for the region, gathering more resources. Or I can see us in 10 or plus years maybe downsizing from what we've kind of become with a lot of repeated newscasts on local broadcast, there may be a more budgeted amount of journalists doing in depth, insightful, powerful, meaningful content that's delivered on a digital or OTT. So I could keep going on with my crazy ideas. But I don't I think you have to kind of think crazy. Because right now we're kind of just gripping on to the numbers hoping that we can still sell, we're still profitable. But I don't know if that's gonna last without the bold change and not the more nuanced change.
One last question. What piece of advice would you give to someone who maybe was in your shoes, you know, several years ago, working at the college, in high school or doing all those internships or whatever they may be. What kind of advice would you give to someone just starting out who might be interested in in the type of work you do?
I would, I would tell them that from what I've learned, and it's just been a really hard for me to understand at times, is I think a lot of people is that change is the only constant. But the thing is that the increasing velocity and which change is happening hasn't necessarily been the constant. So my very good friend and and mentor, Brett Akagi would always say adapt, overcome and persevere. And I think we need to have that mindset because we have to because we don't know what's coming next. I would say to accept failure. Don't fail at the same thing twice. Don't be afraid to get uncomfortable, as long as obviously common ethics are implied there. But you know, whether that be in terms of content or challenging your own ideologies, try to get rid of the groupthink. And I think probably the last, perhaps most important thing is to learn how to become a visual storyteller, because one thing I've noticed as I analyze my career and over the decades of TV news, among all the rapid changes in the business, mastering being a visual storyteller seems like it gives you the most longevity or more of a prosperous career because video storytelling happens inside and outside of news. So if you master that art of learning to create compelling content, I think it can bring you great success and you can stay relevant again beyond the walls of TV news.
Matt, I appreciate you taking the time to answer a few questions for us today and give us a little peek into into what it's like to walk in your shoes so thank you. And thank you for all the work you do there at KING 5 and and the commitment you have to the people's lives. We really appreciate that.
Matt Mrozinski is recognized by peers as an innovator and video journalism influencer. Mrozinski’s work, both as a photojournalist and as a newsroom manager, have been recognized numerous times with some of the most coveted national awards in visual journalism.
In 2010 he was runner-up for photojournalism’s highest individual honor, the NPPA Ernie Crisp Photographer of the Year Award. He was a finalist three other times. In 2021, Mrozinski was director of photography on a team that won a duPont-Columbia Award for "Bob's Choice," the award is video journalisms highest honor. Also in 2021, he was on a team that won the prestigious Scripps Howard Award for Excellence in Local Broadcast Journalism. Mrozinski won back-to-back National Headliner awards and won the coveted national SPJ Sigma Delta Chi Award. As a newsroom manager, he led WTHR to their first NPPA Station of the Year nomination. The award recognizes the best photojournalism staff in the nation. At KING 5, Mrozinski’s staffs have been a finalist three times and he has been a staff member on four NPPA Station of the Year Awards.
Regionally, Mrozinski was the NPPA West Coast Photographer of the Year in 2013, is a twelve-time Emmy winner, has over thirty-one Emmy nominations and six Edward R. Murrow Awards. He led his staff at KING 5 to three NPPA West Coast Station of the Year Awards.
Despite those accomplishments, Mrozinski is most recognized for being the creator of the popular “Storytellers” professional community. Over 20,000 journalists and students frequent the network for advice and critique. “Storytellers” is used in university classrooms across the nation and has become one of the premier resources in video journalism.
Mrozinski has also been faculty member for ten years at the legendary NPPA News Video Workshop in Norman, OK. He has taught at workshops, universities, and for newsrooms all over America. “I’ll do everything I can to help shape the future of journalism,” Mrozinski adds.
Mrozinski is a proud Pittsburgh, PA native, husband to Dr. Yui, and father to his son Madex.
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