Reporting the news, living her dream and making a difference: Meet Katia Uriarte, one of our favorite fixtures on KiiiTV.
By: Sarah Tindall
Photos By: Dustin Ashcraft
Katia Uriarte once told a newscaster in an interview, “I’m so honored to be sitting here reading with you; I grew up watching you every night!” At the time, she was mortified that she had said it, because she knew it must be a cliché that he had heard over and over through the years, but now the same can be said of Uriarte herself. She’s been a fixture on Kiii Channel 3 for years, and she comes into homes across the Coastal Bend every night, bringing folks all the news they need to know about what’s going on in their hometown.
Uriarte says she still can’t believe her dream of being a newscaster is a reality. Her story began when she moved to New Orleans from Honduras at the age of 10 so her mother could get medical treatment at Ochsner Hospital there. Her mother is a visionary entrepreneur who opened an aromatherapy spa in the Big Easy and worked long hours there to make it a success.
Uriarte attended Loyola University in New Orleans. She originally thought she would major in political science and then attend law school, but a chance encounter at a high school career fair her senior year changed everything. A Nichols State alumnus who was working at the local Fox channel was there, and Uriarte was hooked.
“I remember thinking, ‘You can get paid to do this?’” she laughs. Friends told her she’d never make it, especially after changing her major “a thousand times” and spending five years getting a degree. But once she committed to communication and did her first internship at a station, she never looked back.
“I was offered an internship with ‘The Real World’ when MTV was filming it in New Orleans, but I was also offered one by Fox 8,” she says. “Everyone thought I was nuts for going with Fox, but I got my first job offer because of that internship.”
Uriarte attributes every job she’s had to hard work and a little luck. “I was in everyone’s face asking for assignments until they finally gave me one,” she says. “My first assignment was terrible; I wrote the piece longer than the AP copy. But I am so thankful to the people who took the time to train me while the other interns were just goofing around.”
Her last semester of college was a nail biter; she was ready to graduate, but she was still not employed until her big break came two weeks before she walked the stage. Bob Noonan, the assistant news director then at Fox 8 News, told her about a job opening at a little station over in Biloxi, Miss. They were looking for a producer, and even though she knew that wasn’t the job she wanted, she also knew it was a good steppingstone, so she took it gladly.
Uriarte produced a one-hour nightly newscast, and she says it was a great hands-on learning experience. The station closed down, but everyone who knows Uriarte knows she is a huge New Orleans Saints fan, so she is proud to say that her last story on that station was heading back to her hometown to cover the pep rally when the Saints were heading to the playoffs for the first time in many years.
She then spent a month-and-a-half looking for her next gig before she got the call to head to Jackson, Miss., to produce the morning show on a station there. “That’s the lowest end of the totem pole, working from midnight to 8 a.m., but I knew that was still a steppingstone, so I took the job,” she says. Within three months, she was moved up to weekend producer, then weeknight producer, all the while insisting that she wanted to move in front of the camera.
Her big break came two years later, when the assistant news director gave her a chance and sent her out to cover the small town nearby that was the first city in America to go smoke-free. “I remember my stomach burning like a pit of fire and feeling absolutely terrified, but I told myself, ‘If I don’t talk and do this, I won’t get the job,’ and so I started talking, and I’ve been reporting the news on television ever since,” she says. “My dream came true at that point.”
After some time as a reporter, she set a new goal for herself: the anchor chair. When her contract was ready to expire, she sent her tapes out across the country on a Thursday, holding her breath to see if anyone would bite.
The call came the following Monday morning from Channel 3. “My now boss told me his daughter’s name was Katia, too (but spells it Cattia),” she says. “Nobody in any of the other markets even knew how to pronounce my name. I knew Corpus Christi would be a great fit for me. They flew me down here and I auditioned for the weekend show, but afterward, they told me I was hired and I would be on the morning desk with Bill Vessey. I couldn’t believe it – an actual show. Bill and I had such great chemistry, though, that it all came very naturally.”
The dynamic duo did so well in the ratings that Vessey and soon after, Uriarte herself, got moved up to evenings. Uriarte has now anchored the news at Kiii for nearly 11 years. “I love my job,” she says. “After becoming a mom, I’ve become very organized – my house, my life, etc. I’m trying to get it all organized, and I’ve become even more involved in the community. Because of what I do, I really know we have the power to make a difference here. Right now, I’m working on a story where we are literally helping a family who cannot afford to stay in their home, and because I work at Channel 3, I’m able to make a difference in their lives.
“I love what I do. The best feeling is when someone comes up to me and says, ‘I feel like I know you’ … or asks me about my son or even asks me about Joe Gazin (how is he, really?). The people in Corpus Christi make our jobs rewarding, and it’s our job to do the same for them.”
Now Uriarte is the one kids are “growing up watching” on the nightly news, making a difference every day in the Coastal Bend.
For more information, visit KiiiTV online at www.kiiitv.com.