The journey of a journalist

Andrew LaCombe reports outside the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, for WLUK Fox 11 News. LaCombe is a former 8-18 student journalist, and also worked as a reporter for TV6 before accepting the position with Fox 11 News in Green Bay, where he covers politics. (Photo courtesy of Fox 11 News)

Andrew LaCombe reports outside the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, for WLUK Fox 11 News. LaCombe is a former 8-18 student journalist, and also worked as a reporter for TV6 before accepting the position with Fox 11 News in Green Bay, where he covers politics. (Photo courtesy of Fox 11 News)

Written by Will Guter, Annabella Martinson, with contributions by Liam Ulland-Joy.

Imagine sitting just a feet away from one of the most powerful men in the world, asking him the questions the world wants to know the answers to. That is the life of Andrew LaCombe, a 26-year-old reporter for Green Bay’s Fox 11 News, who recently interviewed Donald Trump. Though, that wasn’t LaCombe’s first time reporting on the political front.

LaCombe, a native of Marquette, began his political journalism journey at the age of 14 when he traveled to New York City for the 2004 Republican National Convention as a member of 8-18 Media. He describes it as one of his favorite 8-18 Media memories.

“That was my first time in the city, first time covering a convention and it was right after 9/11, three years after, but one of the first big events in New York. So there’s just a lot of memories there of the heat, long days, working on a team and getting to meet some awesome people from all over the country, politicians and other kids and other reporters,” he said.

Even before that though, LaCombe knew he was interested in journalism. Inspired by family and people he knew, he was certain journalism was in his future.

“I kind of always knew when I was probably about 5 years old; after that my aunt worked at TV6 in Marquette and so I would go up to her work, get to know a lot of the personalities and newscasters there and kind of followed them, and then joined 8-18 Media because obviously that was a chance to actually be a journalist, and followed that all the way until I graduated high school,” LaCombe said.

LaCombe’s involvement in 8-18 Media through high school not only encouraged and inspired his career in journalism, but also helped him learn essential skills to succeed.

“It gave me the confidence to go up to anyone. I’ve talked to the governor, plenty of politicians and just people I never would have got the chance to talk to. It gave me confidence to ask questions,” he said. “It also taught me a lot about teamwork, how to work with a bunch of people you really don’t know and pull something off as one cohesive group, and to listen to each other’s ideas and compromise. We also learn deadlines are obviously very important and help you build your credibility as you meet your deadlines and prove to be reliable.”

When LaCombe graduated from high school one would think he jumped right into a journalism major. Wrong.

“I went to school thinking that I loved news and journalism, but I thought I wanted to be a musician or a music teacher. So, I studied music as well as government and ended up at the end of college, moving back to Marquette to work at TV6,” LaCombe revealed.

His job at TV6 encouraged LaCombe to pursue journalism further, and ultimately led to his current success covering the 2016 elections and sitting down one-on-one with Donald Trump.

“I follow politics closely so, compared to other people I interview who maybe I don’t know much about, I knew a lot about Donald Trump,” LaCombe said. “I still learned more as I prepared, but he’s been in the news for more than a year now so I had a lot of background information on him to bring into the interview, so that made it a little different.”

Daily preparation for major investigative stories for the evening news makes for a long day.

“I usually start my day around 9:30 in the morning. I have a meeting with other reporters, our producers for the newscast and our managers, and we come up with ideas for what stories we think our viewers want to hear about each day. Since my main beat is politics, I come with a few political stories, usually state politics and things that have happened around the state capital, or national stories, and sometimes local or county stories as well. I look at anything political—which is quite a wide range, especially with election season there’s a ton going on,” he said. “Then, we make decisions as a group about what we want to cover that day, and from 9:30 a.m. until the news starts at 5 p.m. I have…let’s see that’s seven-and-a-half hours to put a story together. I make phone calls, set up interviews, sometimes we’ll drive all the way to the state capitol for a story in a day. By 2 p.m. I’m starting to write the whole story and by 3:30 p.m. my script has to be in and approved by someone; then from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. I’m editing that story on our computer, all the video, and then I put it on our website after it airs so everyone can watch the story and then read the story. I’m done by 6 p.m. So from 9:30 till 6 p.m. a story goes from an idea to being on the air.”

Most news sources today not only use their website to connect with their viewers, but also try to engage the public with social media. LaCombe feels social media has changed not only the way candidates campaigned this election year, but also how people interact with the news on a daily basis.

“One of the benefits I would say is that it is a lot easier for our viewers—the people we need to be caring about—to get in touch with us and give us their feedback, which can be good and bad because sometimes their feedback goes beyond what people really should be concerned about, and sometimes our feedback becomes more about people’s appearances or negative personal attacks,” LaCombe said. “A positive, though, of people getting in touch with us, is that we are able to connect with people better in different ways and kind of take them behind the scenes and show them a lot more of what we do going into a story and inform them a lot faster. I think the news cycle moves so much faster now because of social media. So sometimes a story will be big news in the morning and by evening it’s kind of washed away, kind of out of people’s memories”

“We always try and keep in mind that people on social media aren’t necessarily the majority. The loudest people aren’t always the majority of what people want to hear and what people believe, so we always have to keep that in mind when we get Facebook comments or responses—that if we hear a lot from one group it doesn’t mean that is what everyone is thinking.”

Which begs the question, has the media been doing its job presenting the facts in an unbiased way when reporting on racial and political matters? LaCombe would only speak for his station and stated that they do their best to present both sides of every story.

“I think we have done—for a long time, not just in this election season—we have done a very good job of listening to both sides and letting both sides tell their story, and explaining the facts surrounding what they are going to say. We make our living here, I guess you could say, by asking people tough questions and holding them accountable, and that’s what I think we’ve done, not only covering the presidential race, but we are covering a big senate race here in Wisconsin and a big race for Congress. So we’re talking to these candidates all the time, giving different views about them from the other side and putting all that into our work. I think we do a good job here at Fox 11, giving both sides equal time and really responding to what viewers want to hear and what we believe viewers should know to be informed voters.”

As for his future plans, LaCombe already knows whom he wants to interview next.

“I would say I would want to talk to Hillary Clinton,” he said.

If he does have that opportunity to interview Clinton in the future, we all know he will have the confidence to ask her the tough questions.

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