57.4 F
Seattle
Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Confessions of a Badass Reporter

Julie Blacklow

In the 1970’s, the Seattle the media landscape was changing, but even KING-TV, the highest-minded of the three major TV stations observed the cardinal rule of local news – if it bled, it led.  And for that decade and much of the next, the blood was most often delivered by reporter Julie Blacklow.

In a rollicking new memoir titled Fearless: Confessions of a Badass Reporter, Blacklow chronicles her adventures at a time when few females did the job she did. There were general reporters – the utility infielders – as well as  bright-eyed ingénues who smiled even through torrential downpours, and in enlightened cities like Seattle, competent and attractive if uninspired news anchors like Jean Enersen.  But none of them was mentored, as Blacklow was, by the late, great Don McGaffin who urged her “not to be a girl” and to do whatever had to be done to get a story.

Reading Fearless reminds us of many of the heinous crimes that led even the national news in those days, and NBC ran several of Blacklow’s reports. From serial killers to child mutilators, kidnappers to wife-slayers, Blacklow was one step behind – and sometimes right alongside of – the coroner’s wagon, the forensics team the detectives.  But even Seattle had slow news days, and during many of them, Julie covered the cultural events of the day, and her reporting highlighted the performances and appearances of icons from Chuck Berry to Paul McCartney.

Blacklow’s career was forged by her insatiable curiosity about what was happening around her, and in a D.C. suburb in the 60’s there were plenty of opportunities to witness history. She pushed her way to the front of the line to meet her idols and made sure to be where she could ask a question. 

While the book is somewhat scant on personal details, one particular anecdote stands out: When her two orphaned cousins came to live with her family, 16-year-old Julie, admittedly spoiled by her parents and used to being the center of their attention, smiled outwardly but seethed within.  On a school trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania, she toured not only the chocolate factory, but also the Milton Hershey School for Boys, at that time as famous as Father Flanagan’s. Finding her way to the front of the line to meet Samuel Hinkle, president of the Hershey corporation, she told him of her poor orphaned cousin, whose mother’s untimely death had been followed a few months later by his father’s suicide.  And to make the child’s life even more miserable, she added, the suicide note had blamed his sons for his death… A week later, Blacklow had the pine-paneled rec room the boys had taken over back to herself. Incidentally, she writes, it was the best thing that ever happened to  the fine young man he became.

In an interview with the author (whom I’ve known for many years), I asked her about the things she mostly  left out of the book – her  marriages, which are barely mentioned, although her portrait of  the late Ted d’Arms, one of the few men who could take up all the oxygen in  the room even when Julie was there too – captures his bigger than life personality. Of her first marriage, to the young lawyer she followed to Seattle and with whom she had a son, she said only, “You couldn’t be married, have a family, and take care of a home and do the job, not  the way I did it, not then. If my parents hadn’t moved west when I was divorced to care for Jeremy and be there when I needed them, I couldn’t have done it. I was married to my career, and to my friends.” 

Julie was fired by KING when the station was slammed for interfering with the apprehension of a kidnapper . She wasn’t on the story, just in the vicinity when the police ordered the media to get away from the action. She claimed she was unjustly fired, had the union behind her, sued and was reinstated in good standing, but it was a depressing time for her, which she describes in the book.

She stayed at KING for a few more years, then left and was a freelance news producer working for the networks producing local and regional TV stories. As far as I know, the diminished posture of local TV news, especially at the once mighty KING, began when the Bullitts sold the station, and has been pretty unremarkable and unimportant ever since. Is dismantling a synonym for this? The B’s were the heart of the station; Julie and Mrs. B continued to be close after the firing, which she (Mrs. B) was furious about. But the old KING stars, Julie, Jean and Mike James, still get recognized wherever they go. And people all love talking to Julie

She left television and didn’t look back, perhaps because she found an entirely different career, managing a horse ranch owned by a friend in North Bend. She lives with Laddy Kite, a former KING news photographer, in a sun-filled home in Issaquah, surrounded by mementos of her career, many of which are featured in the book, and pictures of her  son, who lives in L.A. and has a successful media career of his own. At least once a month she and her closest pals from KING get together for dinner. This week, they’ll likely be toasting her.

Fearless: Confessions of a Badass Reporter will be available August 30
in bookstores and at www.julieblacklow.com.

Jane Adams
Jane Adams
"Jane Adams PhD was a founding editor of the Seattle Weekly. Among her twelve books is Seattle Green, a novel . She is a contributing editor at Psychology Today, and coaches parents of adult children."

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

LATEST

Books: A New Classic of Northwest Logging and Radicalism

If Norwegians and Swedes laid down the legends of the Puget Sound country, Finns were their counterparts in southwest Washington and northwest Oregon in lands drained by the mighty Columbia.

Seattle Elections: Has the “Movement Left” Reached Its Half-Life?

Interest groups have a half-life of about 30 years in the fluid, non-partisan world of Seattle politics.

Democrats’ Debate: Let a Little Sunshine In

The best thing you can say about Julian Castro’s taunting of Joe Biden about “forgetting what he...

The Great Realignment: Are You Ready For America’s Seventh Version Of Political Parties?

We live in historic times. Our system is being realigned as a seventh party system firms up. Republicans have chosen long term political suicide by alienating everyone other than their increasingly narrow base. The door is open for the Democrats.

Dem Debate: A House Divided?

With so many threats to American security and democracy that every one of the 10 candidates was able to plant his or her flag on a vital issue.

TRENDING

Seattle Elections: Has the “Movement Left” Reached Its Half-Life?

Interest groups have a half-life of about 30 years in the fluid, non-partisan world of Seattle politics.

Books: A New Classic of Northwest Logging and Radicalism

If Norwegians and Swedes laid down the legends of the Puget Sound country, Finns were their counterparts in southwest Washington and northwest Oregon in lands drained by the mighty Columbia.

Dynamic Duo: When Maggie And Scoop Made The Senate Work For Us

Jackson and Magnuson each established a formidable legislative record. When it came to getting bills passed in Congress, these senators would put today’s Congress to shame.

The Great Realignment: Are You Ready For America’s Seventh Version Of Political Parties?

We live in historic times. Our system is being realigned as a seventh party system firms up. Republicans have chosen long term political suicide by alienating everyone other than their increasingly narrow base. The door is open for the Democrats.

Blown away by an unfiltered Mayor Pete

Simple outcome. I was blown away. Twenty minutes of house party stump speech was even better than I had any reason to guess I would come away with. Answers to questions were even better.