Posted on December 21, 2010 at 4:01 PM
Thursday, Feb 24 at 9:32 PM
Award-winning journalist Karen Swensen is returning to WWL-TV as 10 p.m. anchor and reporter tonight on Channel 4.
“We pride ourselves on being a family here at Channel 4, which makes it incredibly exciting to welcome back someone who meant so much to our family, to this station and this city during her time here,” said anchor and interim news director Mike Hoss, who shared the WWL anchor desk with Swensen for four years.
Swensen replaces Lucy Bustamante, who recently took an anchor position at WWL-TV’s sister station in Norfolk, Va., where her husband is serving in the U.S. Navy.
Swensen, who left New Orleans in 2006 for a morning anchor position at New England Cable News in Boston, said that returning to New Orleans was never in question.
“My husband and I have always said we’d return,” she said. “It was never a question of ‘if’ but ‘when.’ I knew we’d come back when a position opened that allowed me to work and spend ample time at home with my daughter. I am thrilled that that time is now!”
She said that, since she left WWL, she’s never passed up an opportunity to keep New Orleans in the news in New England. Swensen returned to Louisiana several times on assignment to cover the Katrina rebuilding effort, Katrina anniversaries and the Saints Super Bowl win. Of the Super Bowl, she laughed, “That was the third best day of my life, behind my wedding day and the day my daughter was born! I remember screaming on air, ‘WHO DAT? WE DAT! AND THAT’S DAT!’”
Swensen said it was family considerations four years ago that prompted her move to Boston, where her parents live. But it is also family which is now drawing her back. Her husband John is a native New Orleanian whose family roots here date back to the 1700s. Their wedding was celebrated in St. Louis Cathedral and their daughter, now 7, was born here.
“It’s not just enough for us or her to experience the culture of New Orleans a couple of times a year,” Swensen said. “I want her to grow up in it.”
Swensen said that the bond with Louisianians has stood the test of time and distance.
“It’s incredibly comforting. All these years later, I still get e-mails and letters from New Orleanians just checking in,” she said. “The viewers here (in New Orleans) are different. They think of you as a journalist, but a neighbor, too. I don’t think there’s any other market where the professional journalist/viewer relationship is so intensely personal.”
Swensen began her broadcasting career at WWL-TV in 1993 as a part-time newsroom associate producer who anchored overnight news updates. Over her 12 years at the station, she climbed the ladder, becoming a reporter and then anchor, first of the “Early Edition” newscast, then weekends and ultimately the 10 p.m. newscast.
Over the years, she’s won sundry awards. At WWL-TV, she co-anchored the station’s continuous coverage of Hurricane Katrina, which earned WWL the George Foster Peabody, Edward R. Murrow and duPont-Columbia Awards. In addition, at WWL-TV, Swensen earned six Edward R. Murrow regional awards for investigative journalism, writing and feature reporting. She won two regional Emmys, several Gracie and Gabriel Awards, as well as Associated Press and Press Club of New Orleans awards, including the prestigious Jim Metcalf Memorial Award for best broadcast writing.
At NECN in Boston, Swensen wrote and produced a one-hour award-winning documentary called "Katrina: A Flood of Tears." It was a first-person account of the storm and its aftermath that revealed the personal loss, strength and resilience of the people of the Gulf South. It premiered at Harvard University, where Swensen led a panel discussion on the storm.
She has spoken extensively about Katrina and the region’s efforts to rebuild, to students as well as local, state and federal leaders throughout New England.
“Though I was away from New Orleans, I never missed an opportunity to keep her story alive. I am so thankful for the opportunity to return and tell the stories of the people charting her future: our viewers, our neighbors,” she said.
Swensen graduated Phi Beta Kappa with Honors from Penn State with a degree in Political Science and was a Louisiana state finalist in the Rhodes Scholarship competition. She has a Master's Degree in Journalism from Penn State.