NEW ORLEANS — Award-winning journalist and news anchor Karen Swensen will be "retiring from local news" at the end of the February sweeps period, it was announced Tuesday.
Swensen, who has multiple Emmy and Murrow awards for her work both reporting and on the anchor desk has been with WWL-TV for nearly two-and-a-half decades.
"I find myself a journalist at a loss for words at the moment. I knew this day would come. It’s been coming for a little while, but here we are," said Swensen.
"It would be impossible to sum up in a single note the contributions Karen has made to this television station in her career," said Executive News Director Keith Esparros, announcing the news to the station.
"Karen embodies the spirit and culture of WWL-TV: The ongoing search for truth, excellence and service to our community. She is always able to deliver that with compassion and empathy."
Esparros said that while happy for Swensen, he personally, "did everything I could think of to talk her out of it, from guilt to martinis."
When Swensen first came to WWL-TV, she did the overnight news updates that were broadcast into the wee hours. She said New Orleans was definitely different from where she had previously been.
"I had never been to a city that partied around the clock, around the year," she said. "I was like, this is heaven."
Swensen became fast friends with former WWL-TV and current TODAY show host Hoda Kotb, who she said was her biggest influence in the business.
"I was the intern and she was the big cheese, and she said, 'Hi, I'm Hoda,' and I said, 'Hi, I'm nobody.' She took me under her wing."
Karen has earned six Edward R. Murrow regional awards for investigative journalism, writing and feature reporting; several Gracies and Gabriel Awards, as well as Associate Press and Press Club Awards, including the New Orleans’ Press Club Award for Best Broadcast Writing. She was also elected “Best Anchor” by the readers of New Orleans’ Gambit newspaper. In 2012, she was honored to be the first grand marshal of the Krewe of Nyx, which in just six years would grow into the largest parade in Mardi Gras history.
Karen was the only female anchor at WWL-TV to report from New Orleans when Katrina hit and during its immediate aftermath. For the station’s continuous coverage of the hurricane, WWL-TV earned broadcast journalism’s most prestigious awards: The George Foster Peabody Award, Edward R. Murrow Award and duPont-Columbia Award.
"I’m overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and love for my colleagues and the viewers who have made the past 24 years a joy and privilege," said Swensen. "It is time for me to step down to pursue a little dream of mine, a business that hopes to promote positivity and encouragement."
Karen also spent nearly five years in Boston as a morning anchor at NECN. While there, she wrote and produced several documentaries, including “Katrina: A Flood of Tears,” which premiered at Harvard University and after which Karen moderated a panel discussion on the storm.
“It would be impossible to sum up the contributions Karen has made to this television station in her career," added Esparros. "From her command of the anchor desk, to outstanding storytelling, to often poetic writing, to a mountain of good sources, to a fierce devotion to her craft and to our product.“