Not only is Kim Christiansen one of the most beautiful TV anchors working today, she is also a “kind to everyone,” thoughtful, caring person. Even in this fast-paced, high-tech age which offers us so many ways to communicate, it’s hard to return calls immediately. Not the case with my call to Kim. She called back right away and graciously accepted our request for a “Have You Met?” interview.
Kim Christiansen, the darling, petite & poised 9 News Anchor/Reporter grew up in Arvada, Colorado. After graduating from the University of Colorado with a degree in Journalism, Kim took her first job as a writer and associate producer for the 6 a.m. news at 9 News. She went on to work as a writer for the late newscast and then transitioned to become a general assignment reporter.
Her first anchor position was on the 9 News Saturday Morning Show, and went on to anchor the 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. weekend newscasts. Kim now serves as the co-anchor of the 4 p.m. 9 News with Mark Koebrich.
Kim is fiercely devoted to the fight against breast cancer and serves as the spokesperson for the “Buddy Check 9” campaign which was nominated for a national community service Emmy award. The “Buddy Check 9” program asks women to do a monthly breast self-exam on the 9th day of every month, and then call their “buddy” to remind them to do the same. Kim first saw the Buddy Check Program on a TV station in Florida. Knowing that Breast Cancer is the leading cause of death in woman ages 15-54, and one in 7 women will develop Breast Cancer in their lifetime, Kim was inspired and motivated enough to want to bring the program to Denver.
Kim loves what she does and is blissfully content with the life she leads here in Colorado. Kim says that her first priority is her family. She has a 5 year old son, Tanner, that makes her just beam when she talks about him.
Kim is exceptionally close with her sister, Keri, who just last year became a breast cancer survivor herself. Kim talks with emotion and candor about the experiences the two of them have shared - not just through the breast cancer process - but about the closeness they have enjoyed all their lives. Kim calls Keri “my hero,” and the sisters make it a point to talk everyday, even if it’s just to say "hi and I love you."
Kim feels she has much yet to accomplish. Breast Cancer has touched Kim not only through her own family, but she has met and gotten to know many lovely woman who have battled this disease – a large number of them triumphantly, but some who have succumbed to the battle after fighting courageously. Kim believes whole-heartedly, that together we can – and will - win this fight.
Kim, we salue you for your dedication and devotion to “Breast Cancer Awareness,”
What first brought you to the Breast Cancer cause? It was a couple of things. 9 News is owned by the Gannett Corporation, and we share great ideas within the Gannett family. It was around the time that the “Race for the Cure” had started in Denver, and we were sponsors of the race, and I heard about this “Buddy Check” program that was in Florida at one of our sister stations. It immediately resonated with me because when I was a little girl, my mom had several lumps removed, and it was really hard and traumatic on our family, but it was also “the secret” back then. We talked about it in the family – we prayed together, but you didn’t talk about it with anybody else. Thankfully, it was always non-malignant with my mom, and never breast cancer. This is how things have changed. Mom would go in for surgery, be put under, and told “You may wake up with a breast, or you may not.”
My thinking was: “We could make this something that we could talk about openly. If we could get woman to start thinking about self-exams, and getting mammograms or talk with a family member, relative or friend, that could be a good start.” That’s part of the reason I felt so passionately about bringing this to the forefront.
I went to my boss at the time, and he agreed that we’d be the perfect connection with our sponsorship. With the “Buddy Check 9” program, we thought it would be a success, and we knew from the beginning that it was something that would be a nice component to our “Race for the Cure” coverage, but we had no idea of the response we would end up getting.
We began getting letters and calls from people saying: “Thank You so much – I found a lump because of the “Buddy Check 9” program and they said we contributed to saving their life. They saved their own life actually by doing the check, we just had the megaphone with our TV coverage to make it okay to talk about it.
Every year now has been more fulfilling than the last, and then last year as much as I have talked and preached and tried to raise awareness about Breast Cancer – “that you don’t need a family member, you don’t need to be a smoker, you don’t need to be in bad health…” – I never imagined it would happen in my own family; it was devastating when my sister, Keri, was diagnosed because we were best, best friends, we lived together all the way through college, after college; we couldn’t be closer. So this became my cause more than ever.
A balanced life seems important to all of us; you are a TV personality, mom, wife – and always on the go. How do you keep it all together? So many times I don’t have it together. I wish I had a secret. I struggle with it everyday as every working parent does.
For me what has made it work are my parents. I have such strong support from my family. I have a son who has never been with a babysitter except for my parents. Now that he is in school, I take him there each morning. That’s important to both of us.
I take all my vacation time to spend with Tanner. I try to assist at his school with field trips when I can – and yesterday I assisted at one with four high-energy boys in my group! No matter what I do in my life, first and foremost, I’m a mom, and I just want to be a good mom. I go to bed every night and wonder if I did things right that day. You try to do the best you can. You just need to know where all the restaurants are in your neighborhood. I have so much to give me balance, all my family is here – we have always been together. I had a grandmother up until four years ago when she died, not everyone has that. I’m just so blessed.
You are an immensely talented anchor/reporter. Where do you want to take your career from here? You never say never – especially to new opportunities, because our business is changing so much. People want their news at their convenient time; so I just know that my first priority will always be to being a mom before I make any decisions.
I also know that working with incredible people that you really like and have a great chemistry with – where you can almost finish each other’s sentences – you can not put a price on that. It’s really a luck thing. There are a lot of other places where it doesn’t happen; this city is unique. No matter how much money is being offered, feeling supported by the people you work with is something I will always need and take into consideration. Relationships and working as a team are really important to me.
What do you believe is one of the greatest moments in the history of TV news reporting? I think there were lots of moments you will never forget like when you talk about 9-11, or Columbine, or Oklahoma City. You remember what you were doing at the exact moment you heard about these tragedies. It just gets to your core, and the sheer disbelief in everyone that did the reporting, you will always remember those moments.
I also remember all the good – the spirit and strength in people that comes out during these times. In the absolute horrors of what happens in our world, the stories of survival, and what people did - and never thought they would become such advocates for a cause in their lives – it restores your faith in the human spirit. I’m still touched by these events. If in the news business, you aren’t bothered by it, then you’ve lost something and there is something missing in your heart.
Who do you strongly admire in the News Business? Many people, but someone like Katie Couric who even during her own personal grief said: “How can my voice make a difference? I can do something about this disease by being a spokeswoman for Colon Cancer - that a lot of people don’t feel comfortable talking about - and try to make a difference.” She brought the importance of getting a colonoscopy to the attention of millions. Think about how many people she may have saved.
How close do you think we are getting to eradicating breast cancer? We are making enormous progress when it comes to treating it. I think treating breast cancer today compared to what it was say 15 years ago is night and day. Just by the sheer choice of options people have now – and that’s one of the things Keri’s doctors said to her: “You have options. You can choose this type of surgery or this other type of surgery, this treatment or that treatment.”
I think we are on the edge of coming up with some phenomenal things when it comes to preventing it – with Tamoxifen and other drugs for high-risk woman and patients to prevent it. I hope that they will have a cure in my lifetime. We are getting closer, and that’s why we can’t quit where we are. It’s amazing what they are discovering every day. The key is, we have to continue to find ways to stop it and catch it early.
Breast cancer is connected to a lot of other cancers; the doctors are finding out that breast and prostate cancer have a lot to do with one another, and there might be a connection to colon cancer – if we find a cure for one, we can cure the others.
We’ve heard of cases when women are told their newly discovered lump is “just a fibroid,” or a mammogram comes out clear, and several months later breast cancer is discovered. How can women protect themselves from this happening? My sister had a regular mamogram in March. At her OB/GYN exam in August, her doctor found a lump. It was probably there in March, but it was too small then to be detected. Had she not of had it checked by her doctor in August, what would the difference have been until her next mammogram the following year in March? It would have had that much more time to grow.
So many times people have said to me: “You know, I trusted my instincts, I knew something wasn’t right. I wasn’t satisfied with the response I got.” At the end of the day, that’s what makes the difference. You have to be your own advocate. Keri got three opinions from different doctors on every single thing before she decided what to do. She read and researched extensively. I admire her for doing that. Fortunately she had insurance, which many people don’t have. That’s another issue.
How important was a good support system to your sister Keri’s recovery from Breast Cancer? She would say it was a critical part of her recovery. I think this everyday – if you could love someone anymore than I love my sister – her faith was never shaken. We grew up with a strong Christian faith, and Keri’s was so strong that she carried us. She was the one that said “This was a gift from God. I’ve been looking for direction in life.” Our family is so close – we were all there together. We took the time to spend time together and to tell each other what we meant to each other. It was a hard day when they took Keri into surgery; I would never want to do it again, but that day, it was as if all of our lifetimes came together. We held hands and just being there together made it a good day.
Early on in your career, was there someone who took you “under their wing” so to speak, and helped you get to where you are today? Absolutely. Ed Sardella. He taught a writing class at CU when I was a senior. He was the hardest – and most interesting - professor I ever had. From the beginning, he steered me in a different direction. He made me think about writing and how important that was. That’s why I worked behind the scenes for almost four years before I started reporting; and I was writing for Ed.
I still question myself on things and will send him an e-mail to consult with him - I just did last week. He was always the person I’d go to if I had questions. Ed was my mentor and a great teacher. He still is the best.
What automatically tugs at your heart strings when you are reporting or hearing a sad story? How do you keep from showing too much emotion on the air? It is hard. I’m fortunate because during the 4 p.m. news, we are given a little more leeway on our emotions; because anyone who has watched at 4 p.m. on a regular basis, they have seen me cry – tears well up in my eyes. Mark (Koebrich) jokes about it with me, and we had a story on the other day, and it involved kids with a close family situation, and as soon I finished he said: “Okay, I’ll get the Kleenex, here she goes….”
With some stories you really struggle to accept what has happened. There was a child abuse case involving a baby named Tanner, my son’s name, and the producer was really kind and said to me: “If I can ever stack the show where you don’t have to read it, I will.” So for the most part, I didn’t have to report that story.
One of the problems out there seems to be getting our young people involved in charitable giving and volunteering, what can we do as parents and grandparents to encourage our children to care in the same way we do? I think that doing things by example is still the best way. Kids are absolute sponges, and they live by what we do, and every time we say “please” and “thank you,” and every time we talk badly under our breath about the driver next to us, they remember it. I constantly feel like I need to live by example. Make it real to them. Just say “You are going to come to this with me.” I’ve taken Tanner to all of our “Stuff for Students,” the food drive, and the “Race for the Cure” activities. I try to talk about it as much as I can by letting him know “Here’s what we are doing and why,” and I try to make it very real for him.
Another thing I try to make him aware of is whenever there is a story about a young person with compassion doing something extraordinary; we need to expose our children to that. You want the next generation to be involved in giving. Anything that we can do to encourage volunteerism we should do. Once they get into it, they will love it. The rewards will be so much more than they ever expected. If they help at places like a nursing home or with kids who don’t have what they have, their lives will be changed.
You always look so perfectly put together; how would you describe your personal sense of style? This is so funny, I was talking about this the other day – I have work clothes and I have pajamas. I have three pairs of shorts and lots of sweats – and nothing in between. Anything that I wear that people say “Oh I really like that!” my mother usually bought for me. I try to be professional - but still with some color and fun to it.
Finish this sentence “I am a self-proclaimed: neurotic, over-protective mother. But I still like to see the good in people.
You are a role model for many young girls in the community, what advice would you like to give to help them make the right decisions about their future? I definitely would urge young women to be passionate about what you want to do. If you don’t have passion, then you might not do what you are doing very well. Always take the advice of your parents, teachers and counselors. You can learn about developing a work ethic. Find time in your life to make a difference in someone else’s life. That will give you so much more on the back side. All the money and material things won’t be as important as that – and don’t ever give up your dream. If you have obstacles in your life, go beyond what you are given and find the strength within you to keep going and overcome them.
What’s in the future for Kim Christiansen? I like my life now. I used to think about it a lot more. Always thought you should be thinking about your next goal. I love what I do – it’s interesting and challenging; I’m still excited about going to work every day. I love that! I’m so happy to be where I’m at.
How do you most want to be remembered by future generations? As a good mother & wife, a good daughter, a good sister, - just being there for my family; and how I lived my life. If no one remembers anything else other than I was an advocate in the fight against breast cancer - then I’d be content with that.
Kim is an in-demand “Master of Ceremonies” for many non-profit events. This is a partial list of the events she has participated in: Colorado Nurses Foundation, The Day of Caring for Breast Cancer, The Arrupe High School Event, Soup for the Soul – Porter Hospice, Hospice for Peace, The McKee Medical Center (Loveland) Breast Cancer facilities, The Griffith Center, The Jefferson County Good News Breakfast, Alzheimer’s Association. Nightingale (Outstanding Nurses Awards), Junior Symphony Guild, The Arthritis Walk, Sungate – Sungate Kids, Adoption Options, Gateway Battered Women’s Shelter, The Pink Tie Affair, The Children’s Hospital Foundation, Huntington’s Disease – among others.