HOTSEAT- Knight shift: WVAW brands its news

Charlottesville is a small television market– but, even so, freshly minted college grads normally don't nab the anchor spot here. The beauty of start-ups, though, is that the norms don't necessarily apply, as Lauren Knight discovered when she signed on just 18 months ago with one of our three new TV stations, WVAW.

She'd just gotten her broadcast journalism degree from Southwest Missouri University, and had an offer from a station close to home in St. Louis. Gray Television's move into Charlottesville caught her eye, and she decided to take her chances.

"It's unusual to be anchoring this early in the profession," Knight acknowledges. She was hired as a reporter, but the night before the evening news debuted, "They called and said, 'You're going to anchor the news,'" she remembers.

Knight already knew one valuable lesson: "You always say yes," she says. "I was nervous, but I said, 'All right, I'll anchor.'"

So from day one Knight has been producing and anchoring the 7 and 11pm broadcasts, and now she's the face of ABC Channel 16 news.

Starting broadcasting from a trailer while the studio was under construction was rocky. "I've seen a lot of changes," says Knight, now an old-timer at the tender age of– well, she's not saying. "I had a feeling this was going to be a good thing."

And, she reminds, "Water never boils when you're watching." At 18 months in, "I'm proud to promote this product," she says.

A typical Knight workday is 3pm to midnight. "I have no excuse not to go to the gym," she laughs. Once in the newsroom, she checks the wires, sees what reporters are working on, and begins producing the news shows at 7 and 11.

"Once the 7 o'clock show is done, I hit my desk and start working on the 11," she says. But she adds, "I like to sneak in a dinner hour."

At midnight, she heads home to wind down, perhaps by practicing the guitar, which she's learning to play. Unlike many 20somethings burning the candle at both ends, Knight tries to get a good seven hours in. "It's nice to get up without an alarm," she says.

With four television stations vying for the viewers that NBC29 once held, just how cut-throat is the competition?

"I haven't found that," says Knight. "At Channel 29, they've been great."

And besides, she has competition in her own newsroom. "I sit right next to Stephanie Hockridge." (The CBS anchor for WCAV.)

In the early days, it was hard to tell whether anyone was tuning into WVAW. Knight has seen that change and understands the process: "One viewer at a time." And she seems to be in for the long haul– or at least the next few years. "In five years, we're gonna look back" and see how far the station has come, she promises.

And a tip for staying on Knight's good side: Don't call her a news reader.

Age: Old enough to keep a secret

Why here? First the job, now for a love of the area

What's worst about living here? Parking downtown!

Favorite hangout? Monticello Trail

Most overrated virtue? Patience

People would be surprised to know: I have a tattoo.

What would you change about yourself? I'd be more decisive, I think!

Proudest accomplishment? Getting a job here at the Newsplex

People find most annoying about you: I rarely carry cash. Makes eating at Bodo's for dinner and Arch's for dessert a little tricky.

Whom do you admire? Single moms

Favorite book? She's Come Undone

Subject that causes you to rant? Parking downtown

Biggest 21st-century thrill? Digital cameras

Biggest 21st-century creep out? Automatic bathroom appliances

What do you drive? Acura TL and a razor scooter– great birthday gift!

In your car CD player right now: Several mixed CDs

Next journey? I'd love to head west to California, but before that I'll be going to visit family in St. Louis.

Most trouble you've ever gotten in? Taking out the family car and getting pulled over, and the officer finding out no one in the car is of legal driving age. Bad move.

Regret: Being indoors on beautiful Central Virginia afternoons

Favorite comfort food: Applesauce

Always in your refrigerator: Vanilla soy milk

Must-see TV: Grey's Anatomy

Favorite cartoon: Care Bears

Describe a perfect day. A jog on the Monticello Trail, lunch on the Downtown Mall, tons of local news making headlines– good news, of course, nice clean shows at 7 and 11. Head home, open the windows and relax.

Walter Mitty fantasy: Playing guitar on stage for a benefit concert

Who'd play you in the movie? Meg Ryan

Most embarrassing moment? When this article hits the stands!

Best advice you ever got? Always finish strong. Just when you think you don't have anymore in you, push yourself.

Favorite bumper sticker? Virginia Is For Lovers

Lauren Knight