WLKY’s Vicki Dortch talks work, family and giving back
By Mariah Kline
Photos courtesy of WLKY
“My dad is a news junkie,” says WLKY anchor Vicki Dortch. “Every night when I was growing up, he was watching ‘Huntley-Brinkley,’ ‘Nightly News’ and Walter Cronkite. He’s the only person I know who will sit and watch C-SPAN because he wants to make his own opinions about what’s going on.”
Dortch, a native of Paducah Kentucky, took after her father and has spent her life enthralled with current events. In high school, she worked for her school newspaper, and in college, she majored in journalism at Murray State University. Like many in television news, she originally had her sights set on print media but became captivated by the world of broadcasting, where she has remained for over 30 years.
“Her attention to detail is remarkable,” says Producer Erin Gritton, who has worked with Dortch for the past 15 years. “She’s very in tune with what’s in the newscast, and she cares about everything we put in it.”
In 1982, Dortch began her first stint as an anchor at WPSD TV in Paducah, and in 1989, she moved to Louisville to work for WLKY. She says she thrives in the fast pace and unpredictability of working in television. Learning a little of everything about politics, sports and more – and knowing that every day will be different – has kept her well-rounded. Of course, she loves sharing the feel-good humanitarian stories that come along but understands that sharing tragic news is an essential part of the job.
“Sometimes people will say, ‘Why do you just do crime and bad stories?’ but we have a mixture,” Dortch explains. “But we need to tell you what’s going on in your community so you can make up your mind about your community. It’s not our job to mask over it and pretend.”
In her 30 years as a Louisvillian, Dortch has watched the city evolve in ways both positive and negative. She says crime rates and traffic have both increased. She’s watched subdivisions and urban areas expand. On the Ohio River Bridges Project, she says with a laugh, “I was here when they started studying those bridges, but I didn’t think I’d see them be built in my lifetime.”
One thing that has remained consistent in Louisville is the community’s generosity, and Dortch says the spirit of serving others is an integral part of the culture at WLKY.
“We have 22 community partners here,” she says. “When we use #WLKYCares, it’s not just a slogan or a hashtag. We really do care at this station.”
Since 1978, WLKY has annually presented the Bell Awards, a celebration that honors outstanding volunteers in the area.
“Every year, it’s so humbling,” Dortch says of the awards. “Everyone you interview says, ‘I shouldn’t be here. There’s no reason to recognize me.’ That’s what makes it so amazing – they don’t want to be recognized for what they do for these organizations.”
The station’s list of 22 partners doesn’t include the causes she and other employees are involved with on their own time. Dortch works closely with Opal’s Dream Foundation, Family Scholar House, Wednesday’s Child, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, JDRF and other organizations.
“It’s an environment of community involvement that’s been created here,” she says. “All of the anchors and reporters here volunteer their time. We’re not required to do any of it, but you just want to.”
WLKY’s culture also allowed Dortch to serve in the most significant job of her life: motherhood. With assistance from her parents, she raised her son Jonathan, now 24, on her own while continuing to anchor the news each night.
“This job allowed me to leave the evening news and go home to bathe, cook dinner, do homework, be a homeroom mom – whatever I needed to do,” she recalls. “As a working mom, it’s hard to juggle all of those things. You don’t want to feel like you’re not giving 100 percent to everything, but WLKY understands family and how very, very important it was to me to be able to raise my son.”
Behind the news desk, Dortch also recognizes the importance of her WLKY family. She has now worked with co-anchor Rick Van Hoose, meteorologist Jay Cardosi and sportscaster Fred Cowgill for nearly 24 years – making them one of the longest-running anchor teams in the country.
In the world of local news, Dortch knows that the rivalry is fierce. However, she has nothing but admiration and respect for her fellow television personalities and loves being part of the media community in Louisville.
“It’s a competitive but very friendly market,” she says. “A lot of us have worked together over the years and have chosen to stay in Louisville. That, to me, says a lot about the city. It’s a great place to live and raise your family.” V