Before the Dawn

WHAS11’s ‘Wake Up’ is delivering real news and good vibes

By Mariah Kline
Photos by
Jake Cannon

How does one start their workday when it begins before sunrise?

“Lots of coffee,” says meteorologist Kaitlynn Fish, whose first alarm goes off at 1:35 a.m.

“I have three alarms set,” adds anchor Kristin Pierce.

“When we first started, I would drink about a pot of coffee before we went on air at 4:30,” says anchor Daniel Sechtin.

Fish, Pierce and Sechtin are the key players of WHAS11’s new morning show, “Wake Up,” which debuted July 22. The show runs from 4:30 to 7 a.m., meaning its stars are up and at it in the middle of the night. However, they’re not just showing up and half-heartedly reading from a teleprompter. This crew brings a dynamic and authentic news experience to its fellow early risers.

News Director Julie Wolfe explains that the creation of the show first began with assembling a group of “superstars.” 

“This is an interesting and diverse team, both on and off the air,” she says. “We really do represent a lot of our community, whether it’s Louisville or Southern Indiana or Oldham County. … I think sometimes shows fail because someone – whether it’s a consultant or a news director – will say, ‘Here, do this show.’ And if that doesn’t fit your strengths or make sense for your audience, that’s a real failure to your viewers and your community.”

One of the team’s primary goals is to deliver the day’s most important stories while maintaining a positive mindset. Fish, a New Orleans native who arrived at the station two years ago, says the show achieves this by sharing necessary information and genuine conversations. 

“I think we’re not afraid to laugh at ourselves and have a little fun,” says Fish. “We’re good at delivering hard news but in a kind of quick, informative way (since) people don’t have a lot of time in the morning.”

The “Wake Up” team – which also includes reporters Brooke Hasch and Rob Harris – understands that the viewer’s time is valuable and has to be earned. A major goal they try to accomplish with the show is creating memorable newscasts that offer more than just headlines and snippets of information.

“We want to be news that makes you smarter,” says Wolfe. “Everyone of every age and background wants to be smarter on the big stories of the day. Instead of giving you a 30 second in and out, we try to add good context.”

“We have this sort of planned interaction when we know that we want to take on certain stories,” says Sechtin. “We know there are people out there asking about it, and when we find someone who has an interesting question, we have this commitment to go find the answer. We also have this take-everything-one-step-further philosophy, (asking) how are things going to affect you. What can we tell you that’s going to make your life easier?”

Going the extra mile in research and reporting is a major priority for the team, as is engaging the audience in real-time. The show’s Facebook group, called Wake Up Family, allows viewers and team members to interact before, during and after the show.

“(The audience) is a part of the conversation,” says Wolfe. “They’re giving us story ideas, and we’re bouncing things off of them.”

The group interactions go beyond news stories, and according to Pierce, it truly feels like a family.

Kaitlynn Fish, Brooke Hasch, Rob Harris, Daniel Sechtin and Kristin Pierce. Working behind the scenes are Dan Brindle, Dillon Burnett, Haylee Gossett, Sam Gray, Courtney Hayden, Tosha Hester, Kirin Pandit, Casey Rose and Taylor Weiter.

“To have a support system like that from people you’ve never met in person is really encouraging,” says Pierce. “Sometimes you need that when you’re coming from a different city.”

Wolfe, Pierce, Sechtin and Fish are relatively new to Louisville, but all agree that they’ve felt welcomed to the community.

“When you’re the new person in town, you assume that people are not going to be warm to immediate change,” says Sechtin. “But there have been so many people who have reached out, and people in this town are so nice.”

The talented crew behind the camera, which is also made up of many people who are new to the city, shares the same enthusiasm for creating an impactful and intelligent show.

“The three of us are just a fraction and would literally be nothing without all of the other people who work behind the scenes,” says Sechtin. “We have incredibly talented producers, directors, editors, managers who don’t just come in and write – they come in and challenge us every day because they want the show to be great, too.”

The authentic and easy-going presence of the group comes through in each of their exchanges, whether they are joking with one another or sharing serious reports. Much like life itself, the content of “Wake Up” balances between heartbreaking and hopeful.

“You can’t do one or the other,” says Wolfe. “(The show) really is that mix, which is the reality of all of our lives – it’s a mix of those happy moments and those more serious moments.”

“Sometimes when people think of local news, they think, ‘If it bleeds, it leads,’” says Pierce. “But that’s not the case. Of course, we’re going to tell you the important stories and sometimes they’re tragic, but we’re also going to wake you up and put you in a better mood.” V

To learn more, visit whas11.com. To join the Facebook group, search “Wake Up Family.”