A Conversation with KRON4 News Anchor, Vicki Liviakis
Q: How did your career start as a News Anchor?
VL: Writing and illustrating story booklets of what seemed endlessly fascinating in my little world. I was six or seven years old. Topics mostly included horses. And… horses. Eventually that developed into writing articles and taking photos of high school life for the campus paper. Most noteworthy was a piece on streakers who ran buck-naked through a football game. I believe I actually wrote the eye-brow raising line “dangling organs in the breeze.” Oh boy.
Next stop - Journalism School at Cal Berkeley. At the time, broadcast journalism was the red-headed stepchild. Luckily, I snagged an internship at a cable TV station, and after constant badgering, I finally convinced the news director to put me on the air.
My name presented a problem. I’ve been called Vivka Lavarkian, Vicki Liviasskis… uh you get my drift. Hired by the legendary KFRC to anchor radio newscasts, program director Les Garland (who went on to co-create MTV), debated for three days about an easier less ethnic on-air name. After all there were DJ’s like Dr. Don, Marvelous Mark and Machine Gun Kelly. Ultimately unable to come up with anything catchier, I kept my Greek name, and continue to challenge the uninitiated. I’ve gone on to work for network news as a correspondent and anchor the nightly news in Los Angeles and San Francisco - and stuck with Vicki Liviakis.
Q: What is a typical day like for you?
VL: Waking up at the witching hour of 3:33am, reaching for the smartphone, scanning news feeds. Comforted by the fact we hadn’t blown ourselves off the planet, back to sleep by 5am then up at 8am to double-check.
Grab a handy video camera and shoot local news story or personality profile. Also shoot, write, edit and eat my way through a TV/internet food segment that airs weekly called Dine and Dish.
Off to the studio by 2pm and back to watching cable/local TV news and consuming internet news feeds, talk with producers and assignment desk to suss out stories for upcoming newscasts, while simultaneously eavesdropping on police scanner chatter.
Strap on seatbelt for the ride - 5pm show. Then 9pm show. Off after 10pm to meet my husband for a late supper.
Dine on light fare and occasional heavy conversation about those Niners – what’s a Dodard – where’s the rain when you need it?
The rest is… private.
Q: Can you share with our audience one of your most memorable events you’ve covered?
VL: 9-11. Hands down. The world forever changed that day.
Glued to the anchor chair for 13 hours solid. Wanted to throw up, cry like a baby, pretend it was just a stupid dream. All the while, struggling to maintain calm to comfort viewers experiencing our collective real-life nightmare.
The most memorable event I didn’t cover but lived first hand - the 1991 East Bay Firestorm. Our Berkeley home burned to the ground. Just couldn’t find it in me to report on it that terrible day. Eventually did on-camera work for Cal Fire on how to be “fire safe.” Every new and devastating wildfire is a reminder at how we really are at the whim of Mother Nature (ahem, Climate Change).
Q: What's the toughest part of your job?
VL: In general, the toughest part is not becoming emotional any time innocence is defiled. The single most unimaginable moment ever - working as a reporter for an unnamed competing station and seeing video being fed into the newsroom of my good friend, comic, actress and traffic reporter Jane Dornacker drown live on the air as her traffic helicopter crashed into the Hudson River in New York.
Q: What do you like the most about living in the Bay Area?
VL: Each day waking up in this magical place I was dazzled by as a child. That love affair faded only once - when I returned from a Europe adventure to find Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Milk had just been shot, and hundreds had been manipulated and murdered in the Jonestown Massacre. There was a dark sky over San Francisco for months. But the sparkle came back. Thankfully.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
VL: Don’t let the bastards (male or female or troll) get you down. Keep your chin up. And if you fall down, keep getting back up. Having a dream isn’t enough. Make it real. And once you’ve realized the dream, know that you can be a creative dynamo, and… dream up something else.
Five Things About Vicki Liviakis
1. What book are you currently reading?
Just bought Leonardo Di Vinci. Amazed by that big brain and the remarkable enduring things he did with it.
2. What’s your favorite Movie?
Oldie but goodie - Casablanca. Sucker for anything Film Noir, and what better than a hard-boiled cynic who sacrifices romantic love and chooses to save the world in the name of love? Have watched it 20 times over and always discover more clever dialogue, sardonic wit and sexy scenes.
Oh and… Blade Runner, the original. Saw it when I was young enough to be transfixed by the gritty future envisioned, and old enough to be living in it. Painfully long movie, but who doesn’t fall for a classic gumshoe Sci-Fi epic?
3. Where's your dream vacation?
Puttering around the house. We travel the world between work shifts. As Dorothy would say, “there’s no place like home.”
4. Who’s been the biggest influence in your life?
My dad. Died too young. He always believed in me. Taught me baseball at the age of two. Called me a slugger, and home run hitter.
Now it’s my mom. Inquisitive, quirky… stubborn. Her delicate age and health, once a source of frustration for me, has only recently allowed for love and grace, and most of all patience.
5. What’s your favorite food to cook?
Anything with truffle. I’m like a truffle-sniffing dog around that pungent fungus.
But seriously, the best thing I make is… reservations.