For Chip Yost, the decision to enter the news business wasn't always obvious. "I wish the lightbulb had gone off earlier that I wanted to be a reporter," recalls Yost, KTLA-TV's award-winning Orange County reporter. "I'd been a news junkie since middle school. My mom would bring newspapers home knowing I'd read all of them. Even as a kid, 60 Minutes was my favorite show. But it never clicked to me that, hey, maybe I should try to get paid for my passion."
Instead, Yost, an Ohio native, earned a business degree and took a well-paying AirTouch sales job in the pager industry. "One day, at lunchtime, I had three newspapers, and I read one after the other, and it just dawned on me [to pursue a career in journalism]," he says. "So, I started looking into how to do it. My first thought was doing documentaries, and then I thought I should get into news."
He applied to Los Angeles TV stations for menial jobs that could eventually lead to reporting. "I never got a call back," says a laughing Yost, who decided at the age of 27 to improve his chances. He got a $40,000 loan and won acceptance to Columbia University's School of Journalism in New York City. He took print reporting classes, but he majored in documentary filmmaking. "The program was so intense."
The station manager at KYMA in Yuma, Arizona, saw clips he had produced at Columbia and gave him his first journalism job as an on-air reporter in 1998. "I loved it," Yost says before describing how he covered a wild drug-cartel shootout near the border, dirty cops, narcotics trafficking and a pedophile-priest scandal predating the mess that resulted in the Academy Award-winning Spotlight, based on the work of Boston Globe reporters.
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After stints at stations in Tucson and Denver, he landed at KTLA, in the nation's second-largest media market, where he was eventually named the station's Orange County bureau chief. "Yes," he jokes, "I'm the chief of myself."
It's not just his sense of humor that sets him apart. While print journalists can get a story with only a pen and a napkin, Yost's tasks are significantly more complicated. Each day, to appear live on three segments of the news, he seamlessly performs five jobs: reporter, cameraman, audio technician, Final Cut Pro film editor, as well as driver of a mobile newsroom inside a converted, blue Ford van carrying a Channel 5 logo.
In early March, the Cerritos resident arrived at UC Irvine to interview professor David Neumark for the evening news broadcast. Neumark advised him he could spare only 15 minutes because he needed to get to John Wayne Airport. Yost didn't panic. While chatting with the professor, he calmly unloaded more than 40 pounds of equipment, set up a tripod, adjusted his Sony camera's focus, fine-tuned lighting and placed a microphone on the professor. He then asked good questions from memory on a complicated subject (economics), received the necessary quotes, took four different camera-angle shots, packed up and, stunningly, was out the door in 16 minutes.
Yost is a pro.