Nov 21, 2012 12:03 PM by Mike Powers - KPAX News
MISSOULA - We have turned the tables on Jill Valley, interviewing her. We wanted to have some fun, as we look back on her 20th anniversary at KPAX.
It was 20 years ago this month that Jill Valley sat in the anchor chair and said, "good evening I'm Jill Valley," for the first time.
But Jill was prepping for that moment well before that, even in high school. There were other stops before KPAX, which was expected to be just another step toward the big time. But something happened.
"I just felt a kinship with Missoula. I didn't grow up very far from here, so it's all very, very similar. But, this is a town that you can sink your teeth into, get involved, and make a difference and be a part of," Jill recalled.
During her 20 years at KPAX, it seems nothing has changed - and everything has changed.
"Now you're feeding the beast of social media, it's so much more a part of our jobs. Before you could go on the news at 5:30 and surprise everybody with the news of the day, and that was kind of fun. You get to be the one to say ‘hey guys, guess what happened today?' Now that's constantly being fed out through Facebook, our web page, and...Twitter," she said.
Twenty years at one TV station is a lot of stories.
"The ones that stand out the most I think, are the ones that affected the most people. Stories where you feel like we're all in it together. Obviously September 11th. We had the winter of 1996-1997 where we had 55 inches of snow on the ground. The fires 0f 2000. The Florence murders really terrified people. That was a story that we really had to be careful with, and cover with great accuracy and compassion. It was a very scary time," Jill recalled.
Jill actually became a story herself numerous times - when she joined KPAX, when she adopted her daughter Raquel.
"I got hundreds of letters from people who also adopted their child, and I've saved every letter, and Raquel will read them when she grows up," she said.
Jill was back in the news when she fought a very public battle with cancer.
"In just a week's time I went from finding a lump to being diagnosed with breast cancer," she told the KPAX audience. "I had an obligation to share, certain things, and this was one that I felt that I could tell people that this is what's going on, and bear with me."
But it isn't just the story telling that has made Jill one of the most beloved newscasters in Montana history. It's her endless community service, whether it's speaking, or dancing, or skating, or whatever.
"I think as TV people, we kind of have an obligation to do so. We don't have to, it's sort of a moral obligation I feel. If I believe in something, that I can contribute the time to do a decent job, then I'll do it. This is my town now and they care, and I care back, and it just kind of works out," Jill explained.