Coming to Madison last year after stints in Tucson and San Diego, Christine Bellport begins her workday at 3 a.m., reviewing scripts and stories for her morning show on NBC-15, from 5 to 7 a.m.
"We're waking people up in the morning, so we walk a fine line between being hard-edged and light-hearted," she says. "I think why people like us is that we're raw and real. We're not fake perky and peppy. People will see through that."
Bellport has some serious limitations, with a shoe-string staff and only a camera operator on duty. Still, she and her two on-air colleagues, co-anchor Sarah Carlson and weatherman Charlie Shortino, spend two hours a day live on the air, and manage to put on a decent show each morning.
If you want to watch someone on TV who embodies the ideal of civic journalism, look no further than Neil Heinen, editorial director of WISC-TV and Madison Magazine.
Sure, Heinen's nightly editorials at the end of the 10 p.m. newscast can border on the gushy, when he praises this or that local event or organization. But his commitment to local communities - and the occasional risky political editorial that tells it like it is - makes him unique to local TV.
Linda Eggert is still the face of WISC-TV's investigative team, although staff shortages have forced a cutback on "I-Team" segments. It's a shame, since Eggert's low-key manner and straightforward approach have earned her a well-deserved reputation for quality reporting.
With the departures of a half-dozen veteran WISC staffers, Eggert is now among the most senior reporters on local TV.
She began her journalism career in Eau Claire, where she threw herself into an internship at a local station. The risk paid off, and after three years there she moved to WISC, where she has covered local government and parlayed that experience into investigations, including recent projects on Madison's water quality, the UW's failed IT contracts, and loopholes in state building codes.
"I've gotten to know a lot of contacts over the years, and I've really gotten to know the open records law," says Eggert, adding that these more substantive stories show the power of TV to point out problems and solutions. "That's the best part of investigative reporting. You actually accomplish something."
He can shout out a provocative question at a press conference and chase families of criminals down courtroom hallways. But far and away, Tony Galli is the best investigative journalist in town. He's the only local TV reporter who strikes fear in the hearts of governmental officials.
"He's one of the few out there who really digs in and tries to find things out on his own," says Joel DeSpain, Galli's former competitor.
Galli's career at WKOW spans two decades, and he often gets assigned the top story of the day. He has a knack for breaking stories based on tidbits he's discovered from leaked documents, public records and exclusive interviews. Often, the result of his aggressive news reporting is that rare TV news find: a bona fide scoop.
Last month, Mark Koehn celebrated his 30th anniversary at WISC-TV. His "Live at Five" program feted this occasion by re-airing feature stories he's done over the years on interesting and unusual things in the Madison area. The stories offered a peek into Madison's history and Koehn's quality reporting.
"I love telling stories and I love writing, especially to good video," he says. "I've gotten to meet so many fascinating people and to share their stories. It's been a great job."
As a kid growing up in the Fox Valley, Koehn created a fake radio station using tape recordings. He interned at a local station before coming to UW-Madison and majoring in broadcast journalism. He started at Channel 3 after college and, aside from a brief stint as an anchor in the Twin Cities, has remained there since.
These days Koehn anchors the noon show and "Live at Five," where he's developed a distinct newscast that blends straight news with entertainment news and quirky live reports.