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WFAE host gets assist from invisible companion

Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

Kevin Kniestedt doesn’t like the sound of his own voice, particularly on the air, so he does it this way to make it more relaxed:

He reads his news copy for WFAE-FM (NPR, 90.7), puts it down and then says out loud what he’s just read to an imaginary person sitting across from him.

“Then it comes out more naturally when I do it on the air, more as if it was water cooler talk,” says Kniestedt, 34, who took over in September as local host on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” where he’s heard from 5 to 9 a.m. weekdays.

Kniestedt came from an NPR affiliate in Seattle, where he grew up. He had been at the station for a decade and was feeling the urge to try something new, to try to grow in a new job. He studied public stations around the country and finally applied to only one: WFAE.

He liked the station and was attracted to Charlotte because it’s a growing city and had something that’s scarce in Seattle – “a big, bright ball of sun in the sky,” he says.

“People think the problem with Seattle is the rain. No. It’s not the rain, it’s the gray. I wanted to go see sunshine for more than a couple months at a time,” Kniestedt says.

As a kid, Kniestedt would play with a tape recorder, pretending to be a sportscaster for the Seattle Mariners. But he went to Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash., to study dentistry. Six months of biology classes put an end to that. He took a radio class for fun, started doing a show on the campus station and decided he’d found a career.

Before long he landed an internship at Spokane’s public station, and when he returned to Seattle went begging at the news and jazz NPR affiliate there. “I knocked on the door of KPLU and said, ‘Let me in. I’ll mop floors, whatever you want, just let me in.’”

They did, and he loved it. A trumpet player, he is a huge jazz fan, and he got to interview many of his idols while working at the station, including Dr. John, Chick Corea, Branford Marsalis and Doc Severinsen.

His first purchase when arriving in Charlotte was heavy drapes so he could get to sleep at 7:30 p.m. in preparation for his 3 a.m. wake-up call. “It’s not a natural thing for people to wake up at that hour,” says Kniestedt, who is not a good napper.

He arrives at WFAE about 3:30 a.m. to prepare the morning show. For about the next five hours he has the studios to himself – if you don’t count his invisible companion.

Media Movers

After three years in Charlotte, Andrew Doud is leaving the morning news shift at WSOC (Channel 9) to join the ABC affiliate in Tampa. … Former WCCB (Channel 18) anchor Israel Balderas signs on as reporter and weekend anchor at the CBS affiliate in West Palm Beach, Fla. … Former Creative Loafing editor, Mark Kemp, also a former Observer entertainment editor, lands a new job in San Francisco as a senior editor at Acoustic Guitar Magazine. ...

“From the Top,” the NPR program about young classical musicians, will tape a broadcast at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 23 at the Batte Center at Wingate University featuring Charlotte musicians Hannah Wang and Clara Gerdes, the 16-year-old winners of the 2013 Music Teachers National Association senior piano duet competition. … WFNZ-AM (“Fan” 610) “Flash Girl” Brittney Cason announces her engagement to her co-worker, producer Mark Seidel. …

Local winners announced in the Radio Television Digital News Association of the Carolinas include Rachel Nowacki, Matt Nowacki and Chris Campbell of WCNC (Channel 36) for best newscast; second place in the category went to WSOC (Channel 9); Dan Robbins of WCNC won second place for best photography; Jamie Boll and Jeff Keene of WBTV (Channel 3) won first place for consumer coverage; Michelle Boudin and Ken Shermer of WCNC won second place for entertainment coverage; Molly Grantham and Brian Stephenson won a first place in hard news feature and Seth Bowman won second place, all of WBTV; Grantham and Stephenson won first place for light feature and Grantham and Leighton Grant won second place; Stuart Watson, John Gray and Jeremy Markovich of WCNC won first place for news documentary; News 14 Carolina won second place for political coverage and for special report; Blair Miller and Dustin Etheridge of WSOC won first place for sports reporting; Chris Clark, Russ Owens, Doug Kufner and Markovich of WCNC won second place for sports special; WCNC won first place and WSOC won second in spot news; Rock Hill’s CN2 News won first place for best newscast; Joshua Roberts of WBTV was named producer of the year; Christine Nelson of WBTV won second place for news anchor of the year; Steve Ohnesorge of WBTV won second place for TV reporter of the year.

In radio, Jeff Sonier, who has since left WBT, won a first place in general news and spot news, a second place in political coverage and second place for radio reporter of the year. …

Also announced were Associated Press broadcast awards. WBT-AM (1110) was named station of the year; Grantham and Stephenson of WBTV and Dianne Gallagher and James Capozzi of WCNC won honorable mentions for general news; Boll and Keene of WBTV and Boudin and Gray of WCNC won honorable mentions in investigative; Jim Connors, Mike Solarte, Tim Baier, Chris Pandich, Victor Jackson and Rebecca Fath of News 14 Carolina won for best sportscast and honorable mentions went to Clark, Owens and Kufner at WCNC, and Miller, Rob Paul, Tiffany Wright, Michael Maciejewski and Nate Bishop at WSOC; Boudin and Matthew Hammond of WCNC won honorable mention in sports feature; Bill McGinty and Gray of WCNC won for best series and both won honorable mention for consumer reporting; Boll and King of WBTV won an honorable mention for best series and health reporting; News 14 Carolina won an honorable mention for best website; Julie Szulczweski, Blair Miller, Erica Bryant, Randy Wardell, Maciejewski, Linda Nester, Stephanie Linton and Kim Holt of WSOC won for best newscast and Mark Grzybowski and the WBTV staff won an honorable mention; Adam Rhew, formerly of News 14, won rookie of the year and Katie Garner of WBTV won an honorable mention.

In AP radio awards, Mike Doyle and Chris Miller of WBT won for spot news and Doyle and Miller both won honorable mentions in the same category; Sonier won in best general news, newswriting, best use of sound and investigation, and Doyle and Sonier won honorable mentions in general news; Miller won an honorable mention in use of sound.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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