Meet Hope Sisk

By McKenzie Schwark
Features Writer
Hope Sisk Headshot

Tell me a bit about yourself.

 

I’m from California originally. I’ve been in Bismarck for the last six years. I met my husband when I started as a reporter in Fargo, and now Bismarck is our home, which is where he grew up. I have two daughters, an almost 4-year-old and an almost 4-month-old. I’m the assistant news director for KFYRTV in Bismarck and an anchor.

 

California to North Dakota must have been quite the shock.

 

This winter reminded me of my first winter here. In 2013, I landed in Fargo in January and I was such a fish out of water. I had never driven in the snow, had never shoveled snow, didn’t own snow pants or a coat. It was a new world, but I am so thankful for that. I’ve spent time traveling around and living in different areas – that was the most formative experience for me. There is a reason North Dakotans are tough and good-hearted people. So many people helped bail me out of the snow, I don’t even want to admit how many times because that is embarrassing!

 

How did you get involved in the work you do?

 

At KFYR I have a role in anchoring newscasts. Since coming back from maternity leave, I started as the assistant news director here. With that role I get to play a part in planning out our news coverage for the day and long term. For example, we have a primary election coming up, so I get to help make a plan on how to cover our election coverage. I get to work with reporters and help them develop and grow, which I really love. I studied broadcast journalism in college, and my internship there was the most impactful experience. It was all about finding mentors who got me excited and helped me realize you could go from a shy, quiet college student to someone who could lead a newsroom.

 

What was so important about having a good mentor early in your career?

 

That was everything. I started off with so much self doubt and was constantly wondering if I was good enough or cut out for this. I think any young professional starting out is questioning every move they make and whether they could take a situation on with more confidence. Having good mentors who could show me the path and cheer me on when I felt discouraged was so important. I think for women, especially, to build that community makes such a difference. We spend a lot of time proving our worth and that we deserve a seat at the table, but to see that there were so many women willing to lend a hand gave me a lot of hope.

 

Were you always interested in broadcast journalism, or when did you get introduced to that as a career option?

 

I never thought about it until I was in college and met some classmates who were doing that. I always loved to write. It was my passion. I thought I wanted to be a poet, but I loved telling a story. Through those mentorships I got to see news from a different perspective than I had gotten as a consumer. I got to see people really masterfully tell a news story as an actual story, as if you’re reading it in a book. That’s what clicked with me, set my heart on fire about it. These events that happen in people’s lives could be told in such a beautiful way, and we could all benefit from hearing them. That’s what keeps me going, and it’s where the spark started.

 

What do you love about what you do?

 

Connecting with people. It’s funny because I’m sitting in the studio talking to a camera, but the beautiful thing with broadcast journalism is that you can use your voice to make a story apply to another person’s life. You can create connections between people. I love it when I run into someone and they say they watch or mention a story we’ve done. It reminds me that we are such a segmented community, but we care about each other and pay attention.

 

What is it like to have a public persona or have a known face in your community?

 

I feel like I get the benefit of flying under the radar. When I take my makeup off and put my hair up I’m practically unrecognizable which is just fine with me. I do get little reminders when someone stops and says hi. It warms my heart because it puts this experience into perspective. I work out of our newsroom, so I don’t get to be out in the community as much, but it’s encouraging to hear from the public about their experience watching the news. I also have two daughters that I’m raising to hopefully have confidence and be kind, so I feel like I’m always an example for them of how to interact with people. And I’m representing the stations, so I’ve got to be careful if I honk at somebody driving downtown!

 

When you’re passionate about your work it can be especially hard to strike work-life balance. I’m wondering how you find that balance in your life, and if you’re able to do anything in particular to keep from burning yourself out?

 

I’m a work in progress, and balance is probably where I struggle most. I’m an all-or-nothing type of person. With a new baby at home, I feel like I have to be everything at home and everything at work at the same time. It’s a struggle. Where I fall short usually is sleep, because I’ll give my time to my family or my work. But if there is one thing I’ve found that has helped me and I’ve been able to actually incorporate in my life is exercise. It took me a while to learn, but it’s such a good stress reliever and gives me the energy to actually get through my day. Even only 30 minutes is 30 minutes that is just for myself, and I really needed that.

 

What is a piece of advice you would give a young woman entering your field?

 

I would say do some research on what you get excited about and who you admire. Reach out to those people. Send a cold-call type of email and share what you noticed that you were excited about and what you hope to do. I think people are willing to share advice or get on a call even just once, and they’ll probably give you information or advice that you will hold with you for a long time. I think people are afraid to ask, but I think people are more open and eager than you would think.

 

Is there a piece of advice you remember getting early on in your career that has stuck with you?

 

Make yourself invaluable. I think it sometimes gets me into trouble, which is why I’m working on boundaries! But I’ve seen it really pay off to take a step back from whatever organization you’re working in and find where there might be a missing piece. Then fill that missing piece. When you are invaluable in that sense it will lead to new opportunities that you didn’t even expect. In my experience it’s rare to find the type of person who wants to think outside the box and figure out what we’re missing and step up to the plate.

 

What do you think women need right now?

 

I think we have a tendency to want to prove that we should be in the position we’re at or deserve a seat at the table. I think opening up and showing some vulnerability, even for men in the workplace as well, is beneficial to us. It humanizes us a lot more, and I think a softer approach can be what everyone needs. I am a proponent of seeing that more, especially in our workplace. When we had 24/7 coverage of these blizzards, I noticed my managers being empathetic to the fact I had young children at home, and that made me want to work harder, seeing that someone was recognizing my situation and needs. I really appreciated that softer, human approach to what we were doing with work.