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Off Air: KAIT’S Mother/Daughter Anchors Share Their Journey in Broadcast News
By Audrey Hanes, Photography by Amy Long

For Diana Davis and Destiny Quinn, KAIT Region 8 is home. It’s where Davis has spent the past 30 years delivering the news to the area’s dedicated viewers, and it’s where her daughter, Quinn, is following in her impressive footsteps.

A Legend in the Making
Davis always knew she wanted to work in broadcast journalism. A native of Raytown, Mo., she graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism before going on to work as a general assignment reporter/anchor for WIBW-TV in Topeka, Kan.

She said she reached a major turning point in her life when her news director in Kansas pulled her into his office and said that she was a reporter at best – that he didn’t believe she had what it took to be a successful anchor.

“Even though his words stung, he really did me a favor,” said Diana. “Had I stayed there, I would never know the life I have today. I stayed on in Topeka and was offered a marketing job working for a hotel chain, but I didn’t take it; I still had this dream, and I love reporting. I had sent a resume tape to Evansville, Ind.; KAIT had a sister station there. The anchor here, Donna Malone, was looking for an opportunity to leave because she was getting married, and they brought those tapes down here. They called, and I was anchoring that night in Topeka. When they asked for some of my recent work, I sent them that night’s broadcast.

“In January of 1989, I flew to Memphis and they brought me over from there. … Harold Culver was the general manager then. That night, he let me watch the broadcast, and Donna had me sit in her seat; they had me anchor for a tape to see if I would make a good impression. They offered me the job that night.”

Davis officially joined KAIT Region 8 as co-anchor of the 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts in 1989. She soon grew to love the Jonesboro community and thrived at KAIT under a successful news director and the tight-knit staff at the station.

“In that day, all the news directors were men,” said Davis of her time in Kansas City. “When I came to Jonesboro, soon after, we had a female news director. It has changed dramatically. It used to be very male-dominated in the newsroom, but today, women seem to dominate the field.

“The technology has also made things so much easier. We still have one dedicated photographer, but we mostly shoot for ourselves now – a one-man band. But, when I go out to give our ‘Gr8 Acts of Kindness’ gifts, I do get to have a photographer, Laura Gunter, because it’s hard to announce the big surprise and shoot for yourself. In fact, Laura and I work as a team. She has the main camera, (and) I’ll use her Go-Pro. We have things covered from all angles.”

Enter, Destiny
One of the earliest regular segments that Diana became known for was Project Baby, a series in the mid-‘90s that aimed to help expectant mothers prepare for their first child. It was a role that she was soon ready for herself, with the arrival of her daughter, Destiny Quinn, in 1995.

“I have been blessed to have this career in one place,” said Davis. “So many of my colleagues have had to move from place to place, and that is so difficult when you have children. As a mom who wants a career, you want it all, but that’s hard. (My kids) got to enjoy growing up with friends, and I’m so thankful for that.

“… Destiny has been a part of KAIT since before she was born, with Project Baby and stories on prenatal care.”

Quinn says she grew up at KAIT. As a child, she would take piano lessons down the road, and Davis would bring her to the station afterward to do her homework, usually on a set that wasn’t being used for a live broadcast at the time.

“The station has been so good to me,” said Davis. “They’ve allowed me to grow as an individual, as a mom and as a single mother. I can remember bringing the Johnny Jump Up to the office, and she would just jump between our desks.

“Once, she came on (air) as an angel for ‘The Nutcracker.’ I could hear this little voice saying, ‘My wing is stuck.’”

In addition to dance, Quinn decided she wanted to enter a pageant, which was a new endeavor for Davis, as well.

“One of my friend’s sisters was in a pageant, and I saw them on stage,” said Quinn. “They were so well-versed and confident, and I thought I wanted to be like them.”

“When she said she wanted to do pageants, I thought, ‘I need to research this,’ and the same name kept coming up in my searches,” added Davis. “Her name was Marietta Jerome, so I called her on the phone as any good journalist would, and I asked her to help me with my daughter because she wanted to do pageants and we knew nothing of this process. So, Destiny’s grandmother and I went to Blytheville and took meticulous notes, and we began this friendship.”

Quinn entered her first pageant, Miss Greater Jonesboro Outstanding Teen, in 2012, which both mother and daughter fondly look back on as a learning experience. For the personal interview, because Jerome had told Quinn to express her personality in her attire, the first-time pageant participant wore jeans and was the only one to do so.

“Every one of those experiences allowed us to learn and grow, to look at what needs to be done, how can I help her become better,” said Davis. “Some of our best talks and memories were in the car on the way to these pageants. Those were our times together, and we spent a lot of time in the car. If she had not competed in those pageants, we would not have had those opportunities.”

Quinn went on to win Miss Greater Jonesboro in 2014, followed by Miss Frisco Springs in 2015, Miss Northeast Arkansas in 2016 and Miss Arkansas State University in 2017.

“There is a plan everyone finds for their life,” said Davis. “I don’t think she would have looked at my career so closely if it had not been for her competing in those pageants. I would bring her in to the TV station, and she was shy – I wanted her to come out of her shell a little bit, so she took dance from Christie McNeill from the age of 3. She enjoyed it and continued with it.”

Quinn said that she made so many connections during her years in pageants that are extremely beneficial to her career at KAIT, and she paid for her master’s degree with her winnings, as well.

KAIT Co-Workers
Although Quinn wasn’t always sure she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps, she joined KAIT in September 2018 and hasn’t looked back. She is currently the co-anchor of Good Morning Region 8.

“I did major in it, but I wasn’t 100 percent positive I wanted to go into (broadcast/multimedia) journalism,” said Quinn. “I still thought about PR. It wasn’t until I had my internship in Memphis, then I had my year where I got my master’s, that I knew the career was a good fit. Now, I am very happy with my decision. I was terrified of the one-man banding, because the camera is so complex. But, you live, you learn.

“… I went to Jackson, Miss., and I had an offer there, too, but KAIT just made sense. I grew up there. I used to sit on Laura Gunter’s lap, and now I get to work with her as a mentor. I get to work alongside those I grew up looking up to.”

Quinn says there was never an “aha” moment for her, but after figuring out what her strengths were, gaining confidence and poise while doing pageants and working at ASU TV during her time as an A-State student, it started to come together.

“She never pushed it on me though,” said Quinn of her mother’s career. “Both of my parents instilled in me from a very young age that having that work ethic and drive is just so important. I’ve very fortunate.”

First, however, KAIT had to give the OK for mother and daughter to be employed at the same station.

“I could have never dreamed that she would be working alongside me; neither one of us thought that could happen,” said Davis.
“At the beginning, I felt like I really had to prove myself,” added Quinn. “I didn’t want anyone to think I got the job because of my mom. I think I have done that with my work ethic. I think I have proved myself to Region 8.”

Although their desks are next to each other, because of their different times on air, Davis and Quinn rarely get to see one another at the station. Quinn arrives at the station at 3 a.m. and leaves around noon. Her mom arrives in time to do Mid-Day at 11.

“What’s really nice about getting to work with her, is that it’s nice to have her put a second pair of eyes on something I’m working on,” said Quinn. “I can count on her to give me an honest opinion. And, as moms do, she likes to leave me goodies on my desk, and I love that.
“… Having her text me when I’m anchoring the news and she is watching me is so nice. It’s so neat to have a mom that is in the same career as you, sending encouraging texts that I can read during commercial breaks.”

Growing up with the longtime anchor, Quinn was also able to see what the schedule and lifestyle would be like for someone in the news anchor spotlight.

“For her, she saw what television was like at home, such as the hours and the demands,” said Davis. “And a Walmart run is never just a Walmart run. We are just like everyone else when we are in a store; we can be in the middle of a discussion as mother and daughter, then everything stops when someone approaches. We’ll have a conversation with a loyal viewer we run into, then back to that conversation. The viewers come first.”

Despite her mother’s tips and advice, there was still a learning curve for Quinn after she arrived at KAIT. They both laugh about how during Quinn’s first week, Davis was sent out to do a live segment, so Quinn filled in for her at the desk. After reading her part, she kept on reading the lines on the teleprompter, including meteorologist Ryan Vaughan’s weather synopsis. Vaughan waited patiently on the weather deck as Quinn read all of what he was about to share.

“Destiny has always been a great student and devoted to everything she commits to,” said Davis.

During a pivotal time in her own life, Davis said a former colleague at KAIT gave her some valuable advice.

“Craig Rickert told me, ‘Your daughter is watching everything you do. She is going to need to see your strength in a time that is filled with struggle,’” she said. “I look back at that, when I was at my weakest point, that someone gave me those words of encouragement that led her to be the woman she is. Sometimes your struggles make you stronger.

“I feel a lot of pressure to get it right. I love that she loves her job. To see the passion I felt and that she enjoys it to that level, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

Celebrating 30 Years
As of this year, Davis has officially been one of Region 8’s most beloved anchors for three decades. KAIT commemorated the impressive milestone by surprising her on-air with a look back at her time in Jonesboro. Quinn narrated the segment, which included photos and videos of some of Davis’ earliest newscasts.

“It was really neat to be able to surprise her,” said Quinn. “To be able to pull that off and it be such a success was really special. Nothing like that has ever been done before at KAIT.”

Quinn helped pull off the surprise by sneaking old tapes from her mom’s home, having co-workers keep her off her computer by telling her it had crashed, keeping her phone from her during the newscast and keeping her completely in the dark until they walked onto the set.
“My whole life was in one room,” said Davis. “She came over and stood right by me and grabbed my hand, and they played my story. I was so shocked. … For me, to have 30 years in one place is the biggest blessing that I could ever have.”

Davis’ 30 years have been full of honors and awards, including two Emmy Awards and one Silver Circle Award from the National Association of Television Arts & Sciences’ (NATAS) Mid-America Division.

“Craig Rickert nominated me for the Silver Circle Award, which was honoring 25 years,” said Davis. “(Destiny) got to go with me to Kansas City, and it was one of the neatest things. At that time, she was taking classes, but she wasn’t working in television yet. Glenn Frey from the Eagles spoke. … The other gentleman who spoke, Les Garland, was the originator of MTV, who told us how he paid Mick Jagger a dollar to say ‘I want my MTV!’ It was just an amazing experience.”

Making a Difference in Region 8
As Davis’ accomplished career continues and Quinn follows in her mother’s footsteps, the two enjoy reminiscing about meaningful stories and look forward to continuing their time together at KAIT.

“I love sharing people’s stories; that’s the part of my job I live for,” said Davis. “I love to ask questions, and I love to learn about people. Hopefully, somewhere along the way, that story can make a difference and change things for the better.

“The stories about the Gr8 Acts of Kindness in recent years started out as just an idea on paper. … And then we went out on our very first one, and it looked nothing like what we planned; it was raining, and she saw us before we could get up there. The beautiful part, there again, is that life is not picture perfect moments; it’s the realness of it all. The folks at First Community Bank were there with us. I walked over to her, and she had her arm in a sling – her name was Connie Carter – and she was nominated because she was a personal care aid worker to those who were not able to care for themselves, and she was out of work because of her arm being broken. … Here we came with $408. She said ‘Thank you. I know you delivered this, but I know it came from up there (God).’ It was exactly the amount she needed to make her house payment that month. We all looked at each other and realized it was something that was bigger than us. Many times in life, the stories I have gotten to share have changed me in more ways than one. I take every one of them away with me. It’s truly incredible. God put me right where I needed to be.”

Quinn says that while her favorite part of the job is getting to meet people she wouldn’t have the opportunity to know otherwise, a story that has impacted her on a personal level involved a former fellow student.

“I’ve covered stories that have taken me all over Northeast Arkansas and even to Little Rock,” said Quinn. “One story that really stands out was one I did about a young man I went to high school with. He had an artificial heart – basically, he had congestive heart failure. They implanted a device, a syncardia total artificial heart, and it was connected through his stomach. … He carried it around in a backpack, and it kept him alive. He literally didn’t have a pulse, because he had no heart. We ended up doing the story on him and going to Little Rock to meet Dr. (John) Ransom, who had put the device inside of him, because it was the first one ever done in the state of Arkansas. … It was really special to get to meet back up with him to tell his story.

“The story ran, and he was waiting for his heart transplant. People from all over prayed about it, and the story went viral; it was shared thousands of times on Facebook. Two weeks later, I got a call from him that he had received his heart transplant. I get chills thinking about that. We were able to go back to Little Rock and cover his heart transplant. Stories like that don’t happen often, but being able to tell something like that about somebody I grew up with who is part of Region 8 is very special. He has a heart now. He can play basketball.”

Davis says it’s been fun to look back and think about how they got to where they are today.

“Now, looking back, you see that every little piece along the way had its own purpose and learning through struggles and mistakes, you learn from those, too,” said Davis. “All along the way, we learn important things.”

Like many young adults, Quinn is now able to better appreciate the lessons her mother taught her along the way.
“I’ve learned that mom is pretty much always right,” said Quinn. “… She is a pretty cool coworker; I think I’ll keep her around.”