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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

CW 39's Maggie Flecknoe is a survivor

She has survived a layoff, avoided another one, and most importantly survived a near-death experience, now CW 39 KIAH's Maggie Flecknoe is ready for a new "Morning Dose"
"You can produce a show, but you can't produce your life."

Sharron Melton returns to Houston TV on CW 39 KIAH

For CW 39 KIAH morning anchor Maggie Flecknoe, perseverance has paid off.

She helped start channel 39's foray into the morning news wars way back when she was working local news cut-ins for what was then Tribune's syndicated morning show Eye-Opener out of Chicago.

And this coming Monday, Morning Dose becomes a Houston-based newscast broadcast from the KIAH studios.

"I've always wanted to do mornings since I was little," Flecknoe told "To have people choose to wake up to you and start their day, to me that's such an honor. And I think it's also the place in our business right now that's expanding the most."

She certainly is right about that.

FOX 26 KRIV expanded its morning show to six hours years ago. And right now, channel 26 owns the local news and advertising world from 7am on as the other stations run network programming.

You might remember that in September 2018, Tribune announced the cancellations of its anchor-less NewsFix newscast in Houston and Dallas and its syndicated Morning Dose newscast.

Revelations from NewsFix's development and what the old KIAH newsroom was like before the new show's debut

Turns out, Houston consistently performed better than the other markets that ran the syndicated morning newscast. Now KIAH sees an opportunity to hold on to that audience and expand.

At the time of this writing, Dallas-Fort Worth sister station KDAF 33, which served as the broadcast studio of the syndicated Morning Dose, will not have AM news once the show stops production there this Friday.

Tribune has already shipped its state-of-the-art Morning Dose set to KIAH Houston. For Houston history buffs out there, to make room, the station told me it removed the bleachers from its studios that once sat the audience for Paul Boesch's Houston Wrestling that was a staple on Houston televisions until the end of the 1980s.

Right now, Flecknoe is one of a handful of news department employees continuing with the station after the NewsFix layoffs. As far as we know now, she will be the only on-air personality to transition into the new local show along with other soon to be announced on-air staff.

One hire we do know, is KBTX Bryan-College Station reporter Courtney Carpenter, who announced on social media she is joining KIAH in some capacity.

"It's been a whirlwind and you go through different emotions because, you know, I just lost my colleagues that I've been working with," Flecknoe said.

For Flecknoe, staying strong helped start her broadcasting career in Houston and keep it here.

After studying at Harvard University's Moscow Art Theater School, Flecknoe arrived in H-Town with few connections.

Someone in the local film community told her she should audition for anime voice overs at an area studio. A decade later, with around one hundred characters voices attached to her, Flecknoe actually started a career that's still going strong and has nothing to do with Houston television.

Although, don't tell that to her anime fans, they still sample her TV news work from afar.

"That's why it's also good I put things online, because they share it and they watch," Flecknoe said. "In Pakistan for instance, they watch anime to learn English, and then now they're huge fans of the Facebook Lives."

One of Flecknoe's favorite roles was as Yukari Yukino in The Garden of Words which earned her honors at the 2nd Annual BTVA Anime Dub Awards. She believes her breakthrough role was on the TV show High School of the Dead as Saya Takagi.

"I have all of [the shows]. One day I'll show my kids and be like, 'look what mommy did,'" she said.

Outside of anime, Flecknoe has also appeared in commercials with former Houston Rocket Yao Ming and country band Lady Antebellum. She also has performed at the Alley, Upstage and Texas Repertory Theaters.

So if you have a background as an actress facing auditions, what's the next career path with lots of obstacles? Television news.

"I've been rejected for roles since I was 5 years old," Flecknoe admitted.

It turns out Flecknoe's entrance into broadcasting was a happy accident. She was "discovered" while working at Nordstrom in The Galleria.

That encounter led to her start on air at 740 KTRH and 790 KBME, then known as "The Sports Animal," only to be laid off during a round of Clear Channel cuts the day of President Obama's 2008 inaugural speech.

For six months after that, Flecknoe peppered KIAH with her resume tape and the station gave her a chance due to her tenacity. What started out as a part-time news writing job quickly added on-air and online duties with the "Online Dish" with Maggie. Looking back nearly a decade ago, that segment was ahead of its time. It was one of the first TV news pieces in Houston that targeted the millennial set. Now every channel appears to be chasing the younger demos.

"They allowed me a lot of artistic freedom, let's just put it that way," Flecknoe admitted. "And that's what I've loved about Tribune too, is that they've allowed me to have that artistic freedom which to me is priceless."

In 2011, when the Chicago-based company announced it was launching its first entrance into the syndicated morning world with Eye-Opener, Flecknoe volunteered to work that shift alongside then CW39 anchor Mia Gradney. When Gradney went across the street to KHOU 11, Flecknoe slowly transitioned into the anchor role.

Over time, the small, yet dedicated KIAH morning crew were feeling the ratings momentum. Flecknoe, who anchor/produces news cut-ins, weather and traffic, even started doing Friday morning live shots from different Bayou City hot spots.

"I love Fridays, because we came up with the idea one day, and my first live shot actually went viral," Flecknoe recalled. "I was at the rodeo and a pig pooped on me."

Then came the morning of October 6, 2016. 3:24 in the morning. She was four minutes late on her way to work.

"I had my Velcro rollers in and I was driving just like I always do same intersection," Flecknoe recalled. "I've driven this way for years I've done the morning shift."

At the corner of Rice and Richmond Avenues, Flecknoe looked to her right and saw a white SUV come plowing towards her. She remembers gripping the steering wheel and slamming on the brakes as hard as she ever had while screaming, 'No!'

The accident was bad enough that news stringers and TV stations showed up the scene to get footage. Flecknoe says the other driver had been drinking.

The aftermath left Flecknoe with a cervical sprain, herniated disks and put her in a state of shock.

With all of that, she still thinks of the Houston firefighters who saved a precious item from her car. It's a cup decorated with sunflowers (her favorite flowers) with the words "You are my sunshine" that was given to Flecknoe by her grandmother.

"It's actually on my desk right now," Flecknoe said. "So that's always on set with me. I'm kind of superstitious."

So between the accident and losing her grandfather at the same time, Flecknoe showed up back to work just days later in a back brace. She took injections over her Christmas vacation so she could stand long enough to cover the upcoming Super Bowl LI Houston activities.

"I hate driving to work in the morning to this day and it's going to be two years," Flecknoe admits. "But I cannot go down that intersection to work. I just can't. So I go the long way to work and sometimes I'll leave a little bit later and just hope that it doesn't happen again. But I see people running lights all the time."

In the hours between work and physical therapy, Flecknoe says she was fairly bedridden due to pain. She laid there asking God, "why me?"

"That's when I re-assessed my life and my crew here, I'm like, it's OK if we make a mistake, it's live TV, we get to do it again," Flecknoe said. "Life's way too short. And then I saw the way that [members of the Houston media] wrote up my accident from an outside perspective, because they didn't know it was me, and the way they told the story and I was like, 'Huh, that's not at all what happened.' That's somebody's trial, that's somebody's significant other maybe. It inspired me to tell stories differently and to not just assume one thing."

The accident, although creating a whole new set of recovery and physical work, did force the morning anchor to not obsess over work.

"I'm glad [the accident] happened, in a way, because it forced me to slow down, because as I told you before, I was doing so much for the show and the station and my life was consumed by work. And that literally forced me to stop."

So as she gears up for the new show, while still keeping the old one on the air, Flecknoe continues to keep to her early schedule of getting to bed by 9pm and getting up way before sunrise.

"I truly feel like I'm a survivor in more ways than one," Flecknoe told me. "I've survived a layoff in this business - in radio. I picked myself back up again. I've been through a lot of different shows and formats here at the station and I've survived a near death experience [and] heartache. I mean I've been through it all. And I'm sure there's going to be something else too. I know it sounds cliche, but everything happens for a reason. And my big thing is, you can produce a show, but you can't produce your life."

EXCLUSIVE: The Houston on-air team of the new Houston only "Morning Dose" on CW 39 KIAH

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