Karen James – Former TV journalist finds Purpose in the Pain

Posted: December 16, 2011 in journalism

Karen James has a purpose. It’s just not the one she started out with as a journalist.

In 1987, when she was a beat reporter just starting out at Ada, Oklahoma’s KTEN http://www.kten.com/, her purpose was to get to top ten TV market within ten years. “When you just get started”, Karen says, “You’re not in it for the money. You just want to tell good stories.” James says journalists have to care about people. “If you don’t,” she says, “You’ll go nowhere.” After stops in Lubbock (KCBD) http://www.kcbd.com/ and Lexington (WKYT) http://www.wkyt.com/, in 1994, she took a job at KXAS http://www.nbcdfw.com/ in Dallas.

It took her seven years to reach market number seven.

After a few months at KXAS she got out of TV news, into public relations and got married to Dallas landscape architect Kelly James, an avid mountaineer.

Fast forward to December, 2006, Karen James overhears her husband and his climbing partner Brian Hall, resolve to use their love of mountaineering to help children living in poverty. Once they’d summited Oregon’s Mount Hood, they would use their next climb to help children living in extreme poverty. It sounded like a noble purpose.

On December 10th, Kelly James and his fellow climbers became lost near Mt Hood’s summit in white out conditions. Rescue teams headed up the mountain but conditions were abysmal. Karen James felt she had to keep the story alive and keep rescuers motivated to give Kelly a better chance. It became one of the most dramatic and extensive searches in mountaineering history.

For seven days rescue crews fought deteriorating conditions, trying in vain to rescue the climbers. Karen James spoke to every journalist who would help tell her story. She had been one of them so she knew how important it was to keep talking to the media. “I don’t know a journalist who doesn’t care,” she recalls. If she let up, she’d be letting Kelly down.

But on December 17th time ran out. Her husband’s frozen body is found in an ice cave on Oregon’s Mount Hood. Her world with Kelly was gone. Now, the question – how do I move on? Can I move on?  That was five years ago.

Network news anchors including CBS’s Katie Couric continued to cover her compelling story http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/12/21/eveningnews/main2291454.shtml. As she began to recover, Karen wrote a book to inspire others. http://www.holdingfastforpurpose.com/

And now Karen James has a new purpose.

For the past year, she and four other Dallas-Fort Worth women have been a part of ifyouknew www.ifyouknew.org, a charity in which she is devoted to keeping Kelly’s dream alive. Working with international charity World Vision, Karen and her friends hope to raise $5 million dollars in five years to provide clean water to 100.000 children living in extreme poverty in Africa. Karen says so far they’ve raised more than $2.1 million – already enough to save more than 42,000 children. Earlier this year, Dallas media reported on her quest. http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Mount-Hood-Climbers-Widow-Finds-Closure-125251164.html, In April, James and her friends carried 40 pound Jerry cans of water across Dallas’s Southern Methodist University campus to illustrate the daily hardship millions of women around the world endure simply to provide water for their families.

Last summer she got a chance to visit Zambia and see how water projects are saving lives. http://blog.worldvision.org/causes/what-would-you-do-if-you-knew/ During that trip, Karen James also got a chance to meet Abigail, the child she sponsors through World Vision. ‘Needless to say I fell in love with her and now I was on another rescue mission and it was just as personal,” says Karen.

She’s been thinking about Abigail a lot lately because this Saturday will be Abigail’s fifth birthday. Abigail was born December 17th, 2007. The same day Kelly’s body was discovered on Mount Hood by rescue crews.

Today Karen James is a Repurposed Journalist, finding peace and purpose by looking back while reaching out. “I used to get assigned to cover stories about people who were changing the world.”

“Now it’s my turn.”

  1. Kimberley Holland says:

    Karen you are such an inspiration to so many, God Bless you…..

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