When Laura Monteverdi moved to Arkansas in 2015, she had no idea she would be staying as long as she had. Now, she’s stepping up to the evening anchor desk at KARK 4 News, where she will helm the nighttime news with Bob Clausen.
Monteverdi has become a rising star in Little Rock’s television market over the past five years, rising up the ranks to become the anchor for THV11’s morning show. She departed THV11 in July 2020, and KARK announced on Sept. 2 that Monteverdi would be taking over Ashley Ketz’s spot next to Clausen. Monteverdi will be making her first broadcast as evening anchor on Sept. 8, at the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. slots.
It’s been a swift rise for the Long Island-born, Florida-raised journalist but one fueled by her personal connection with her viewers. It will also be a drastic change of pace for Monteverdi, who has grown accustomed to rising in the early hours before delivering the news to morning show viewers.
“I have done a week so far of just getting my body on that schedule. Honestly, almost eight years of working the morning shift, I can tell it’s really hard to do that because I’m used to waking up at about three in the morning, and now I’m going to be going to work at 2:30 in the afternoon,” she said with a laugh. “I probably will always be an early riser. It’s kind of in my blood, but those 10 p.m. shows at first, they’re going to be a little tough.”
Before coming to Little Rock, Monteverdi had already garnered anchoring experience in her first big news job at KDLT in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She took the Sioux Falls gig after graduating from the University of South Florida, moving more than 1,500 miles away from home.
It was a risky move, especially for a part-time position, but it paid off quickly.
“I decided to take my first job in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and I remember so many jobs, and that was the one job that came back and offered me a position. And it was definitely a shock, just the cold and the Midwest is so different,” she said.
“It was just the craziest thing. No one thought I should go, but I just felt like it would be the right thing. And doors open up at small stations, I mean, you could really move up fast. So I ended up within nine months becoming the morning anchor with no anchoring experience.”
Little Rock came knocking in 2015, and she packed her bags for warmer weather, joining THV11 in March 2015 as a multimedia journalist and fill-in anchor.
Monteverdi has racked up acclaim for her journalism, winning Edward R. Murrow and Emmy awards for her work. She has emerged as a leading voice in spotlighting the opioid epidemic, particularly in her program “Saving a Generation: The New Face of Drug Addiction.”
It’s an issue that has tremendous personal stakes for Monteverdi. Her boyfriend, Brock Eidsness died as a result of a heroin overdose in 2015, a shocking event she said has changed her life.
In the aftermath of Eidsness’ overdose, Monteverdi closed off. Writing for AY About You magazine, she said that she didn’t discuss his death for two years. Her silence, though, has transformed into full-force advocacy to raise awareness of the opioid epidemic.
“For two years, I sat quietly. I didn’t talk about Brock’s death to anyone. I avoided any topic or story about drugs. When the words heroin or overdose came on the prompter while I was reading the news, I froze. I physically could not read them. I was paralyzed by the stigma of addiction,” she wrote. “I was terrified of what people would say about this incredible man I loved so deeply. I feared the words ‘addict’ or ‘junkie.’ I was terrified that how he died would define him. Until one day I decided, I refuse to let it.”
This refusal led to the making of “Saving a Generation: The New Face of Drug Addiction,” which garnered a Regional Emmy Award. Collecting the award and dedicating it to Eidsness have been the highlights of Monteverdi’s career to date.
Making the documentary taught Monteverdi an important lesson when it comes to journalism: don’t keep your ideas to yourself. Getting “Saving a Generation” made was only possible, she said, because she spoke out about it.
“If you have an idea about something, the worst thing you can do is just keep it to yourself,” Monteverdi said. “And I bring that out because of the opioid epidemic. That was something that I felt I needed to do. I needed to do something bigger, and I had this idea that I was a little scared of, and I just asked my management about it. They were so on board, and had I not just gone in there and said, ‘This is what I want to do,’ it probably never would have been born. It was born from grief.
“So that was the big thing of being able to share something so personal to me. And I think if you have a passion for something, find it and go for it because if you have a passion for it, it’s going to come across that it’s meaningful.”
Even after the documentary, Monteverdi has continued her focus on opioids. She calls it a “huge responsibility” to work on the issue, but it can take its toll on her. “Sometimes it’s really hard because I have to sit back sometimes and grieve on my own. And it’s very difficult. I’m going full steam ahead, and I want to help other people, but at the same time, it is a very personal thing for me,” she said.
Putting that personal touch is what she believes has driven her success. In college, journalism was geared toward objective writing and news-delivery, but making personal and emotional connections is critical for her. Viewers, she said, respond when journalists let their humanity shine through.
“When I’m reading a story about a mom lost her son to an opioid overdose, I instantly feel for that mother and I’m human. My emotions may come across sometimes, you know, I try and maintain it. I remember I’m a journalist, but I’m also human.
“I want to be real. I want to be Laura. There’s not a difference between Laura the journalist and Laura the person. I like to be seen as a trusted journalist, but also as a friend, I really do want to feel that way,” she said. “I feel like I’ve worked really hard to gain that. There is a balance, but I worked really hard to gain that trust.”
At KARK, Monteverdi will be building that trust at a new level. Many viewers will likely follow her to her new nightly spot, but there will be more to win over. It’s a challenge that Monteverdi is ready to take on.
“The goal is to gain the trust of the new audience, because there are a lot of viewers, I’m so grateful some are coming to watch me on the different station, but I’m also going to be speaking to a whole new group of viewers and they may not know me or may not be familiar [with me], and I understand that takes time. So building that trust is the number one priority. It’s going to take time, and I’m okay with that – perfectly fine with that,” she said.
Once she slides behind the evening desk, Monteverdi plans to do exactly what she has always done – deliver the news with a personal touch. Providing local news coverage has become increasingly important with the rise of social media, and Monteverdi aims to foster “true, honest journalism” during her tenure at KARK.
“Local journalism, especially now, is so incredibly important because there are so many inaccuracies on social media. A lot of people get upset at the media. I see so many blame the media or fake news,” she said. “I think a lot of people don’t mean local news, but you’re still lumping it in. We are still the media. But I think with local news, the people that are giving you the information, you get to know them. A lot of people in the Little Rock market, they end up staying here, and you end up trusting them in a way where you may not do that with the national outlets, because you don’t know them on a personal level. I think that’s what makes local news so important because we are here to share the things that are important to you and where you live versus on a national scale.”
Right now, Monteverdi sees a bright future at KARK and Little Rock. While opportunities might open up down the road, she has planted her flag in the rich soil of Arkansas for the time being.
“It’s become home, and I never imagined that I would be here for as long as I have been, but I love it, and I love the people coming to visit you because they’re always so pleasantly surprised,” she said.
“I love it here. Bottom line: I love it. I can’t sit here and tell you I will stay here forever if an amazing opportunity came up,” she said. “I could see myself settling down here and that makes me really happy because when you first go in this business, your ultimate goal is to get to the top 20 markets and work in the big cities. What’s important is that you love where you live and you love the people you work with and you love the community around you. And I’m finding that here. So it doesn’t make me want to leave.”