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Roving reporter: Newswoman Liz Collin returns to regional viewing territory

MINNEAPOLIS -- Just a few years ago, Worthington residents could watch hometown girl Liz Collin anchor the morning news show on KDLT-TV out of Sioux Falls, S.D.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Just a few years ago, Worthington residents could watch hometown girl Liz Collin anchor the morning news show on KDLT-TV out of Sioux Falls, S.D.

Now, with two more stations under her belt and a wealth of broadcast journalism experience, Liz has returned to her home state and viewing territory. Local TV watchers can once again tune in and see Liz on WCCO-TV out of the Twin Cities.

"I started here June 4," detailed Liz during a recent phone interview. "I watched WCCO as a kid, watched Don Shelby quite a bit, so it's really cool to be working with him, working with people I respected and admired growing up. Everybody has been so nice."

Liz recently filled in as an anchor for a vacationing co-worker, and she hopes to do more of that, but most of her assignments have been reporting from the field.

"This month I've already been out covering tornadoes in Hubbard County, in Morrison County after the courthouse shooting, flooding in the Wisconsin Dells. I've been putting on some miles."

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The daughter of Bill and Jane Collin of Worthington, Liz knew at an early age that she wanted to be a reporter.

"When I was 10, the Daily Globe did a story about me," she recalled with a laugh. "I had started a newspaper with friends from my block, and we were selling it for 15 cents. I was even interviewed by WCCO radio for that story. Then I was in Trojan News in high school, which was a great program and gave me a lot of the foundation work."

She even gained some on-the-job training in Worthington at KWOA radio.

"I started there when I was 15, basically just running the Twins and Vikings games on the AM side. Eventually, they let me come in and do the weather reports, working weekends over the summer," Liz said.

Liz graduated in 2000 from Worthington High School and a month later started classes in the broadcast program at the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. At the time, she chose the Florida program because it was far away from home and was an 18-month program.

During her tenure in Florida, she had the opportunity to work at CNN for a few months and was employed for half a year as a robotic camera operator at a large NBC station. By then, she was ready to head back north again and was thrilled when she was offered the position in Sioux Falls -- her first on-air opportunity.

"I worked for KDLT for two years," she said. "I started doing cut-ins (local news breaks during the national show) in the morning, and then they eventually launched a morning show, and I anchored that before I left."

Next stop was Wichita, Kan. -- KWCH-TV.

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"I was there for three years," Liz explained. "I started there as a reporter, and then after about a year moved up to anchor of the morning show. Then I moved to the 9 p.m. newscast, which was the big nightly newscast down there.

"I really liked Kansas," she continued. "The people there were really nice -- still pretty Midwestern. I was also able to cover a couple of big stories. I was able to uncover some problems at a military school in Salina, where young cadets were allowed to beat up each other, and the administration knew about it. Through a series of stories that I did there, a new administration came in."

The station had received a phone tip about the military school, and Liz's job was to look into the claim -- a small thing that turned into a big story.

"That was also when the BTK killer, a serial killer from the 1970s, happened to resurface," Liz added about her time in Wichita. "It was a big national story when it happened. At first, it was kind of scary. Nobody knew what to make of it. People went out and bought guns, wouldn't walk outside after dark. He was finally arrested after more than 20 years."

For both professional and personal reasons, Liz next moved to WHP-TV, a CBS affiliate in Harrisburg, Pa. While working in Sioux Falls, Liz met fellow reporter Joe Sheeran, a native of Philadelphia. They were married in 2004, and the move east put them closer to Joe's family. But it was also a step up to a slightly bigger market than Wichita.

"I was doing some reporting, anchoring the weekend morning show," Liz said. "I was there in the aftermath of the Amish school shooting, which was a big national story. The summer that I was there, an entire family in an upscale neighborhood was killed by a 16-year-old. We saw a lot of reporters there from CNN. One story that I did work on for several months was about the child welfare system. We received a tip about accusations of child abuse before children were being removed from the home. I uncovered paperwork about it, and because of our story, lawmakers took up the cause and lobbied for new regulations."

With those journalistic opportunities and several awards for her work, Liz decided the time was right to move back to her own home territory. She set her sights on WCCO.

"I'd been harassing them for a year now," she said. "I kept in touch with the assistant news director, who I met about a year ago. I sent tapes about every few months and was lucky enough to have them call me back when there was an opening. In television, you have to plug away at it."

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According to Liz, there are more than 200 TV markets -- the lower the number, the larger the market. The No. 1 market is New York, and No. 2 is Los Angeles. With the job at WCCO, she moved into one of the top Midwestern markets.

"At Sioux Falls, I started in a 112, moved to a 65 (Wichita), and then Harrisburg was a 44," she detailed. "Now Minneapolis is a 15. You just have to work your way up. Every day is a learning experience."

Husband Joe, who now works in political communications, is still living out east and probably won't be able to complete the move to Minnesota until after the November election.

"I knew what I was getting into," as far as the demands of the job and the toll it takes on her home life, Liz said, adding that her husband understands because he's also been in the business. "We have a dog, but even the dog gets rejected quite often."

While she waits for her personal life to stabilize, Liz has dived head-first into her new job, reconnecting with family and old friends along the way.

"I've been getting e-mails from people I haven't talked to in years, wondering if that's actually me" on the news, she said.

Of course, close friends and family have been proudly watching Liz on WCCO for the last couple of weeks. Grandma Betty Berreau of Brewster has never had cable TV but recently had the DISH network installed -- going to great lengths to do so -- just so she could get her news delivered by her granddaughter.

Although she still doesn't like to watch herself on TV, Liz is aware that she's come a long way in a few years in the broadcast arena, particularly since those first days in Sioux Falls.

"That was when I didn't know how to do my hair, and I had such a nasally voice," she laughed. "The hairdo is a big trick of the trade. I've probably gone through 15 hairstyles since I talked to you last."

With her current hairstyle -- a blonde bob -- Liz looks forward to reporting about Minnesota news for Minnesota people.

"I really look forward to telling stories from my home state," she said. "I hope people watch."

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