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St. Louis’ First Female TV News Photographer Reflects On 41 Years At KSDK

010121_provided_terrikrueger_2.jpg Terri Krueger Brandon Merano
Provided
Terri Krueger, right, on the job in 2020 with Brandon Merano, then a reporter at KSDK.

It was 1979 when Terri Krueger was hired at KSDK. Fresh out of journalism school at Mizzou, she was determined to work as a news photographer in her hometown. There was just one catch: No woman had ever done that.

So Krueger took a job as a production assistant at KSDK, going out with the crews at night without pay to prove herself. In just one year, the news director offered her a job. But, she recalled, he had three conditions: take the worst shift, start at the bottom of the payscale and be willing to do anything a man would do.

Krueger never hesitated. “I said ‘OK,’” she recalled. “He said, ‘All right, you can start Monday.’”

010121_provided_terrikrueger.jpg
Provided
Terri Krueger started as a TV news photographer in May 1980.

For her, the historic first was less important than the fact of the job. “I would have been happy to be the second or the 10th or any number,” she said. “Being first was just the hurdle I had to get over to get the job.”

Krueger ended up loving the work. She spent 41 years with KSDK, retiring on Dec. 31. But initially, being the “first” proved stressful.

“I felt a deep sense of responsibility of being the first one,” she explained on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air. “You were also thinking about the people who [would] come behind you, to say, ‘Yeah, they can do this job.’”

At the time, being a news photographer meant dealing with unwieldy video cameras.

“Back then, I weighed about 120, 125 pounds, and the equipment weighed about 100 pounds,” Krueger said. “I could never admit how heavy it was. People would say, ‘Isn’t that heavy?’ I would say, ‘It’s OK, it’s OK.’”

The heavy lifting wasn’t just physical. In 1980, the NFL began allowing female journalists into the locker room. In St. Louis, Krueger was the first there, too. She found herself uncomfortably in the spotlight after a columnist at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat wrote about the controversy around her presence.

“It wasn’t like I demanded to be in there,” she noted. “Part of my condition for my job was to do anything a man would do. There were only two of us on the weekends, and that’s the shift I started on. So if I was assigned that, that’s what I had to do, no matter how I really felt about it.”

Krueger also heard from colleagues suggesting she should feel bad taking a job from a man. “I just tried to remind them, ‘I’m single, I need a job, I’m not taking anybody’s job. This is a new position,’” she said.

She added: “I tried to respect their feelings. I just tried to be respectful of people. I wanted to survive, and you just tried to be friendly and be professional and show them, ‘This is just my job,’ and to earn their respect.”

She said she found herself thinking about how much things have changed a year or two ago while interviewing players in the St. Louis Blues’ equipment room. “I was thinking to myself, ‘Look how many women are in here!’” she said. “I was so happy. Because I can remember years and years ago where women weren’t all that welcome.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske joined St. Louis Public Radio as host of St. Louis on the Air in July 2019. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

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