Q+A: Lee Zurik
by Michael Sones | @IFmsones
Lee Zurik is a weeknight anchor and the chief investigative reporter for Fox 8 New Orleans. He has covered and investigated a myriad of stories and has collected numerous awards for his work.
I recently spoke with Lee about his mindset as an investigative reporter, the transition from sports into news, and what it’s been like to cover his hometown of New Orleans.
First off, tell me about your current position at WVUE.
Lee Zurik: Right now I anchor the nine and ten o’clock newscasts each weeknight. I’m also the station’s chief investigative reporter and spend a good portion of my day working on investigative stories. I split my time between anchoring and investigative reporting. I’ve been here for about four and a half years now.
You used to work in sports. How did you end up in news, and more specifically investigative reporting?
Zurik: I worked at the CBS station here, WWL, in their sports department while I was in high school. Then I went to Syracuse University for college and made my way around in several sports jobs. Greenville, Mississippi for a year. Montgomery, Alabama for two years. Baton Rouge for a year and half and then New Orleans. When Katrina hit in 2005, I was the weekend sports anchor at WWL. Katrina changed my career path. When the storm was coming ashore our staff split up and I was actually one of the people anchoring the coverage. That’s just how things worked out. I’m a New Orleans native so I knew the city. I was on for twelve hours straight somedays. They would just throw you in there. It wasn’t pretty but we were covering a huge tragedy and a huge story. So after that, the sports staff kept doing news and a month or two later my boss talked to me about making the transition to news full time. I thought it was the right thing to do and I wanted a new challenge. First I became the weekend news anchor and a general assignment reporter. I’m a curious person, I like to dig, it’s in my DNA. I just started looking at things. I got a news tip on one thing which led to a story, which led to another. Really almost taught myself how to be an investigative reporter. Just kept doing more stories, got some more tips but figured out things on my own. Nine years later here I am.
What’s it like covering and investigating stories in your hometown?
Zurik: It’s got its good points and bad points to be honest. I have a lot of history so I know a lot of things, people, etc. It can be tough too because when you’re rooted in an area and you have friends and family, you don’t know if someone you’re looking into is connected to someone else you know. So that can be difficult sometimes. It can be challenging if you get a call from someone you know because you’re looking into someone they know. But that doesn’t stop me from doing a story if it’s warranted.
You recently won a Peabody Award and a National Headliner Award for your work on “Louisiana Purchased.” What do those achievements mean to you?
Zurik: We don’t do the work for the awards. But it is nice to be honored at a high level like that and to be honored by people who judge based on good journalism and good work. I think it’s special to be in that group. When you look at other reporters, other TV stations who have won awards, it’s special to be in that group.
In your opinion what are some of the important traits that make a successful investigative reporter?
Zurik: Well first, honesty and good ethics are understood. I think you need thick skin. I think you need to be a good storyteller because a well told story can make your reporting, your work, shine. You can have great data, great findings, but if you don’t tell the story well, if you don’t present it well… And then persistence, not giving up. You need to always dig deeper, dig further, and find even more significant things down the road. I think that’s something that makes a successful investigative reporter.