Episode 61 – Nate Eaton , East Idaho News
Giving East Idaho News
In 2006, Nate Eaton started his television career at KIDK and was there for 3 years until he moved to Richmond, Virginia to work for the ABC station there. After working for the Richmond station for about 4 years he received a call from Frank Vandersloot, owner of Melaleuca, with an idea to do an online news agency. “The answer was no, I'd just gotten married, we'd just bought a house and I'd just signed a new contract with my TV station. Looking at it then it was kind of career suicide. Once you leave TV it's hard to get back in,” Nate said. 2 years went by and he had kept the offer it in the back of his mind when he got another call from Frank. After meeting with him and considering his current job he decided a move to Idaho would be able to give him more of what his life needed.
The only direction that Nate was given when starting East Idaho News was to build a good product and the money will come. He was given the creative freedom to construct his vision of an on-line agency, and in 5 years' time, it has grown to what it is today. Initially, Nate didn't think it would work. “I figured, I could go and do this because I was ready for a change anyway……..I'll go and do this for 2 or 3 years and if it completely bombs I'll go and do something else, we'll move back to the East coast and maybe I'll get back in TV. It has succeeded a bazillion times better than I thought it would,” Nate shared.
East Idaho News covers a wide range of stories from public interest to investigative reporting. Nate explained that much of what they report on comes from the public. “We want to interact with our audience. Our audience is very interactive, and we like that for the most part,” Nate said. When asked about negative feedback he responded, “The instant reaction is to become defensive. For the people who are angry with me, I'd love to sit down and have lunch with them. I want to understand your perspective.” Nate explained that in the beginning that the negative comments were hard to hear and he had to work to not take them personally. “Generally though, within 2-3 days I've forgotten about it. The news cycle is so short.”
East Idaho News has been the conduit for giving to the community. One of the most well-known avenues is Secret Santa during Christmastime. “It was our first year…and I got a call from a local couple who said they wanted to give away $100,000,” Nate explained. That couple's challenge at the time was that they didn't know how to find people in true need and so they asked for Nate's help. It gave him the idea to bring a camera along to record the giving and spread the good feeling of being generous. “We were out until Christmas Eve that year giving this money away and posting videos.” This was noticed by a national television show that shared some of these stories. It has continued to grow year over year and this past year East Idaho News was able to give away $500,000 to needy families across east Idaho. Last year there were 4,000 applications. Throughout the year Nate receives emails from people all over the world who have been watching these videos on YouTube and have been inspired.
Nate has covered news since 2006 and it's impossible to know how many stories he has covered. He said his most challenging stories have been those who have involved children. “A lot of times, after the fact, some of my best relationships are those that I've covered in those horrible situations,” Nate said. He related that the stories where he has been able to help make a difference are some of his favorites.
Although recent news events have given Nate national attention, it's not his first time being involved in national stories and working shoulder to shoulder with national news reporters. He had experience with this when working in Virginia as well. Nate explained that working with Dateline NBC now has been a great experience and they have been able to share resources. “We are independent at East Idaho News. Anybody anywhere can have our stories, just give us credit. On this particular story we are working more with Dateline just because they have helped us so much,” Nate shared. Despite the national attention, Nate said he loves east Idaho and doesn't have plans to go to a bigger market at this time.
When asked about keeping his objectivity he said, “In 90% of cases I think I can truly see all sides.” In some cases, he feels it's okay to have an opinion but he tries to be very careful with everything he says. “Sometimes when we post these stories, and they are vague, we often know a lot more than we say. In fact, I'd say in every story we know a lot more than we are reporting. Unless it's breaking right now, we'll try to tell you everything, but there's a lot of stuff that we know that might be coming that we can't say or we just do it because it would simply be too much to report,” Nate shared. Nate admits that he's never been a strong opinion guy, he's better at reporting facts.
Nate admits that he has feelings of doubt from time to time but the stories keep him going. He's carried by the people he gets to talk to and share their lives. “There's a lot of insecurities that I have and sometimes I need to just push through it.” Nate has been recognized with different journalism awards over the years and that has made him proud to represent east Idaho.
The month of March was the largest East Idaho News has ever had and there's no sign that will slow down. Nate would like to expand to other parts of the state and perhaps do some national expansion to small towns eventually. He's hoping that he's setting a precedence that can be replicated.
To learn more about East Idaho News, visit their website at https://www.eastidahonews.com/. Check them out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EastIdahoNews/. Find them on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCd7U6pdRYzU-K_vFqwzLBqQ.
Business Leadership Moment
In this week's business leadership moment, learn about how to prevent meetings-during-the-meeting!
Thank you to James at Disruptive Productions for editing the show. Learn more about his work at https://www.facebook.com/disruptiveproductions/.