Women Running the Show
By Abigail Pesta
An armed Kristin Whiting in Iraq.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Kristin Whiting
Kristin Whiting, 39, Field Producer, 48 Hours Mystery, CBS
What I do: Our show is all about murder mysteries, so I spend a great deal of time in courtrooms and jails, talking to accused killers and the families of the victims. It can be captivating, but also soul-crushing to experience firsthand such depths of depravity. We use the power of the show and our viewers to bring about change wisely we recently got an alleged serial killer charged in an 18-year-old cold case.
Crazy adventure: Before my current job, I lived in Baghdad, at the height of the war. I was hired to set up a public-broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. A bombing had destroyed the country's primary TV network commonly known as "Saddam TV" which would often broadcast nothing but archival video of old men reading from the Koran. I lived in Iraq for a year and a half, establishing the new TV service and falling asleep to the sound of rockets and mortars, which sometimes landed within feet of my trailer in the Green Zone. A friend from National Geographic advised me to get out of Baghdad because living in a war zone frays your nerves irrevocably. (He was right. To this day, when a dumpster lid slams or a firecracker goes off, I jump out of my skin.) But on the upside, I was surrounded by Navy SEALs. Not a bad deal! There was a serious shortage of women in the Green Zone about four men for every woman. Being a rare commodity, I never longed for male company.
Worst part of the job: Meeting people in such pain. Like anyone, I am not without vulnerabilities. I felt that covering the school shooting in Columbine might break me. It was my fourth school shooting in short order, and after 10 days in Denver, I couldn't bear the thought of spending another day among what I call the "ghosts" of the community an entire town destroyed by tragedy and grief. I went home to remind everyone in my life how much I love them, then flew back to Colorado two days later.
Greatest challenge: We often have to travel at a moment's notice, and I'm a single mother to a spectacular 5-year-old daughter, Scout. I'm fortunate that my mother loves watching her granddaughter when I travel. And sometimes my daughter travels with me: Recently, on a trip to L.A., she and I spent a Saturday at Disneyland, and then on Sunday I was in an L.A. County jail all day with an accused serial killer. It works for us.
How I got my start: I wanted to work in TV news for as long as I can remember. I got my first producing job with PBS Frontline.
Word to the wise: Be fearless. Be willing to jump out of airplanes, climb mountains, go to a war zone. Do anything, go anywhere. And attach yourself to powerful women in the business; a high-powered colleague from my first network job has had a hand in every career move Ive made since.