AUSTIN (KXAN) — When KXAN’s Erin Cargile found out last summer she was one of a handful of Nexstar reporters going to South Korea to cover the Winter Olympics, her first reaction was excitement, followed by the question: “Where and when the Winter Olympics was happening?”
Of course, she learned it was happening in PyeongChang, South Korea, in February 2018. From that June day, Erin has spent the past six months retraining on how to shoot and edit her own video as well as understanding what it takes to cover the Olympics for dozens of stations within Nexstar Nation (Nexstar owns and operates KXAN as well as 170 TV stations across the country).
Growing up in Waxahachie, Texas, Erin was a competitive gymnast from first grade to sixth grade (she can still do a back handspring) but like most Texans, her knowledge of winter sports is lacking. However, in the past few months, Erin has beefed up her knowledge of winter sports by interviewing and producing stories on the Texans who are competing for a chance to win a spot at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
To talk about what is in store for Erin at PyeongChang, KXAN’s digital team sat down with her over a Korean lunch at Korean Grill in north Austin.
Beverage: Hite Beer made in South Korea
Erin noted the beer tasted like a Bud Light — which it does.
KXAN: How did you find out you were going to cover the Olympics?
Erin: He [KXAN news director Chad Cross] said how would you feel about going? I was kind of speechless. Because I was like, ‘I don’t shoot my own video,’ but I would absolutely do whatever it takes to go. He said ‘hold that thought’ and he put me on speakerphone and our corporate news director was in his office because they were in town. He says ‘Hey this is Chris Berg, we would like you to go to the Olympics. It’s not official yet, but we need to run it up the chain. So by the end of the week, we’ll let you know, but we think you’ll be good. Would you be willing to learn how to shoot and edit again?’ And I said ‘Absolutely.’ All of a sudden I got a calendar invite for a conference call with someone even higher up in the company and they called me the next day — it was still my day off. Jerry Walsh starts talking and telling me logistics and I’m thinking they haven’t told me I’m going — and he stops and says ‘Chris, you told her right?’ He’s like ‘What?’ ‘That she’s going!’
So yeah, I’m going!
KXAN: Were you nervous about shooting and editing your own stuff again?
Erin: I was very nervous and I have been nervous through the whole learning process. It has been 12 years since I’ve had to shoot and edit since my first job as an MMJ (multimedia journalist). Yes, I was excited about the Olympics, but it was also coupled with fear because of the huge learning curve. The huge task at hand and now there’s even more riding on it that I have to deliver which is the shooting part too — not just the reporting part, but I have to make sure my skills are up to speed with the shooting part. So it’s been super stressful.
KXAN: You’re one of how many Nexstar reporters?
One of six reporters from stations from different parts of the country. Not all of us are MMJs. There are three guys and three girls. Two of the guys are sports directors in their market — they’re basically our Roger Wallace — and they do shoot and edit their own stuff. The third guy is a morning anchor in Little Rock and he also shoots his own stuff. One of the girls is a sports reporter in Tampa who shoots her own stuff, but me and Lex — who is from Norfolk, Virgnia — does not. She has not shot in two to three years.
Everybody had to learn the gear. Even though everyone has shot and edited before, the equipment was still new to them. The three guys have all covered Olympics before, but the girls have not. Jack Doles is the most seasoned guy, this will be his 10th Olympic games. He’s the sports director in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
KXAN: When will you be on air?
Erin: Morning liveshots. I have 10 stations for sure that I’ll be doing live shots for, but I will be on air every morning for KXAN News Today. It’s a 15-hour difference.
KXAN: Will you be previewing sporting events that already happened?
Erin: I think we’ve been told, for the first time, maybe ever, that all the events will be airing live [in the United States]. We won’t have to wait, no spoiler alerts. The only thing that will be taped is Opening Ceremonies.
Appetizer: Kimchi pancake and all the banchans (side dishes of various pickled items) arrive at the table. As Erin says, the kimchi pancake is more like a kimchi pizza.
Erin: I’m glad I’m an adventurous eater.
KXAN: Over the past several months, you’ve been practicing with your gear by shooting your own stories. How has it been preparing for everything else for the Olympics?
Erin: We’re spending four weeks abroad from Feb. 2-27. I have never packed for a month-long trip. Plus, it’s going to be freezing. There are so many elements to it. Learning how to shoot, the cold, the temperatures will be freezing and then working in those temperatures. [The average temperature will be in the 20s during the Olympics]
I heard a snowboarder say in a recent interview that they don’t get a ton of snow — so they’ve had to bring in snowmaking machines. They’re not worried about it being too warm.
I’ve been shopping a ton — getting long underwear, layers. Over Thanksgiving, I went to Minneapolis. My mom’s from Minnesota so I’ve asked my mom a ton about tips and dressing for cold weather. And she gave me snow boots, mittens.
KXAN: What’s your favorite cold-weather clothing brand?
Erin: SmartWool. I went to Austin Sun and Ski and the guy was like ‘These are crazy expensive, but you just need one pair. You could literally wear these all week.’ They’re supposed to be antibacterial and won’t stink. One top is $95. I thought I would have no cold weather training, but we’ve had some pretty cold days [here in Austin] and I’ve been shooting in that and doing liveshots and I’ve been warm. I just purchased in bulk the hot hands on Amazon and toe warmers.
KXAN: What NBC gear did you get?
Erin: NBC pullover [that she has on]. A huge Nike jacket that I got to test out in Lake Placid and it keeps us very warm — it’s down-filled.
KXAN: How is everyone pronouncing PyeongChang?
Erin: They came up with a universal NBC pronunciation of pee-yong chang. At first it was pee-yung-chong when they changed it to pee-yong chang, which I say is easier to say with my Texas twang.
I still have a lot of research to do on the county itself. I have learned a lot from locals living here who are from South Korea, who have been amazingly kind to me. They’ve invited me into their homes to tell me about their home country.
KXAN: What kind of stories are you guys turning?
Erin: We have to turn stories ahead of the Olympics beginning for a special. We will be educating people on the food, the culture the history. A lot of that special will be shot in Seoul.
KXAN: Are you worried about North Korea?
Erin: I’m not. I’m not fearful and I’m still of the mentality if something were to happen, something happens. I’m not going to not go because of it or worry. But, clearly, I’m aware of the situation. But, when you talk to South Koreans, and they’re not worried. One lady told me this feud has been going on for years and years and it’s something we’ve lived with every day.
We somehow delve into random talk about the drama with the USA swim team in Rio.
Entrees: Beef bulgogi, seafood japchae and dolsot bibimbap
KXAN: What do you know about the Winter Olympics?
Erin: Being from Texas, not much. The number one question people ask is ‘Are there any Texans in the Winter Olympics?’ And surprisingly, yes, there are. I have tracked down every one of them and I’m stalking them on all social media platforms. It is neat to learn about the Texans and how they got to be good at a winter sport.
I think that’s the fun of it though, to learn about things you didn’t know. There are so many sports that many people don’t even know about.
KXAN: You’ve done stories on the various Texans vying for a spot on Team USA, which profile piece have you liked the most?
Erin: I don’t know if I could pick one. Even just following the process of people training. I didn’t know that someone sets a year or two of their life aside – put everything on hold to train not even knowing if they’ll make the team.
For example, figure skating. I went to Dallas and interviewed a pair’s couple and a single men’s skater. Neither one made the Olympic team but they’ve been working their butt off. For the pair’s figure skating, there was only one spot!
The most memorable was probably the story on Keri Jones, the female bobsledder from Killeen. She went to Baylor, she ran track. Like many bobsledders, she transitioned from one sport to bobsled. There have been other track stars throughout the years that have done that. With the men’s bobsledders, there’s a lot of football players that make that transition. Keri Jones was super emotional because her biggest fans — her grandmother passed away this past year — so that was super tough to get through while she was training for the Olympics. And of course all she wants to do is to make her grandma proud and she didn’t make the team. It was just sad to not see Keri Jones make it because she worked so hard.
On the men’s side, there are two Texas bobsledders who everybody needs to pay attention to. Sam McGuffie from Houston grew up and played football for Cy-Fair and then went on to play at Michigan and Rice. He even played for Tom Herman for a little bit of time. He also played in the NFL for a little bit. The other guy from Texas on the bobsled team is Justin Olsen, who is from San Antonio. He’s military and also played football in college.
The other Texan that I’ve done several packages on is Jonathan Garcia. He is a speed skater. He is a super nice guy. And this will be his second Olympic games – he made it to Sochi and he made it to the Olympic team again, and I think this will be his last Olympic game. His family lives in Houston. We did a story about his family in Houston when Harvey hit. He has been training in Utah for 10 years now.
I’m still awestruck about knowing and having some of these athletes’ cellphone numbers. Because to me, they’re like Olympic athletes, they’re like rock stars of their sport.
It hasn’t sunk in that I’m going to the Olympics. It’s crazy to say ‘I’ll see you in two weeks in South Korea.’
KXAN: What is your favorite winter sport?
Erin: I feel like figure skating is the cliché. I think the most enjoyable and relaxing to watch is figure skating. But, I’m most excited to cover the bobsled because of the two Texans on the bobsled team. It’s a sport I don’t really know a ton about, but it’s neat to follow essentially the local athletes. Ask me after the Olympics and I’ll have a new favorite sport.
Fun Facts: KXAN’s Rosie Newberry is learning how to ice skate. KXAN’s Kylie McGivern was a competitive figure skater in grade school! She even showed off her figure skating skills to Erin.
Erin: When I go figure skating I need a helmet because the last time I did it I fell and hit and my head and I thought I had a concussion.
KXAN: Who/what are you excited to see?
Erin: Honestly, I just want to see anything. Any event. The people who have covered other Olympic games, they say you can get so involved in the work you can never step inside a venue. It doesn’t matter what I’m watching, it’s going to be amazing.
KXAN: What stories do you want to tell when you’re there?
Erin: I think it’s just giving people a sense of what it’s like around the venues, around the events so they feel like they’re there experiencing it. I hope that I can feel like they’re on the experience with me – I’m discovering it for the first time and so are they. Helping people get a sense of South Korean culture — they are so prideful of their country.
KXAN: What did you say you want to do after covering the Olympics?
Erin: Go somewhere really warm. I want to go to beach and do absolutely nothing. Alicia Inns [former reporter who covered Rio Olympics] said after she came back all she did was sleep.
As we’re boxing up our leftover Korean food, Erin mentioned she was worried about the amount of luggage she had to bring since they’re bringing all their gear. Thankfully, everything made it to South Korea and nothing was lost!
Erin Cargile will be LIVE from PyeongChang on KXAN News Today starting Thursday, Feb. 8 and she’ll be there through the closing ceremony. You can watch the Opening Ceremony on KXAN on Friday, Feb. 9.
See what Erin is covering by following her: