There’s a saying in the business world, nowhere more true than television news: sometimes you have to move out to move up. Kris Gutierrez left Channel 2 as a reporter and fill-in anchor in 2007, went to work for Fox News as a reporter covering Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, then morning anchor in Chicago — and since 2015 the afternoon anchor for Channel 5 in Dallas.
Now, he’s back at Channel 2, as the station's main man, co-anchoring the news at 5 pm with Lauren Freeman plus the prime 6 and 10 pm newscasts with Dominique Sachse.
Naturally this makes him a prime candidate for our 10 Questions:
CultureMap: You're not exactly a newcomer to Houston. You worked here lo those many years ago in the 2000s. Now that you've made a triumphant return, what changes have you noticed in Houston?
Kris Gutierrez: Houston is certainly not new to me. This city is a big part of my story. I met my wife, Krystle, here, we got married here, and my in-laws and extended family live here. So, although I've been gone for 13 years, we've visited often to see friends and loved ones.
Remember, the only reason I left KPRC in 2007, was for a bigger opportunity. I was named Fox News Channel's Dallas-based correspondent for the Southwest region of the United States. I was the only correspondent who covered all of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
Notice I said ‘all’ of Texas, and Houston is a big news city, so I would parachute in and out of Houston often. When it comes to changes, I feel like I've seen things develop over time, though Discovery Green hadn't opened yet, CityCentre wasn't around, and there obviously are new restaurants.
CM: Television news has changed, too. How has the industry changed during your career?
KG: The foundation of what we do hasn't changed, but the way we gather and disseminate information has changed tremendously. People can stream our newscasts online and through the Click2Houston mobile app. I'm going to sound much older than I really am, but believe it or not, when I was sending out my resume tapes in college, some TV stations didn't even have websites yet! Granted they were mostly smaller stations in smaller markets, but it shows you how far we've come.
Nowadays, our digital presence is vitally important. You may find it funny that in 2007 when I left KPRC, I didn't have a single social media account. I joined Twitter in 2008-ish because my wife made me an account. Facebook has become another way for our viewers to connect with us, and it's a great platform to share the incredible work that our newsroom is putting out.
We also used to shoot our stories on Beta tape, now everything is edited on timelines that we create on computers. We used to head out in big bulky live trucks, now we can go live from anywhere in the world using technology that you carry in a backpack. Bottom line: change is inevitable, I'm just trying to stay ahead of the curve.
CM: Have you ever covered anything that approaches the impact of the coronavirus outbreak?
KG: This global pandemic has a lot of people very frightened and, for a journalist, this is when the rubber meets the road. I think people are tuning in now, more than ever, looking for facts from trusted sources like KPRC. It's our job to give viewers accurate information, so they can make the best decisions for their families.
I don't think anyone in our newsroom has covered anything like this, with such a global reach and wide-ranging implications for our city, state, region, country and world. The only thing that remotely comes to mind is the 2008 recession. But even then, I could still hug my parents. With COVID-19, I had to wave goodbye to my mom and dad through a window when I left Dallas because I didn't want to potentially expose them to anything. Strange times indeed.
CM: Houston traffic: better or worse than you remember?
KG: Houston traffic so far is incredibly smooth. Why? Mayor Turner's Stay at Home order! Journalists are considered essential employees, but with so many people working from home, traffic has been much lighter than I remember. That said, when things get back to normal, I expect the traffic to be terrible, depending on the time of day. It's part of living in a world class city!
CM: This is a big job, anchoring the 5, 6, and 10 pm. Have you been hitting the gym to become physically prepared for bantering with Dominique Sachse?
KG: Dominique is awesome. Lauren Freeman, my 5 pm co-anchor, is equally as great. Bantering with them won't be a problem at all. I worked with Dominique from 2003-2007, so I’m a familiar face. She knows me, so there’s already a built-in comfort level.
I remember when Lauren was hired to anchor our morning show. I had the opportunity to anchor with her on several occasions. Plus, my wife has kept in touch with both of them through the years.
The crosstalk on set is easy — if only [weathercaster] Frank [Billingsley] would let me get a word in. I'm kidding!
CM: You're joining Channel 2 from a smaller, less sophisticated city about four hours north on I-45. Who will you root for when the Astros play the Rangers, Texans vs. Cowboys, Rockets vs. Mavs?
KG: I knew this was coming, and I'm compelled to tell the truth, right? I love sports. I also love the teams I grew up supporting. Trust me, I totally understand the rivalry between Houston and Dallas. I grew up with it, and then I married into it.
So here it goes: yes, I’m a Cowboys fan. Yes, I’m a Mavs fan. Yes, I’m a Rangers fan. And for the record, I like the Dallas Stars and FC Dallas, too. I also love my TCU Horned Frogs and my hometown Lewisville High School Fighting Farmers. Those teams will always be my favorite because that's where I grew up. My family and I absolutely will support our local Houston teams because they are now our home teams.
CM: When you heard that you got the job at Channel 2, what restaurants in Houston were first on your list to visit?
KG: My wife will tell me where she wants to go eat, and that's where we will go! However, I’m really interested in trying some of Chris Shepherd’s dishes. I read that he’s from Nebraska. My mom is a Cornhusker, so maybe that will make getting a reservation a little easier? I love Tex-Mex and BBQ, specifically moist-cut brisket with plenty of bark but not too much fat. Now I’m hungry!
CM: Do you have cowboy clothes ready for next year’s Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo?
KG: I love RodeoHouston. Both of my kids earned belt buckles in the Mutton Bustin’ competition. Our family has come to the Houston Livestock show and Rodeo nearly every year for the past five years, minus this year. My in-laws have been longtime season tickets holders.
I also love boots. Especially Lucchese exotics. I wear boots every day with my suits. In the past, my colleagues have referred to me as Gutz and boots. I also enjoy a nice Milano Hat Company cowboy hat.
CM: Have you gotten your family settled in Houston yet?
KG: My family isn't here yet and I don't like it. We had plans for my kids to finish the school year strong in the DFW area, but we're re-examining things on a daily basis because they can do remote learning from anywhere. My kids are very active.
We want to honor their commitments to their teammates and coaches, but at this point it's looking less likely that they'll play again this spring. Bottom line, we should have everyone under one roof in early July, at the latest. In the meantime, we're on Facetime and taking turns burning up I-45 on the weekends.
CM: Is it strange sitting six feet from your co-anchor, the weather person and sports guy? Do you feel the need to shout and wave your arms: "I'm over here!"
KG: Sitting so far apart on set has just become the new norm in newsrooms across the country. We implemented the same protocols at my previous station. So many people are now working remotely. I still haven't met half the news staff at KPRC. I realize this too shall pass and like everyone else is saying, it can't happen soon enough!