As one would expect, I spent the weekend catching up on much needed rest after our week long KARK 4 TODAY Summer Road Tour across Arkansas. However, it was also the perfect time for me to reflect on the past week. When my News Director, Austin Kellerman, first told me that I would be hopping on an RV with my Co-Host D.J. Williams and the popular morning show dog Shade Bartholomew (I learned he has a middle name) to visit 36 counties, I was surprised. The idea to introduce me as a new member of the KARK 4 TODAY team was a unique approach. I was so excited about the opportunity to get to know our viewers and see where they wake up with us each and every morning in their hometowns. I’ve never seen or heard of a news team doing something like this, and to me, it shows how much our station cares about the people we serve. As much as we connect with you online, it’s important to put a face with the name. I was on board from the beginning.
Before we started our trek to our first stop in Drew County, I felt prepared. I soon found, I wasn’t. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of people I would meet, the wonderful things I would see and experience, how much history I would learn, how a small coffee shot could affect D.J.’s energy, how many ice cream cones Shade would eat, and how soon he would take over the front passenger seat to get the perfect view of our Natural State. Don’t worry, Shade was nice and let me sit up front from time to time.
Alright @KARKShade! I’ll move! (I should’ve known better)#KARKRoadTour @AustinKellerman @dj45williams @NatWaltersWX @PatWalkerWX @AaronNolanNews pic.twitter.com/f7sCdt5B6o— Susanne Brunner (@SusanneBrunner) August 9, 2018
While everything we showed you looked like so much fun, it really was! We worked long hours to make sure you saw everything we found special in our communities. Whether it was finding the best tomato in Warren, peach picking in Calhoun County, fishing on Lake Ouachita, visiting the Japanese American Interment Museum in McGehee, attempting to try the Hubcap Burger Challenge in Mountain View, holding gators in Hot Springs, meeting with Hall of Fame race car driver Mark Martin in Independence County, eating some of the best BBQ in De Valls Bluff, or kayaking the peaceful Buffalo River in Marshall. The list goes on and on. I can’t help but think “wow, aren’t we lucky to live in Arkansas?” I’m sure many of you who were born and raised here know this, but for those who have forgotten, I hope the Summer Road Tour, through my eyes, brings you some fresh perspective.
To sum it up, we traveled 1,600 miles to 36 counties in 5 days. I’m positive there were plenty of other stops we missed on our Summer Road Tour, but I hope you enjoyed the ones we highlighted, in which you can find here. A lot of people have asked me “What was your favorite stop?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” “What was the biggest highlight?” The answer is simple… the people.
You can have this or that in a community, but it’s people like you who make our hometowns special. I saw that in Monticello, Warren, Hampton, Camden, Gurdon, Murfreesboro, Mena, Mt. Ida, Rockport, Fordyce, Rison, Star City, Dumas, DeWitt, Pine Bluff, Sheridan, Hot Springs, Benton, Little Rock, Carlisle, De Vall’s Bluff, Brinkley, Augusta, Searcy, Greenbrier, Morrilton, Perryville, Dardanelle, Russellville, Marshall, Clinton, Greers Ferry, Mountain View, Melbourne, Batesville, and Newport. Sure that was a lot to list, but I think it’s important you see the diverse areas we visited. Even though some are big and others are small, they all have a sense of “community” in common. Everyone knows each other, takes care of one another, and supports each other. Family is huge for me, and I loved seeing that all throughout Arkansas. That’s what resonated with me.
With that in mind, here’s a little more about me. I’m from California and grew up in a military family. My dad served 22 years in the Air Force so we’ve moved around the state, and even lived in the Philippines where my mom is from. I grew up in a family with tradition, culture and value. When I moved to Arkansas in the summer of 2013, I found Arkansans shared those same characteristics. People ask me all the time, “Why here?!” I tell them, I came here for the job. I packed two suitcases, moved into an apartment I had only seen online, and I didn’t know a single person. My first night, I remember sleeping on a thin sleeping pad and used a coat as a blanket. My second day, I was on the hunt for a bed in North Little Rock. I remember a lady working at the mattress store who was so kind to me. She went as far as inviting me to have dinner with her and her husband. Talk about the sweetest gesture to someone who’s lived in Arkansas for less than 24 hours! Southern Hospitality does exist.
To be honest with you, I didn’t plan on living here this long, and I never thought Arkansas was a place I would visit. I was so adamant about staying on the west coast to work as a journalist and to be close to my family. It wasn’t until I came across a quote one day that read, “If you’re unwilling to expand your horizons, you’ll miss out on the opportunities God has in store for you.” I remember telling myself, “Okay, I’ll be open to whatever job opportunity comes my way next.” Little Rock came knocking at my door.
I have since met my amazing husband here. He’s a Hoosier with Arkansas roots. We have a 3-year-old Golden Retriever named Sadie (Shade’s girlfriend), and I’m fortunate to still be working with a hardworking news team as the new Co-Host on KARK 4 TODAY, alongside Aaron Nolan, Pat Walker, Natalie Walters, and D.J. Williams. Had I missed seeing that quote, I can’t imagine what life would be like for me. Fate brought me to the Natural State and I’m blessed.
Is the Buffalo the most beautiful spot in Arkansas? @SusanneBrunner experienced it to close out our 36-county tour https://t.co/S6E4M7VXsx #KARKRoadTour pic.twitter.com/dZdKa0T6KJ— KARK 4 News (@KARK4News) August 10, 2018
What you’ve seen all week on the road, behind the scenes, and on air, is me… Susanne Brunner. From the time we nearly lost the keys to our cabin, to doing a Sonic commercial parody, or singing (terribly) carpool karaoke, it’s important to me you see I’m human. I like to smile, laugh and have fun, but also know when to maintain professionalism when there is important news to share with you during the news. It’s no secret we see negative stories every day, but it’s important to note that we also showcase the positive. We have more good than bad, and based on what I’ve seen throughout this tour, we are on track to doing better in making our communities a better place to live.
With that being said, thank you. Thank you for welcoming our KARK 4 TODAY team to your community, treating us like family and showing us what makes your town so special. It was a memorable trip and one for the books! I’m grateful for the opportunity and for the chance to meet so many wonderful people. If you’re reading this, and I didn’t get to meet you or if you haven’t given KARK 4 news a shot, I encourage you to give us a try in the morning.
From our news family to yours, we can’t thank you enough for trusting us with your local news that matters.