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Women of Distinction's Keynote Speaker

One-on-one with News 8 WQAD anchor Denise Hnytka

Denise Hnytka
Denise Hnytka

Age: 33

Town where you grew up: Palatine

Town where you live now: Davenport, Iowa

Company for which you work: WQAD

Position there: Evening news anchor

For how long? 6 years

Since you’ve been reporting/anchoring the news, do you have a favorite story you’ve covered? Recently, the eclipse! What an incredible experience! I was in the small town of Makanda, Illinois, (south of Carbondale). The sky went dark so quickly, like someone hit a dimmer switch. The crowd of people gathered there yelled and cheered. It still gives me chills when I watch the video I took of it.

What advantages do you have as a main anchor for WQAD? I get the unique opportunity of being a leader for others in the newsroom. When I was just starting out in my first reporting job, I looked up to the anchors in the newsroom to help me with my writing, digest complicated stories, and for guidance on editorial decisions. Now I want to do for other young reporters what those leaders did for me. I want to help them grow in their careers and move on to their dream jobs.

What are some of the difficulties associated with your job? I think people would assume the hours are the toughest part of my job. But my schedule has been such a blessing. I spend my mornings with Abram until I have to go to work in the afternoon. My husband gets his own time with Abram at night. While I would love to have dinner with them every night, I think there’s something to be said about the bond Turner has with Abram now, and we make the most of our weekends together.

With the political unrest in the nation — as well as the issues with the state of Illinois, what do you consider to be the most difficult story to report? Right now, the issue of fake news is challenging. People don’t know who to trust, and they assume we all have a personal agenda.

What is your favorite type of story to report? I’ve always loved court cases. I’m fascinated by the legal process, the strategy and the investigative work that goes into getting justice for the family of a crime victim. The Casey Anthony case was so compelling to me that I watched a few hours of the trial during my honeymoon in Costa Rica. Now that I am on the anchor desk, I am not able to cover stories like that very often. Instead I get out on some lighter assignments. The most recent story I did was a feature piece on a young woman who visits children in the hospital dressed up as Disney characters.

What are some memories made during your career at WQAD? Some of the best memories are from the last year when I had my baby boy. I enlisted the help of actor and singer Donnie Wahlberg to help me announce my pregnancy in April of last year. I interviewed him during a Gilda’s Club event and asked him to take a photo with me that I was planning to share at a later time. But little did I know, he would get on stage at the event and tell the entire crowd right then! There were a few friends there who were very surprised to hear the news! So needless to say, I had a few phone calls to make that afternoon. Then I made my own announcement on the news that evening. People were so supportive of me through my entire pregnancy, and when my son was born, we were shocked to get so many messages, cards and even homemade gifts from viewers. My husband and I were so touched. I feel like growing my family here has helped me connect so much more with this community and truly be invested in it.

Have you worked at other TV stations? In what capacity? I worked as a reporter for KMEG 14 in Sioux City, Iowa, for two years. That was my first job out of college. My second job was as the weekend anchor for KWCH 12 in Wichita, Kan. I was there for over three years. I came to WQAD in 2011.

Do you think women and men are respected equally when it comes to reporting the news? Absolutely.

Why would you encourage other young women to get involved in this industry? There are so many opportunities to make a difference in this industry, whether it’s on camera or off camera.

Fun facts:

Fun facts:

Family: My husband’s name is Turner. We’ve been married six years! We have a son, Abram. He will be 1 year old in September.  

Pets: We have a dog named Mackey. She is a 5-year-old Belgian malinois.

Favorite type of music: I love all kinds, especially rock and country. My guilty pleasure is Taylor Swift.

Favorite book/author: Lately, I love biographies. Hard for me to pick a favorite.

Favorite movie: My all-time favorites are "My Girl," "Rocky" and "Pretty Woman."

Favorite area place to go out to eat and what you order there: I love pasta and steak. I’ll usually order one or the other. At home, my husband and I have a favorite meal we make several times a month – rib eyes on the grill (his specialty) and my signature dish, browned butter Alfredo.

If you could change one thing about the town in which you live, what would it be: I want the Quad City area to keep looking for ways to attract and keep young professionals.

Hobbies: I joined Fit4Mom after having Abram. It’s a fitness group for moms with little ones who fit in a stroller. Taking an hour a few times a week for my health is the best gift I’ve given myself since becoming a mom. It’s helped me connect with other women and gets Abram out and about during our mornings together. Pretty soon he will be able to run around and play with the other kids!

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