Eyes on the Prize
SSHS grad goes from ‘Wildcat TV’ to Emmy-winning producer
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

Nov. 19, 2006 - Kimberly Ridling Pearson, who got her start locally with "Eye of the Cat" and "Wildcat TV," was recently a recipient of an Emmy Award for her work as a morning producer of "Daybreak" at WFAA-TV Channel 8.

Pearson, a 1998 Sulphur Springs High School graduate, was awarded an Emmy for Best Morning Newscast in Texas at the 4th Annual Lone Star Emmy Awards held Oct. 21, at the Verizon Theater in Houston.

"I feel very lucky and honored," said Pearson, who at 25 is one of the youngest in the broadcasting market to received the award. "Some have been working at it for years, and here I am, the first time at bat, and I get it."

The youngest child of Gene and Sue Ridlings’ four children, Pearson was a "go-getter" from a very young age, according to her mother. 

"Most kids, even while in college, don't know what they want to do. This child has always known what she wanted to do," said Sue, who accompanied her daughter to the black-tie event.  "It seems everything she decides to do, she goes for it and manages to get it." 

Pearson, who grew up  watching the newscasts of Clarice Tinsley and Gloria Campos, said she took an interest in local news and world events at an early age.

"I really can't explain it — I was just drawn to news," Pearson said. "That's all I ever wanted to do."

Sue said bedtime, as it is for most parents, was always a struggle. The difference, however, was not that her young daughter wanted to stay up to play or talk on the phone — she wanted to watch the 10 o'clock news.

"She was reading the newspaper from front to back," recalled Sue. "She was the one keeping us informed of local happenings and current events."

When Pearson was in the tenth grade at Sulphur Springs High School, she announced to her parents that she was going to graduate the next year.

"We didn't really want her to do that," admitted Sue. "She was very involved in drill team and other activities. We told her she was going to miss out on so much. But she said, 'No. I know exactly what I want to do, and I'm ready to get on with it.'"

Her daughter took dual credit classes and some college classes, all the while holding down a job, as well.

"She's always been very serious and very focused," explained Sue.

Pearson did, in fact, graduate the next year, and on college career day put university representatives through a rigorous line of questioning as to why she should choose their school over others. In the end, Pearson decided to stay close to home and attend classes at Texas A&M University-Commerce, majoring in broadcast journalism.

In spite of her degree plan not calling for an internship, her mother said, she insisted on pursuing that avenue because she felt it would look good on her resume.

Setting her sights on Channel 8 in Dallas, she persistently called and e-mailed every day until she got "one of only a handful of internships" during her last semester.

"She told the lady at Channel 8, 'I know what I want. And I don't mind working for it,'" Sue remembered.

Sue also said that various people throughout this time had tried to discourage her daughter from going into the broadcasting field, saying it was very competitive and difficult to break in to. She was encouraged to take other classes as a back-up.

Not to be deterred, Pearson continued her pursuit. She graduated from the university system on a Saturday, and the following Wednesday had a job in the television broadcasting industry as a producer with Channel 25 in Waco. She was 20 years old.

Pearson said she took the job producing as a way to get her foot in the door and planned to work her way up and eventually get on camera reporting the news, her ultimate goal. However, she soon discovered she liked being the one who called the shots.

"She's very much a perfectionist and likes to be the one giving the orders," said her mother, laughing. 

In 2005, after three years with Waco's Channel 25, Pearson ended up back in Dallas at Channel 8 as the morning producer of "Daybreak," which can be seen from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. 

Pearson's Emmy nomination came in June for producing "on the spot coverage" of tornadoes that ripped through Allen and McKinney.

"She never makes a big deal out of anything and never brags," said Sue, who recalled the night Pearson told them of her nomination. "She just nonchalantly said, 'Oh, by the way, I was nominated for an Emmy.' At the awards dinner she was just so calm. I was the one who was a nervous wreck." 

Trying to be of help, Sue restlessly told her daughter, 'It's such an honor to be nominated even if you don't win." Whereas, Pearson quickly replied, "Mom, that's what losers say!"

Pearson plans on staying in the Dallas market and hopes to eventually become an executive producer or news director. 

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