By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN “I love being in the Fox 9 sports department,” said Howard Lake native Matt Montgomery. “It is still a lot of hard work, but when I realize that I get paid to watch the Twins, Vikings, Wolves, and, soon, the Wild, I remind myself that I’m a pretty lucky guy.”
A 1998 graduate of Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, Montgomery is currently a sports producer at Fox 9 in the Twin Cities, and also a fill-in anchor.
Those who watch Fox 9 News may have seen Montgomery between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, when he was on the air a lot, filling in for the core anchors.
The son of Al and Viann Montgomery of Howard Lake, he credits them with making him who he is today.
“I think I am a good combination of both of them. I think my mom is the most caring, trusting person I’ve met,” Montgomery said, noting she has taught Sunday school since her early 20s, and has been the church secretary at St. James Lutheran Church in Howard Lake since the early ‘90s. “It’s easy to say she has a big heart.”
“I think my Dad could have a cup of coffee and talk to just about anyone about almost anything, and still sound like he knows what he’s talking about a sort of jack of all trades,” Montgomery said. “As I get older and have a family of my own, I see myself growing to be more and more like my Dad, and I think that’s a good thing.”
Montgomery now lives in St. Paul with his wife of nine years, Leah, and their two children, Will, 3, and Eleanor, 1.
Producing the sports segments in the daily newscasts keeps Montgomery busy, he said
His day starts out reading the daily paper and listening to KFAN, and he then scours the news wires and Internet when he gets to the station to keep up with developing stories.
After communicating with other members of the sports staff about what should be included in the newscast, Montgomery produces and writes the sports segments.
Montgomery was originally hired as a news producer at Fox 9 in January 2011, after taking a two-year break from TV during which he worked in retail management.
During his first year-and-a-half at the station, Montgomery was an associate producer, helping to stack and write newscasts for the main news anchors Jeff Passolt, Heidi Collins, and Randy Meier.
Last summer, the main 10 p.m. news producer transferred to Phoenix, AZ. “I saw this as an opportunity to get up into the sports department,” Montgomery said.
After talking to News Director Bill Dallman, three employees swapped positions, and Montgomery was moved from news to sports.
Working at a broadcast TV station
“Working for a broadcast television station is bizarre,” Montgomery said. “Imagine dozens of people all trying to help color a page in a coloring book. Each person has their own crayon, but a limited amount of time to use it. At the end of the day, you have a picture that has been worked on by lots of different people. Then, you have to throw it out, and do it all again tomorrow.”
With its daily set of deadlines, Montgomery notes that “some days are easy, and you have to hurry up and wait for your newscast.” Then, other days are hard, because breaking news follows its own deadline.
For instance, when Francisco Liriano threw a no-hitter against the White Sox May 3, 2011, the game didn’t end until 9:45 p.m., which left producers less than 15 minutes to rearrange the entire newscast to make it the lead story.
“Every TV newscast might look similar in content, but no two days are ever exactly the same, in the office or out in the field,” Montgomery said. “It really is a daily adventure.”
Montgomery’s journey to Fox 9
Montgomery went to college at Hamline University, majoring in communication studies and graduating in 2002.
During his second semester at college, Montgomery anchored sports for a few episodes of the campus news.
He then interned for KARE 11 sports in the summer of 2001, and was with the sports department in Mankato the day Vikings lineman Korey Stringer died of heat stroke.
“It was a media circus,” Montgomery said, noting he ran into a freelance photographer with ESPN who asked if Montgomery wanted to help with a prep-sports show.
“So, my senior year at Hamline, I was able to cover prep sports and be on-air with a Sunday morning sports show that aired on channel 29,” Montgomery said.
After graduating from Hamline, Montgomery worked at KSAX in Alexandria from 2003 until the end of 2005.
“My time in Alexandria was amazing. I realized that TV was not as glamorous as a lot of people think it is, and I got to do everything by myself,” Montgomery said. “People in TV call it one-man banding, but it means that you pitch your own stories, shoot your own video, edit your own stories, write your own scripts, produce your own shows, then anchor your newscast.”
Although it was a lot of work, it was worth it because he was able to see the business as a whole, from several different perspectives, Montgomery added.
He left Alexandria to become the sports anchor and director at KTVL News 10 in Medford, OR.
“Leah and I knew nothing about southern Oregon, but moved out there with our eyes wide open,” Montgomery said. “It was one of the most exciting times of our lives.”
Although people think of Oregon as gray and rainy, Medford was only 15 minutes from the California border, and was sunny and warm.
“It only snowed once in the three years we lived there, and it was, coincidentally, the same time my parents were visiting. They brought the Minnesota weather along with them,” Montgomery said.
The Montgomeries moved back to Minnesota in 2008, when Leah was accepted at the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota, where she earned her master’s degree in public policy. She now works at the state capitol as a researcher for health and human services.
Recognition and future goals
“I have won a couple of regional Emmys, but they were part of large-group categories,” Montgomery said.
One Emmy was for social media interaction by the news station; another was for best newscast, for which Montgomery was a writer; and the most recent Emmy was for station of excellence.
“It would be nice to win an individual award someday, but I’m not going to hold my breath,” Montgomery said, noting there is a lot of talented competition throughout the other stations in the Twin Cities. “I’m just happy to be in the business that I’m passionate about.”
When asked what his goals are for the future, Montgomery admits that is a difficult question.
“I am not one of those people who has a narrow focus of someday working for ESPN,” Montgomery said. “I’ve met and worked with people who say, ‘it’s ESPN or bust’ and I say, ‘good luck with that!’ I’m happy where I’m at working in a TV sports office in the Twin Cities is my dream job.”