The Women of Weather

July 21, 2003 - Posted at: 10:24 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark. -- Whether you're new to Region 8, or you've lived here all your life, chances are you've watched this station and developed "some favorites." Two young women got their start in broadcasting at KAIT, and used their talents to take them all the way to the top.

Jonesboro native Laura Huckabee, a graduate of Jonesboro High School, got her start in broadcasting at K8 in the late 1980s.

"I started at KAIT when I was 20 years old and I started out as an anchor," Huckabee said. "A news anchor. And that worked for about six months. But I really didn't enjoy anchoring the news that much."

So the station's news director, then-Donna Malone, suggested that Laura try something new.

"I had never done weather before and I thought I'd surely try it," Huckabee said. "If Terry Wood could do weather, I surely could do weather. So I tried it and it fit like a glove. It was perfect and it was a lot of fun."

That fun has taken Laura all the way from KAIT to Little Rock, Albuquerque, N.M., Salt Lake City, Utah, and now Atlanta. By networking, she has also had the chance to fill in as a weather anchor in New York for the CBS network. She remembers that first day in New York well.

"It was like Cinderella," Huckabee said. "It was like everything I ever thought it would be. I went up there and they put me up in the Plaza Hotel across from Central Park."

In Atlanta, Laura does the early morning and noon shows: quite a challenge for a new mom.

Moving from Atlanta, we find another former meteorologist, now working in the nation's capital.

"I couldn't wait to get a job at KAIT," said Leslie Cook, now working for WJLA TV in Washington, D.C. "I wanted to be a 'Good Neighbor you could turn to.' And when I finally got one after applying for three jobs."

Leslie's captivating looks, coupled with a genuine personality, made her a perfect fit for the K8 News team. While here, she even competed in the Miss Arkansas pageant.

"I had a ball," Cook said. "I had a great time. It was probably some of the best eight months of television news in my career.

"I went to more festivals around that region than any other reporter in the history of KAIT," Cook added. "Really everything I did at KAIT set me up very well for other jobs down the line. I left KAIT for another weather and reporting job. I felt like I got some really good training and a really good foothold there to further my career."

And further her career she did, going first to Fort Smith and then to Austin, Texas.

"Jonesboro was a great place to live and work," Cook said. "It was a great place to start and part of me wishes I was back there still to this day.

"I remember Diana. I wanted to be like Diana, and I still want to be like Diana."

By the way, Huckabee credits her appearance on the network with Spencer Christian, who used to be on Good Morning America. Laura says she made friends with Christian and he's been a "cheerleader" for her pursuits in television.