Suggest to WCCO-TV’s Terri Gruca that she has a "light from within" or that she communicates decency in a medium that has more than its share of blow-dried phonies, and she’ll barely answer or else try to deflect the compliment.
The 35-year-old consumer reporter and weekend anchor is funny, smart, assured and loving Downtown living while wishing it were a fuller experience.
Born in small-town Pennsylvania and uprooted to Hendersonville, N.C., when she was 6, Terri shared space with her parents and four siblings. Back-to-school shopping for sneakers meant a trip to the local Sears, where the bargain-priced store brand that the kids bought was named "The Winner," an also ran in a market dominated by high-end Nike.
"Smart shopping doesn’t always mean pricey or trendy," says Terri, in typical fashion. "And I look things over and sometimes wait days before coming back to the store."
Spontaneous, quick to laugh, and bonded with her weekend television cohorts, Terri has found a home at the station and Downtown, where she has lived for as long as she has been in Minneapolis. Here are highlights from a recent interview with the television personality.
How did you end up with a job like this?
I worked for the campus radio station at the University of North Carolina, and while I loved writing, I also liked putting images and words together. TV met that need.
It’s cold here. Weren’t you hesitant?
This is a great market for news and storytelling. I viewed coming here four-and-a-half years ago as the chance of a lifetime.
How did you meet your husband Greg?
We were working out at the UNC gym. Actually, I exercise everyday in the building where I live. Fitness is an example my mother set.
What’s good and bad about Downtown?
It’s mostly good. I always wanted to live in a city. But there could be more retail choices. I’d also like a grocery store where I could stop on my way home from work
Does weekend work kill your social life?
It can get in the way. But I work with great colleagues. [On-air cohorts are Dennis Douda, Bob Rainey, Mike Fairbourne and Mark Rosen on Sundays.] We even have a book club. Freakonomics is the current project.
Does it lead if it bleeds?
I think that’s an overworked statement and inaccurate besides. We report violence and crime, but we also work to balance the news with stories people can learn from and enjoy.
What’s on your iPod?
Would you believe I don’t own one? I have an MP3 player that cost only $50. It can function as a radio when I want. I download Daughtry, Santana and Nelly Furtado, among others. I admit to a little Rick Springfield.
Any kids or pets?
No. As far as animals go, I tell friends that Greg sheds enough as it is.
You went with the 82nd Airborne to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in the late ’90s. What was that all about?
I covered the first joint training exercise between U.S. and Russian troops. At the time, no one knew how important these Mideast countries would be in staging the Iraq war.
Who gives you your report card?
I suppose viewers do over time. We use focus groups and telephone surveys to help management gauge performance.
Do you have any role models?
Julie Nelson, an anchor at KARE-11, is fabulous, comfortable and capable. I think of Amelia [Santaniello] in the same way. I have always admired Diane Sawyer. Bob Schieffer is terrific and unpretentious. I’ve done promos with Katie Couric and I like her.
Should merchants worry when you show up at their door?
They should recognize that I represent the consumer and that I’ll work to get it right. I want the truth from people, and I don’t think that’s asking for too much.
Terry Thompson lives in Loring Park and is a writer and teacher. He’ll be writing "About Us" profiles for the Downtown Journal’s "Voices" section.