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By Kenny Norman
Southsider Voice correspondent
The Associated Press has presented photojournalist Karan Deardorff with its Best Sports and Light features awards for a medium market. Deardorff, a 1983 graduate of Perry Meridian High School who works for WBBH NBC 2 in Fort Myers, Fla., was recognized April 11 during a ceremony in Orlando, Fla.
“It was a surreal week,” said Deardorff. “We had just gone up and gotten the trophy for the light feature. There was nervousness and a sigh of relief. It was the best feeling I could ever imagine.”
Her reporter for the sports piece was Brian Colleran; she was joined by reporter Jim Spiewak and fellow photojournalist Scott Reilly for the feature story.
Colleran has been with the station for seven years. He received a tip on a story about flowboarding, which incorporates the elements of surfing, bodyboarding, skateboarding, snowboarding and wakeboarding, from a high school athletic director.
“Karan came over from another station, and this was the only time Karan and I had worked together,” said Colleran.
“I’ve been in broadcast news since graduating from Ball State University in 1987 with a BS in telecommunications with a news emphasis,” said Deardorff.
While attending Perry Meridian, she was active in theater, was on the girls swim team and worked on the school newspaper, The Focus. Deardorff said she considers the Southside home, and it would be her first choice if she were able to return. She stays in touch with high school friends through social media.
“A part of me will always be on the Southside, swimming at Perry Park or Baxter Y, playing Little League softball and hanging with friends after a football or basketball game. The Southside is a great place. It has grown so much over the last 15 years since I left. It has so much to offer that many people don’t realize.”
When she was a senior at Ball State, a professor suggested that she become a photojournalist. Deardorff ended up doing an internship at the CBS affiliate WKYT in Lexington, Ky.
“I’ve always been a photojournalist; a news photographer if you will,” said Deardorff. “I do not like being referred to as a camera person because photogs do a lot more than aim a camera.”
Deardorff moved to Louisville two and a half years later to work for WHAS-TV before moving back to Indianapolis two years later for a job at WXIN-Fox 59. Other endeavors include working for WTHR-TV Channel 13.
“Although my initial goal when I started college was to be in front of the camera, I am very happy being behind the lens, capturing the heart and soul of a community and being able to string a two-minute story together, editing together the sound and video I was able to capture.”
She has been with WBBH since September 2014. She previously was a general assignment photojournalist for WINK TV, the CBS affiliate in Fort Myers. Deardorff said the most interesting aspects of her job vary daily, from people she meets to the stories she gets to tell as a result.
“I’ve met presidents and presidential candidates,” said Deardorff. “I’ve flown in the Goodyear blimp. I’ve covered Indy 500s, the Pacers, Colts, Hoosiers, Bulldogs.” She witnessed the 2010 Nashville floods, Oklahoma tornadoes and the Carrolton bus crash funerals and trial. However, she felt a range of varied emotions when she was announced as the winner of two AP awards.
“I was just a little bit overwhelmed by everything that just happened. Fortunately, I didn’t have to speak. Everyone has a story, and I love being able to find out what it is.”
For her winning sports story, she and Colleran drove across Florida for the flowboarding piece, which aired last fall.
“We had two and a half hours in the car together to trade ideas and know what to expect,” said Colleran. “Karan shot setup of the story all by herself. I was anchoring sports that night, and she also shot video. It’s kind of unique how Karan and I could win the award on our first try together. I think that’s pretty neat.”
Deardorff also mentioned being involved with Florida Gulf Coast’s run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA basketball tournament two years ago, the Kentucky Derby, meeting Euncie Kennedy Shriver, covering Derek Jeter’s last game in Tampa, watching a community unite and rise like a phoenix after a disaster and meeting her idol, Jane Pauley.
“These things stay with you, they affect you, they hurt, you cry, you grow stronger,” said Deardorff. “I’ve always said the day these things stop getting to me is the day I need to get out of news.”
She credits her late mother with being her biggest inspiration in life. Her mom frequently stated that “can’t’ never did anything,” and Deardorff noted that her mother was one of the strongest people she’d ever known. Deardorff also added that her dad and two older sisters inspire her as well and that her career success would not be possible without their love and support.
“Anyone who knows Karan knows she’s a positive person and that she’s very talented,” said Colleran. “Karan was vital to the whole process.”
Lauren Stillwell, WBBH assistant news director, said Deardorff is a positive, energetic photographer with an eye for the creative. “She understands the importance of teamwork to make stories the best they can be.”