"I never was an athlete growing up," said Jessie Garcia, TODAY'S TMJ4 sports reporter and anchor. "But I've always loved writing and telling stories, which is what I'm doing everyday." Growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, Jessie, like lots of kids, had thoughts of becoming a veterinarian or an actress one day. But once she reached junior high, she knew she wanted to be a writer or journalist. "I always thought I'd be a newspaper writer," she said.
Instead, Jessie started honing her interviewing skills. "I loved to interview people when I was a kid. My mom still has these hysterical cassette tapes of me interviewing her and even my cat." It was her step-father, however, who passed on his passion for sports. He and Jessie would go to Badger games together when she was a young teenager. She's been hooked on the excitement of sports ever since. "It's all about the emotion of the games," said Jessie. "I'm not much of a stats person. I like telling the story of what's behind the team, win or lose."
While attending Madison East High School, Jessie ran track, played softball and was a cheerleader. She also wrote for her school's newspaper, covering both news and sports, but she definitely liked the sports assignments better. "I like the creativity. You can write with all those great adjectives and really have fun with it."
After high school, Jessie headed east to Boston University. Her first day on campus, she joined the newspaper staff and eventually became assistant sports editor. "The experience was great," she said. "I covered everything from BU hockey, which is really big out there, to swimming, lacrosse...just about everything."
While maintaining a 3.5 grade point average, working at the school newspaper, and enjoying a college social life, Jessie managed to work a TV news internship into her schedule. When she got home for summer break in 1991, she took on yet another internship, with WISC-TV Channel 3 in Madison. "I begged and pleaded with the news director for a sports internship," said Jessie. "He finally gave it to me. I learned so much in that one summer."
When asked about her first professional experience covering sports, Jessie recalled her assignment to cover the boys state baseball tournament in Wausau, Wis. "I had to drive to Wausau by myself. I was meeting the photographer and was to watch the whole game and get the story. Well, the game got over real late. There I was, driving back from Wausau with my heart pounding. I think I walked in the door at 10:05, and the story was scheduled to air at something like 10:20. I really found out what it means to be on deadline and the stress that comes along with it, but I guess it wasn't enough to scare me away."
The decision to return home after graduation wasn't a hard one for Jessie, who's very close to her family and, back then, had a fiance (now husband) waiting. "I spent a year away from Paul when I was at school and he was still in Madison."
WISC offered Jessie a part-time sports reporter position, which turned full-time early the next year. Since Madison is such a big sports town, there always were more than enough stories to cover. "The job kept me running," said Jessie.
Throughout her two years at WISC, Jessie primarily reported, but did a fair share of anchoring, as well. As she was finishing her second year at Channel 3, TODAY'S TMJ4 in Milwaukee was adding two additional newscasts to its line-up, and veteran sports director Hank Stoddard was getting ready to retire. The sports department was looking for additional team members.
Through a combination of good timing and assertive networking, Jessie landed the job as reporter/anchor at TODAY'S TMJ4 in June 1994. Viewers instantly respected Jessie because she knows her stuff and she works hard, which is recognized by viewers and athletes alike. "Being a woman in sports broadcasting, I didn't know what to expect at first," said Jessie. "Overall, my experience has been extremely positive. Wisconsin athletes, in particular, are very professional, even in the locker room. I don't feel that I've been treated differently than any other reporter. There's a mutual respect. We're all just trying to do our jobs."
You might also recognize Jessie from her work with a certain sports team in Green Bay. She's been the sideline reporter for pre-season Packers games on TODAY'S TMJ4 since 2003. She is also co-host of "The Mike McCarthy Show" which is seen every Tuesday night at 6:30 during Packers season.
Jessie and Paul are the proud parents of two boys. Jake was born in 1999 and Charlie was born in 2003. The four of them spend a lot of time traveling back and forth to Madison and St. Paul, MN where Paul grew up. Jessie finds it challenging and rewarding to juggle her career and motherhood. When not working Jessie, Paul and the boys enjoy the outdoors.