Much has changed since Denise Koch joined WJZ-TV's newsroom in 1982. There's its very branding--it switched from ABC affiliation to CBS in 1994; the endless changing of the guard for her local household-name colleagues on-air; and, perhaps most crucially, there's the nature of the news itself.
"Because of the 24-hour news cycle with cable news, we began to do extended coverage whenever there was a real issue," she recalls. "The job became much more intense."
Juggling her roles as a TV journalist, a partner to her husband and mother to two twin girls, Koch has anchored for channel 13 for more than three decades. In 2019, she remains a fixture at the station, even as she bids farewell to more and more of her veteran counterparts.
Aside from the D.C. sniper killings of 2002, some of her most memorable stories she's covered are recent. She points to the June 2018 mass shooting in the Capital Gazette newsroom, the sudden death of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz one month earlier and the 2015 unrest following Freddie Gray's death in police custody.
"It was extremely difficult, and a high, high intensity," she recalls of that spring. "But it also brought home to me what I thought what so important about what we do in local news. That was our responsibility, that was our calling, and that night I felt that we were giving a vital service to the community."
"The people in this community wanted to know what was going on, and they could see and watch exactly what was happening. That was one of the most important nights of my life as a news anchor after more than 30 years."
Koch stepped away from the late-night anchor spot to a daytime reporter-anchor role two years ago. It was her choice: "I want to go back to reporting," she remembers saying. "It's what I loved about this job in the beginning… The days I get to go out, it gives it consequence, it makes it exciting, it makes me feel alive again. It's what I love about this."
For Koch, who's downsizing from a home in the county and exploring a move back into the city, it's given her a more "familial feeling" with the people of Baltimore.
"I have met, in the last two years, people who were doing incredible stuff, sometimes 20 minutes away from where I work," she says. "It has reinvigorated me with my work, and it has re-instilled a love in me about my community."