Jane Mitchell’s career began with a rental car and a trunk full of resume tapes.
Freshly graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 1986, then 23-year old Mitchell packed her things into a boxy Chrysler K rental car, purchased an Ann Taylor suit, called ahead to set up interviews and road mapped her way to TV stations all across the Virginias, Carolinas and Tennessee in search of a job.
After 3,000 miles and 30 stations in three weeks, she received just two job offers.
After two more road trips to the Southern California coast and Texas, her stamina and resourcefulness landed her a job at KAUZ-TV, a CBS affiliate in Wichita Falls, Texas, launching a career that would lead to 28 Emmy awards, one of the top achievements in TV journalism.
In between those two vastly different points — from a rental car with resume tapes to a built-in at her Coronado home dedicated to the Emmys — Mitchell went through a few career switches.
Along with hard news coverage, she produced 15 seasons and over 100 episodes of One on One with Jane Mitchell, and she was a caregiver for both of her aging parents.
She now raises her daughter Lily as a single mother by choice in Coronado and assists others in preserving and telling their stories through her series Your Story. Your Legacy.
On the horizon for Mitchell is a podcast that would put her back into the sports world, reconnecting with many of her past interviewees.
“Don’t be a half baked potato”
When interviewing guests on her show, Mitchell said she always starts at the beginning in her book, “One on One: My Journey with Hall of Famers, Fan Favorites and Rising Stars.”
Starting at the beginning of Mitchell’s life means taking a look at the lessons from her parents, lessons that were fundamental to producing habits that Mitchell took with her into her success.
Mitchell’s mother, Ann, was an elementary school teacher and her father, Cdr. “J” Wallace (Wally) Mitchell, served 30 years in the Navy in three wars: WW II, Korea and Vietnam.
She saw their work-ethic and was taught to never do a job half-done. Her mom frequently used the line, “don’t be a half baked potato.”
“I use that expression with Lily,” Mitchell said.
Sitting next to her mom on the couch, 9-year-old Lily said that was her favorite line from her grandma.
Mitchell’s parents were also avid travelers on modest salaries, taking their four kids through Europe by youth hostel and Volkswagen van.
“I learned to be flexible, to think on my feet and to adjust as needed.”-Jane Mitchell on learning from her parents.
“I think the other thing that they didn’t really teach me, but they showed me and we all lived, was being able to switch gears quickly and be spontaneous,” Mitchell said. “I learned to be flexible, to think on my feet and to adjust as needed.”
Mitchell knew she wanted to be a reporter in 8th grade.
After graduating from Coronado High School and writing for the Coronado Journal, she went to the University of California San Diego to study political science and minor in literature and visual arts.
After graduate program at Northwestern and her first job in Wichita Falls, she moved to cover hard news in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1988.
It was in Tulsa where she received a phone call that her dad was sick.
She decided to return home to Coronado, despite what others said about losing traction in her career.
“I can always get another job, but I can’t get another father.”-Jane Mitchell
“I just thought, I can always get another job, but I can’t get another father,” Mitchell said.
She was hired by KNSD-TV, San Diego’s NBC affiliate, as a writer and field producer.
One on One with Jane Mitchell
She eventually landed an opportunity with Channel 4 San Diego, producing One on One with Jane Mitchell, a series diving into the stories of San Diego’s professional athletes and sports figures.
“I didn’t know that would happen with Channel 4; I took a chance. I took a big chance,” Mitchell said. “But those fundamental things from childhood really stuck with me. It’s not always easy, but you find a way to power through.”
Mitchell went from doing one minute, 30-second clips of hard news to producing 30 minute shows.
She felt like she had a chance to breathe, she said.
Athletes invited her into their homes to meet their families, go through their scrapbooks and ask about every aspect of their lives, both within and outside of the realm of sports.
“I tried to honor their story and I took great responsibility of taking everything that I knew, and putting that in something that would be a fair and accurate, if not just a beautiful portrait of them,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell has interviewed some of the most beloved sports figures such as Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees, Jerry Coleman, Trevor Hoffman and Ted Williams.
A significant part of Mitchell’s recent story, which she values deeply, was being able to care for her mother before she passed away in 2021.
Mitchell and Lily would spend time with her every day. She considers it a blessing for Lily to grow up with her grandmother nearby.
In a video Mitchell has from documenting her journey of becoming a single mother by choice, Mitchell’s mother said she was so excited for the birth and hoped to be around to see what her little girl became.
She was able to know and care for Lily until she was eight years old.
Mitchell had Lily, who she said is her greatest joy, in 2013 when she was 50.
After waiting a long time to become a mother, Mitchell has reallocated her time to focus on raising her daughter.
“She is a joy, she is so much fun and I cannot imagine my life without her.”-Jane Mitchell on her daughter, Lily.
“I know that if I had been a mother earlier, something would have had to give,” Mitchell said. “I waited a long time, just the way life happened. I want to enjoy her. She is a joy, she is so much fun and I cannot imagine my life without her.”
Mitchell currently works part time on Your Story. Your Legacy and is involved with the Coronado community such as being a judge for Coronado’s Talent and attending school events and extracurricular activities for Lily.
To learn more about Jane Mitchell visit http://www.janemitchelloneonone.com/.