WCAX's Darren Perron
Ever since he was little, Darren Perron wanted to be a storyteller. Today, that dream has become a reality: he is an executive producer and news anchor at WCAX Channel 3 News.
This Vermont native has won an Emmy Award, nine Emmy Award Nominations, 12 Associated Press Awards and 10 Edward R. Murrow Awards, and was also nominated for a GLAAD Award in 2009 for his series, “Becoming”.
In his short career, Perron has already proven himself a versatile journalist, transitioning easily between hard, investigative reports and heartwarming, in-depth interviews on a wide variety of topics. Perron has covered issues ranging from the war in Afghanistan to investigative stories about the Vermont prison system and more.
In 2010, Perron and Channel 3 News photographer Lance MacKenzie spent two weeks in Afghanistan, reporting on the Vermont National Guard troops stationed there.
For Perron, a native of Barton and Glover Vermont who said he “wasn’t a well-travelled kid”, covering the war was a new experience.
“Where I grew up, it’s so rural that Burlington is considered a big city, and anywhere below Rutland is considered the South,” he said.
He called his experiences there “educational, emotional, frightening and fascinating”.
“I came away from that with stories of heartbreak and triumph,” he said.
Of all the interviews he has done, Perron said his most memorable were his interviews with Ed and Karen Matayka, a couple deployed together to Afghanistan. In 2010, Ed, a sergeant, was critically wounded in a bomb blast that took both of his legs, and gave him a traumatic brain injury, a spinal fracture, and a stroke.
“He was basically on death’s door, and Karen was a medic on the Vermont National Guard stationed with Ed as well,” Perron said. “She rushed to his side, and she’s been there ever since.”
“They are such an inspiration together,” Perron said. “Doing the interview with this couple, [who] had gone through such trauma, and seeing the joy and love that they have for these kids, was extremely heartwarming.”
His portfolio also includes a series called “Killer Kids”, for which he travelled to prison facilities outside Vermont where some of the most notorious criminals are being housed because of overcrowding in the state.
“While I have done some quirky, oddball stories, I think “Killer Kids” may have been the strangest,” Perron said. “It was so strange to be sitting across from young people, interviewing them in jail cells about their victims and what drove them to murder.”
Perron has done a lot of fun stories, too, he said.
“I got to fly an F-16 with the Thunderbirds one time-- it was really cool,” he said. “You have access to people you wouldn’t normally have access to. There are a lot of really amazing things happening in Vermont, and you get to be a witness in this job- a witness of history.”
A graduate of Castleton State College, Perron said there are a few reasons he decided to stay in Vermont after college.
“Primarily, this is home for me,” he said. “I’m fortunate that I get to work at a station that is still locally owned, which is very rare in this field. We get to cover issues that really matter to Vermonters, and because it’s my home, that matters to me.”
Perron said his interest in journalism stems from his grandfather’s passion for news.
“It was sort of my treat at the end of the week to stay at my grandparents’ house,” he said. “My grandfather was a bit of a news junkie, and together, we’d watch CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt. I loved the news more than I loved cartoons.”
His grandfather, a businessman, taught Perron about the news business, as well as the importance of staying up to date with current events.
“He was a really funny man- he was witty and smart, and I really looked up to him, and because he was interested in the news, I became interested in the news at a very young age,” Perron said.
Perron said he considers it a privilege to work as a journalist.
“You share these intimate moments with people, and it’s because of that job that you’re able to experience those things,” he said. “People invite you into their homes, into their lives, during their most triumphant times, the best of times and the worst of times, and those stories need to be told as well.”
He said he also enjoys the “clean slate” each day presents in the newsroom.
“In some ways, it’s the same every day, in that we come in, we figure out the goings-on of the day, what stories we’re going to cover, but in many other ways it’s different every day,” he said. “The topics will be different every day, and you get to learn a little about a lot of things.”
One of the biggest challenges Perron faces a journalist is reporting on tragedy.
“It’s not easy to pick up the phone and call a family whose son or daughter may have been wounded or killed in the war zone, for example,” he said. “Those cold calls are the most challenging part of this business.”
Since Vermont is such a small state, the chances of having some kind of connection to a story where there has been a tragedy in a community are high, he said.
“You know personally how that can impact a community,” he said. “It’s difficult to cover those stories.”
But every story must be told, he said.
“They can’t all be festivals and fun things- cheese festivals, the wine festivals, the things that make Vermont cool,” he said.
As for advice for young aspiring journalists, Perron said that although the gradebooks have been closed and the old tests boxed away, it’s important to continue to grade oneself even after graduation.
“High marks will come from your own internal sense of decency,” he said.
“People will remember you not for how many awards you win, or how high your ratings are, but how you’ve made the world more interesting,” he said. “If you enter the job market, clean up your Facebook and Twitter pages, and remember: your boss’s jokes are always funny.”
Favorite Vermont Escape?
The Northeast Kingdom.
I really like Phish, Heart, Dolly Parton. It’s sort of an eclectic arrange here, but I really like U2, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. It’s a pretty wide range.
Most inspiring mentor?
I would say, professionally, I can list off probably about five people who were instrumental in helping me shape the type of journalist I’ve become. That would be Bethany Dunbar, a print reporter at The Chronicle, Tena Starr, an editor at The Chronicle in Barton, Marselis Parsons, Will Mikell, who gave me my first internship, and Anson Tebbetts, who is the new news director at Channel 3 now. I interned under Anson when I was at Castleton, in the Rutland bureau, he recommended to Marselis that I be hired, and that’s how I got the job.
The WCAX stream app, of course!
What’s one fun fact about you that few people would guess?
I love dancing and white water rafting.
Favorite class in high school?
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I ask myself that all the time. I suspect I’ll still be here in Vermont because it’s home, and I love it here so much that it’s hard to imagine being anyplace else. But never say never. You never know what’s around the corner.