BHS grad Brenda Burdette: TV news journalist

BHS grad Brenda Burdette: TV news journalistBruce Auld, a former Sierra Sands Unified School District Superintendent, is writing the history of Burroughs High School. The articles that are being published are excerpts from his upcoming book, exclusive to The News Review.

I first remember Brenda Burdette as an eleven-year-old purple suited High Desert Swim Team swimmer at the China Lake indoor pool. I was her coach. From the Burroughs Class of 1984, Brenda graduated from UC Irvine with a degree in political science with an emphasis in international relations. Given her degree, one would think that Brenda would pursue a career in international law. Instead, she interned at KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, mentored by live television pioneer and legendary reporter Stan Chambers. Recognizing her talent, KTLA promoted Brenda to news writer and associate producer of a current affairs talk show.

After KTLA, Brenda free-lanced as a live newscaster and anchor in cities across the country, before landing her dream jobs in the San Francisco television news market with KRON-TV (NBC) and KGO-TV (ABC). During her career, Brenda focused primarily on “hard” news, including politics and crime. Her live interviews with people from all walks of life, included US presidents (Bush and Clinton), Olympians and even serial killers. Brenda found each interview fascinating, learning something from each interview.

While working in San Francisco, Russ Katsumoto was assigned to Brenda as her photographer. Russ graduated from Burroughs in 1983. Neither Brenda nor Russ knew each other were in the news business. They hadn’t seen each other since attending Burroughs. Brenda’s last broadcast assignment was in Los Angeles (ABC channel 7). Brenda gave up the daily “doom and destruction” of hard news to stay at home with her then young, now adult, two children and pursue new interests. Brenda has also written for magazines and has produced television documentaries.

Brenda is currently working on a book and TV show on her true passion: art, architecture and design from around the world, “a way to erase the harshness of what she saw in her television news career and delve into a more serene, beautiful and peaceful life.” Brenda decided to combine her love of research and writing with her never-ending quest for discovering inspiring healers, designers, gorgeous art and fascinating travel spots, a drive given to her by her mother Rosie. Although serving in several key capacities at Burroughs, Mom Rosie is an accomplished artist and photographer.

“Brenda travels the world looking for inspiring design, luxury travel destinations, holistic beauty and wellness centers, chic shops and beautiful restaurants. All the while connecting with healers, poets and artist along the way.” (Interviews with Brenda)

Brenda met her husband Chris at UC Irvine. They have been married for thirty-one years. Chris is an executive with a computer software company based in the Silicon Valley. Brenda and Chris’ daughter, Marelle, graduated from New York University and began her modelling career at age 16. Marelle has been featured in magazines, such as Marie Claire and Seventeen. Marelle has modelled for several clothing and make-up brands, including J. Crew, Abercrombie and Ralph Lauren. Brenda and Chris’ son, Andres, recently graduated with honors from John Hopkins University, majoring in Economics with a minor in Applied Mathematics. Andres recently finished working on the tenth season of American Horror Story as a production assistant and is launching his career in film. (Interview with Brenda Burdette)

Brenda was a 1983 homecoming princess, song leader and voted “Best Body” by the Class of 1984. Brenda’s father Bill was a chemist at China Lake. Younger brother Steve (BHS 1986) was a standout athlete at Burroughs, now a retired sergeant from the Newport Beach Police Department. Sister Stacey (BHS 1988) returned to Burroughs to teach and coach, as did her husband Chad Stoner (BHS 1986.) Stacey currently teaches English at Liberty High School. Chad is an Education Specialist in the Kern High School District Special Education Department in Bakersfield.

Elise Smith: TV News Executive Producer

Elise Smith’s maternal grandparents graduated from the University of Oklahoma (OU). Her mother, Kirsti Smith, longtime principal of Murray Middle School (both the old and the new campus) was born in Norman, Oklahoma. Graduating from Burroughs in 2007, Elise was the Associated Student Body (ASB) Commissioner of Communications. A talented singer, Elise’s post high school plan was to win American Idol and sign a recording contract. (2006 El Burro) Given her Oklahoma roots, Elise enrolled in OU’s Gaylord School of Journalism and graduated in three years. Elise began her television news career at KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City as the morning news producer. Currently, Elise is Executive Producer of news at Sacramento’s KCRA-TV, an NBC affiliate.

Elise’s brother, Kyle (BHS 2009), graduated from another OU, the University of Oregon. Burroughs legendary teacher Charlie Humphreys had retired from fulltime teaching, yet taught Russian parttime at Cerro Coso. Kyle was one of his Russian students. Kyle graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in International Studies with an emphasis in Russian language. Kyle studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia for two years and spent two years teaching English in Moscow. Kyle is currently a threat analyst for Amazon, specializing in Russian threats.

After over 40 years of service to China Lake and Ridgecrest, Bon Voyage to Kirsti and Scott Smith, as they return to their Chico, California roots and grandson, two-year-old Jude and granddaughter, three-month-old Lennon.

Pictured: Brands Burdette covering breaking news on camera in San Francisco.

Story First Published: 2022-03-18