PORTLAND — When asked which stories she has been most proud of in her 28 years as a television journalist, Susan Kimball is quick to answer.
“The series on hunger (in the early 1990s), when we told people about the thousands of children in Maine who go to bed hungry every night, children right here in Portland,” Kimball said.
“We had heard some statistics on hunger in Maine at a conference, and couldn’t believe it. So we just went knocking on doors on Grant Street (in Portland) and found people to tell this story,” she said.
Kimball, who is 57 and has spent more than 20 years as a reporter at WCSH-TV in Portland (Channel 6), is leaving TV journalism. Her last day at the station is today.
During her time at WCSH, Kimball has done investigative pieces, consumer stories, snowstorm coverage and everything in between. Her colleagues say she’s one of the best, if not the best, reporter they have worked with because of her unique set of skills and personality traits.
“She has this amazing blend of a great brain and a great heart, with terrific writing ability and a great feel for people,” said Don Carrigan, a fellow WCSH reporter who has been on Maine TV since 1973. “She is simply the best I’ve seen.”
Kimball says she still loves her job but feels it’s time to try something different — although she’s not sure what that will be. When she began working in TV news in 1982, she was trying something new, and it worked out pretty well.
Kimball, who was raised in Connecticut, never considered journalism as a career when she was young. Instead, she focused on going to law school, beginning from the time “my grandmother told me to go to law school.”
After getting her law degree, she went to work for Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Presque Isle, in far northern Maine. The idea of helping people who needed a lawyer appealed to her, and she liked being a lawyer.
“But at that age, I felt if I was going to do a job for the next 30 years, I wanted to love it, not just like it,” she said.
So she talked to the management at Presque Isle TV station WAGM and became a reporter. “From the time I walked into a newsroom, I knew I was home,” she said.
Kimball moved on to WCSH in 1985. Except for two years at a station in Minneapolis, her TV news career has been in Maine.
Although she is proud of her investigative and consumer reporting, she relishes being able to tell people’s stories. One piece she remembers fondly was on Vietnam veterans looking back on how they didn’t feel welcomed when they came home from the war.
“One of the (veterans) in the story went out to breakfast the next day (after the story aired), and about a dozen people came up to him and said, ‘Welcome home,’ ” Kimball said. “That really touched me.”
WCSH will do its own story on Kimball tonight, during the 6 o’clock news. Carrigan, who will report the piece, has interviewed people who have worked with her and will air pieces of stories Kimball reported.
The last story Kimball did for WCSH was typical of the people-oriented pieces that she was often assigned. She went to Haiti to profile the Rev. Marc Boisvert, a Lewiston native who runs a community for about 800 homeless children, Hope Village.
Kimball called the trip to Haiti a “life-changing” experience.
“In the first 30 minutes I was there, I just found the poverty overwhelming,” Kimball said. “Now, when I wake up every day, I try to really appreciate what we have here.”
Although Kimball doesn’t know what she might do next, she has always been interested in politics and social service.
“I’ve been lucky to do a job I love this much, but my heart just told me it was time for a change,” she said.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: