Rachel Parr is 23 years old and sits inside a late model Suburban, her breath visible in the frigid darkness. Already tonight, she has scrambled on top of the vehicle to manually raise the transmitting mast which had iced over. Having successfully broadcast her story in time for the 10 o’clock news to the Cedar Rapids affiliate, she begins to realize something extraordinarily unpleasant. She will have to make another trip to de-ice the top of the SUV. The mast has frozen. Again.
This scenario was far from the journalism career she envisioned as an apple-cheeked Mizzou freshman. At the time, Rachel never considered not going into the TV news. She presumed it was her destiny and had every reason to think that way. Articulate, pretty, and with an agreeable demeanor that puts you at ease, Rachel is everything you’d expect of a professional television personality. She possesses a comforting confidence. She is an authentic and self-effacing storyteller.
In 2004, however, all she had was an undergraduate degree and a passion for the daily news business. She was offered an entry-level position for the Cedar Rapids KCRG affiliate in Dubuque, Iowa. Rachel refers to the job as one-man-banding, but it’s also known as “backpack journalism,” or by the more sophisticated moniker, “multi-media reporting.” No matter how the title is dressed up, the duties required are impressively varied, all while lacking the glamor of a traditional studio gig.
For Rachel, one-man-banding involved researching stories, writing her own scripts, reporting those stories, and shooting and editing all the footage.
It wasn’t without some perks. When asked if anyone ever recognized her from TV, Rachel tells of putting her equipment away after a standup shoot in downtown Dubuque. Bob (her college sweetheart who would later become her husband) was coming in town for a visit and she was in a hurry to meet him. In her eagerness, she caught her finger collapsing a tripod. She looked down, saw the blood, and promptly fainted on the sidewalk. A reporter from another station saw her go down and rushed to her aid. “Hey, aren’t you from the news?” he joked, calling the ambulance. She managed to return a wan smile.
On top of being solely responsible for producing the stories, Rachel also had to transmit her work for broadcast, which was no small chore. To find an area where signals wouldn’t be interrupted by river bluffs in the hilly areas surrounding Dubuque, Rachel often had to drive off the beaten path.
And that is how Rachel Parr found herself climbing on top of the KCRG news van on a cold night during the winter of 2004.
Her fingers numb, frustrated and tired, for the first time, Rachel began to consider a career change.
That didn’t mean Rachel wasn’t entirely done being in front of the camera. In St. Louis, she landed a job hosting a local real estate show on KMOV. Virtually Open House aired weekly and though she had a newfound appreciation for her production crew and the show enjoyed a modest success, she saw a more stable future in public relations. After landing an internship at a downtown firm and spending a few years at a boutique shop, she found her path changing again with a move into advertising.
Now with more than a decade of advertising experience, as an account supervisor at Paradowski Rachel brings to her role the sensible maturity and disarming charisma of an experienced reporter. While there’s no frozen farmland or grisly equipment mishaps, Rachel wears just as many hats as she did in her Dubuque days. What made her a natural journalist is the same thing that makes her an indispensable addition to our team. Rachel, effortlessly and consistently, builds professional relationships by virtue of her strident amiability and infectious good humor.
Growing up on a hobby farm in rural Jordan, Minnesota, it was these characteristics that shined in her campaign for the title of “Dairy Princess,” a county-wide contest Rachel entered as a high school junior. In the tradition of her aunts and grandma before her, she won. Being a Dairy Princess, it turns out, is almost exactly what it sounds like. She was an ambassador for the dairy industry in her community handing out ice cream at banks, gifting dairy baskets to new babies, and riding in an occasional parade.
Dairy Princesses go on to compete at the regional level to become the "Princess Kay of the Milky Way" and are honored by having their likeness carved from butter and displayed at the Minnesota state fair.
Rachel’s dad promised to host a big pancake breakfast if she won so they could invite people to carve off hunks from her greasy effigy to melt and spread it on their stack of flapjacks. Sadly, it was not to be. Rachel didn’t advance to regionals and there was no pancake breakfast in Jordan that year.
Her time as Dairy Princess seems a world away from Rachel these days. Most of her time outside of work is spent with her children Britton, Mira and Remi at their home on a Wildwood, Missouri acreage.
As a young couple, she and Bob moved from place to place—an apartment in South County, a downtown loft, but she enjoys the seclusion of where she lives now. It’s a good area for kids to grow up, she thinks. When they bought it over two years ago, three bedrooms seemed like plenty.
Now, the twins Mira and Remi have to share. She drives home through rolling country hills in the fading midwestern dusklight past gravel roads where, as a young reporter, she might have pulled over to send the day’s stories through the airwaves. She parks her car and looks into the lit windows of her house where Bob has already started dinner. For the former Scott County Dairy Princess, the indefatigable journalist of Dubuque, and Paradowski account service superhero, it’s a happy thought.