Memphis born and raised, newscaster Jeané Franseen is no stranger to Arkansas, but it has taken her a little while to learn the tricks of navigating Little Rock.
It helps that the bridges across the Arkansas River, unlike the Hernando de Soto Bridge in her hometown, are uncracked and open to traffic.
The Memphis bridge, which carries Interstate 40 across the Mississippi from Tennessee into Arkansas, was shut down May 11 after a crack was discovered in its truss. That was about five weeks into Franseen’s new job at KATV, Channel 7.
“Oh, don’t even ask me about the bridge,” she joked, noting that any trips back home will take a good deal longer until repairs are made. She’s perfecting her Little Rock routines, but still hasn’t fully unpacked since joining the Little Rock ABC affiliate on March 31. “I hope to have all my things and pots and pans out of boxes by the end of June.”
As a girl, she said, she’d visit Little Rock with her mom “to go to the outlet malls and see the Clinton Library,” but she said the city — and particularly the River Market area — has changed vastly since her childhood.
“It’s a busy news town; there’s always something going on,” she said, adding that canned features aren’t necessary for weekend newscasts. “We always have something fresh.”
Little Rock has more than its share of crime, and lots of breaking news, she said. “We’re also getting the word out on things happening on the weekends — festivals, community events, updates and even traffic alerts.”
She praised her “great producers” for their efficiency, and thanked weeknight anchors Chris May and Beth Hunt for being “helpful and wonderful.”
“My first market out of college was El Dorado [KTEV] in 2014, and about that time I was interviewing Leslie Rutledge and Tom Cotton, who were both campaigning to get their foot in the door in politics,” Franseen said. “It was the Monroe, Louisiana, market, but the station was licensed to El Dorado, so I did a lot of south Arkansas stories.”
Cotton took office as the state’s junior U.S. senator in 2015, the same year Rutledge became Arkansas attorney general. “Now I’m getting my foot in the door of Little Rock TV news, and they both remember me.”
She moved on to the Shreveport market, often covering Texarkana, then returned to Memphis for a reporting job at WATN. From there, it was back to Shreveport as morning anchor. “I’ve always stayed in the Mid-South. So it’s kind of like I made a big circle.”
Five-foot-nine and fashionable, the Middle Tennessee State University graduate projects poise, and her polished presentation style belies her just six years of experience. (She turned 28 just this month.) One longtime viewer suggested to News Director Nick Genty that the young newscaster has star power; he didn’t disagree, but she demurred.
“I think I’m confident, but also humble enough to want to learn every day,” Franseen said. “During the week, when I’m reporting, Beth and Chris have both been amazing, helping with technology and helping me learn to be a better storyteller. I like to think I’m experienced enough to basically know what I’m doing, but as the pandemic has taught us, you’re never done learning.”
Anchor Pulls Up Stakes
Meanwhile, another Little Rock reporter and anchor is moving on.
Susanne Brunner, the morning anchor on “KARK 4 Today” and a popular eight-year veteran of Channel 4 and its sister station KLRT, Fox 16, is hitting the airwaves of Dallas-Fort Worth.
Her last workday in Little Rock was May 28, and she announced on Twitter that she’s joining the “Daybreak” team at WFAA in Dallas.
“I’ll wake up weekday mornings … reporting breaking, trending, and social media stories with touch-screen technology,” she wrote. A published children’s author, she will also fill in as a news and traffic anchor.
“This is bittersweet because Arkansas holds a special place in my heart,” Brunner said. “I moved here not knowing anyone, but that changed quickly because so many of you embraced me.... This is where I met my husband Hayden, where we got married, and where our son was born.
“We’ve been so fortunate to be near some family and to have made lifelong friends. … It’s been an incredible journey and I’m forever grateful you’ve welcomed me into your homes.”