Tara Mergener, a veteran broadcast journalist whose resume includes more than a decade of experience as a network correspondent, has joined Gordon Collier, Rusty Garrett and Troy Hein as co-anchor of KWTX's top-rated News 10 at Ten. Tara will also serve as executive producer of evening newscasts.
For the past decade, Mergener has been based in Washington, D.C., working as a freelance correspondent for CBS News, CBS Entertainment, CNN and Hearst-Argyle Television.
"KWTX is continually looking to elevate our newscasts, especially when it comes to covering the breaking news that has an impact on our viewers' daily lives. We believe Tara is the perfect fit to continue to push us in the right direction," said KWTX-TV News Director Mikel Lauber.
During her tenure as a correspondent for more than 200 local CBS affiliates, Mergener has covered the White House, Congress and the U.S. State Department, reporting on presidential campaigns, midterm elections, the crisis in Syria, and the Affordable Care Act.
As a live correspondent for CNN Headline News, CNN International and more than 900 CNN affiliates, she provided extensive political and breaking news coverage, reporting on tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and the April 16, 2007 rampage at Virginia Tech in which a student shot 32 people to death and wounded 17 others in two separate attacks.
She also covered the Sept. 16, 2013 shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, where a former naval reservist killed 12 people and wounded three others.
"The Navy Yard Massacre really stands out," she said, "not only because it was an act of terrorism right here in D.C. but also because a friend was inside the building under siege and was texting me as the event was unfolding,” she said.
Mergener says she's eager to take on the new challenge.
"Central Texas is such an interesting news market, my hope is to have this transition be seamless and to quickly work to become another trusted member of the news team. KWTX's commitment to journalism, its established local veteran anchors - Gordon, Julie, Rusty and Ed -- and highly energetic news staff really stood out to me."
Mergener succeeds longtime evening anchor Julie Hays, who stepped down from the 10 p.m. newscast in June to have more time with her young family.
Mergener and Hays will co-anchor News 10 at 5, while Hays serves as executive producer of dayside newscasts and co-anchor of News 10 at 6 with Gordon Collier.
"The chemistry among our on-air anchor team and reporters has never been better, so, finding the professional who shares our values and fits the culture of our newsroom was a critical factor in determining Tara was the right person to fill the incredible void left when Julie stepped down from the 10," Wright said.
He also noted it was clear, early in the process, of Tara's shared vision and goals for the news department.
"When Julie approached us with her desire to spend more time with her family, we were fully supportive. While continuing to anchor the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts, she wanted to focus on working with reporters and take more of a leadership role in the news department. Her decision coincided with Tara wanting to move in a different direction; the timing was perfect," said Wright.
"KWTX is fortunate to have the most experienced news, weather and sports team in Central Texas, a market where breaking news can happen frequently.
Adding Tara's experience will help News 10 to continue setting the standard," Lauber said.
Mergener is no stranger to Central Texas as her husband, Paul, is a Killeen, Texas native.
"At this point in my career, it's not about the right market size. It's about the right opportunity," she said.
"We've been talking about a new adventure for a long time and think Texas is perfect. We love the open spaces and friendly people." Being an evening anchor and executive producer for KWTX is a great move professionally and the quality of life here is amazing," she said.
Mergener, who earned a bachelor's degree in communication from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and a master's degree in broadcast journalism from the Boston University College of Communication, started her career as a reporter and fill-in anchor at WMUR-TV in Manchester, N.H.
KWTX-TV is a CBS affiliate of Gray Television Inc.