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Casey Nolen says goodbye to St. Louis

Casey Nolen, shown moderating the March 2021 St. Louis mayoral debate, is leaving St. Louis for a job in D.C.
David Kovaluk
St. Louis Public Radio
Casey Nolen, shown moderating the March 2021 St. Louis mayoral debate, is leaving St. Louis for a job in D.C.

Last week, St. Louis celebrated “Casey Nolen Day,” complete with a proclamation by Mayor Tishaura Jones. After 15 years at NBC affiliate KSDK, most recently as political editor and anchor, Nolen had announced he was leaving his native Missouri for a job in Washington, D.C. The accolades streamed in.

But Nolen had no idea the one from the mayor was coming. He went to City Hall to interview Jones — and interview her he did. He was shocked when she presented him with the proclamation at the end.

There was no time to celebrate afterward, no Champagne toast. Nolen said he simply went back to work, getting his interview ready for airtime. He had an extra assignment as well — preparing the footage of his own proclamation for broadcast. “I had to cut the video myself because they wanted to run it on air,” he said, laughing.

Nolen grew up in Chaffee, Missouri, a small town outside Cape Girardeau. He told St. Louis on the Air that when he headed to Columbia to attend the University of Missouri, he thought it was the big city. Back then, Missouri’s Bootheel was governed by Democrats.

He didn’t attend Mizzou’s acclaimed journalism school, but journalism still found him. He’d noticed a job advertisement in the communications department.

“They had a sign hanging on the wall looking for camera operators, and I needed a job,” he explained. “So I went out there and the next thing I knew I was shooting news and sucked in and got bit by the news biz.”

Listen to Casey Nolen (and Abby Llorico) on St. Louis on the Air

That’s not the only thing he’s been bitten by. Nolen is heading to Washington with his fiancee, reporter Abby Llorico, whom he met on the job at KSDK. “I didn’t think I would fall for the guy who was showing me how to use my camera,” she quipped.

In addition to his reporting and anchoring duties at KSDK, Nolen hosted a local affairs talk show on Nine PBS for five years, “Stay Tuned STL.” But he didn’t just start his career operating a camera; he continues to operate one, shooting most of his stories himself.

Nolen was actually the first reporter in St. Louis to be hired as an MMJ, or multimedia journalist, the term given to reporters who shoot their own stories using much smaller cameras than the behemoths the industry used to rely on. Today, MMJs are everywhere, even in Top 10 markets. Nolen estimates he shoots 90% of his stories, and he plans to keep working as a “backpack journalist” in Washington.

He shrugged off the seismic shifts that allowed him to transition from being behind the camera in his first two markets to standing in front of it in St. Louis. “Ask any industry and their jobs are changing,” he said. “There's one of our favorite sandwich shops — you order your sandwich at a kiosk, not from a person. Things are changing.”

He feels fortunate that the timing of those changes have favored his career and seems almost gobsmacked by the good fortune of having found, and fallen in love with, Llorico. Their wedding is planned for this summer.

But first, they have to get to Washington, where they’ll both work at local news station WASU. They plan to be there by Wednesday, and so as Nolen joined St. Louis on the Air for his St. Louis exit interview, Llorico was busily packing up their home.

Calling into the show, Llorico said she doesn’t chafe at the division of labor.

“The TV world, he’s really good at video, and I’m really good at production, and that’s how it works at home, too,” Llorico said. “He’s good at the going-out-into-the-world stuff, and I’m good at keeping the house running.”

And Nolen acknowledged that he’s perfected the art of getting his part done with minutes to spare. On his last day at KSDK, rather than milk the goodbyes, he worked until the clock had nearly run out of time, finishing his last St. Louis piece with moments to spare.

“It wasn't a lot of hugs and tears because I was on deadline,” he recalled. “And you can ask anyone — I like to say I use every minute possible. They might say I unnecessarily stressed the entire team. But nevertheless, we made slot.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury and Kayla Drake. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.