FeaturesPride in the Media

Living an Authentic Life

Keaton Fox found the courage to come out publicly with the support of ABC 13.

Keaton Fox (photo by Scott Morrow)

An innate curiosity, years of hard work, and a deep desire to connect with the people in his community landed Keaton Fox his role as ABC 13’s news director. Having worked his way up from humble career beginnings, Fox now finds himself bringing breaking news into the homes of countless Houstonians. The storyteller credits the Bayou City with helping him advance to unexpected career highs and become comfortable living an authentic and exhilarating life.

“When I was in third grade, I really wanted to be a meteorologist,” the 36-year-old explains. “I loved the weather, and one of the local TV meteorologists came to my school to talk and I got to ask him a question. I asked him what I had to study to be a meteorologist, and he said lots and lots of math. That’s when I said ‘no more’ to my dreams of meteorology, and I focused on journalism from that point on.” 

“After college, I got my first reporting gig in Wichita Falls, Texas,” the Norman, Oklahoma native recalls. “It taught me so many things. It wasn’t a crazy breaking-news market like Houston is. I really had to go and find stories.”

That conservative Texas town also kept Fox in the closet. “I wasn’t out when I lived in Wichita Falls. I didn’t come out until about two years ago,” he explains. “There are a host of reasons why I waited so long, but it wasn’t until I landed at KTRK that I felt that I could do it in a way that felt authentic to who I was and what I believed in. Working in Texas means there are no protections that would save me from being fired just for being gay. Working in a small market in Texas made me nervous about being perceived as too gay for my audience. There are still no protections [in Texas] that would keep me from being fired, and you can be in that position anywhere, not just the media.”

Houston provided the safe space he needed to live an authentic life. “There are a hundred different variables that lead someone to ultimately come out. For me, it was Houston,” the proud dog-dad explains. A far cry from his days in North Texas, Fox finally found harmony in his personal and professional life. “I felt comfortable at work, and I realized there were no risks to coming out. It was time to do it. It was a really great feeling because nobody cared. It sounds anticlimactic, but that’s what I wanted.  The Houston gay community is fantastic. It’s been super-welcoming and has greeted me with open arms.” 

Keaton Fox and his pet, Cooper (photo by John Glaser Photography)

The contagiously friendly journalist enjoys being in a role that allows him to have the creative freedom he’s always strived for. “There’s no such thing as a typical work day, and that’s by design. I don’t like to sit in an office all day. There are opportunities to get out in the community to meet and interact with people. I get in the booth and produce to keep in touch with all aspects of what we do. It’s important for us as a news organization to tell the stories that matter, and you can’t do that in an office. You have to get out in the community, talk to people, and find out what’s keeping them up at night.” 

His extroverted personality certainly comes in handy for achieving that goal. “I’m naturally curious and naturally social. I will go to dinner by myself and strike up a conversation with the waiter and ask them the craziest thing they’ve ever seen in their restaurant. Getting them to answer is the challenge, and then you get interesting stories. I can start up a conversation with anybody.” 

One such chance conversation led to an epic investigative reporting opportunity. “I was at City Hall and a guy was sitting alone on a bench. He wound up telling me he got fired because he was a whistleblower who complained about the City not properly testing chlorine levels in the water. He knew they were faking the tests, so he told his boss about it and ended up being fired. He led me to this amazing story, and it only happened because I’m that annoying person who talks to strangers.”

Fox is only scratching the surface of his career’s potential. He may not know what his next step is, but that’s just how he likes it. “Houston has been an unusual ride for me, but such a fantastic one,” he says. “I’m no longer trying to plan the path ahead, I’m just letting it happen. I’m making smart decisions along the way, but I came here and started working in digital and eventually took the top job in the newsroom. I didn’t plan or expect any of this. It’s led to a lovely experience I never could have scripted. I learned I have to let go of control and just let it happen, and amazing things follow. It’s led me to amazing things, and I’m going to continue to let it happen.”

For more info, visit abc13.com/about/newsteam/keaton-fox.

This article appears in the June 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine. 

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Zachary McKenzie

Zachary McKenzie is a marketing professional and freelance writer in Houston, TX. He received his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 2014 and has lived in Houston since. Zachary is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and enjoys spending his free time with friends, exploring the richness and diversity of Houston.
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