Even if 2020 was not exactly a positive news year, it was certainly a busy one for the local stations covering the pandemic and the election.
But last year was especially memorable for Daniel Brown, a 43-year-old openly gay executive producer at KPRC-TV (Channel 2). “I won three regional Emmys,” Brown says with a hint of awe in his voice. “I’ve only ever gotten one before, and that was at WTTG-TV in Washington, DC, for coverage of Hurricane Irene.”
Brown, who’s been at KPRC-TV for nine years now, won two team awards in 2020—one in the special-programming category for hurricane and flooding coverage, and one for the documentary Apollo 11: Houston’s Mission to the Moon. He also won an individual award recognizing his talents as a producer for news and specials.
The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) created the Lone Star Chapter in Texas in 2002, which covers all 19 television markets in Texas. Before that, Houston had to join Miami’s Suncoast Chapter to compete for an Emmy.
But Brown admits he wasn’t always interested in television news.
“I remember watching the news as a kid, but I didn’t gravitate toward it,” he recalls. He watched television stations from Lubbock because his tiny hometown of Crosbyton, Texas, didn’t have a station. “There were only 45 kids in my sophomore high school class,” Brown laughs. “It was a good time, and I didn’t know any different until I moved away.”
Brown was attending McMurray University in Abilene as an undeclared major when his best friend suggested pursuing a degree in communications.
“They didn’t even have a television department,” Brown says. “So I got a part-time production job at an Abilene station, running teleprompters and floor cameras. I’d spend my breaks hanging out in the newsroom to learn what they did, and eventually the producers would let me write news stories.”
That led to the station’s news director offering Brown a full-time job producing a morning show. After graduation, he worked at several television stations around the country, most recently in Washington, DC, where he won his first regional Emmy. In 2011, he decided to come home to Texas to be closer to his family.
It took some adjustment when he came out at 24, but he feels that he was fortunate to have had a supportive family.
“And television has been remarkable,” Brown says. “Being gay has never been an issue, and there were a lot of gays at the station in DC. KPRC-TV is just a great group of people. They push diversity and inclusiveness, both as a newsroom and in our news coverage.” The station’s popular longtime meteorologist, Frank Billingsley, is openly gay and married his husband in 2012. The Houston Chronicle covered their wedding.
Brown and his partner, David, an accountant (“Yeah, I tried dating in the business, but it never works out.”), have a house in Northwest Houston. Brown says it was interesting during the lockdown. “He was working from home, and I was working from home two or three days a week to keep the newsroom staffing [to a minimum]. So here we were at this table with all of our computers and printers spread out.”
In the “before” days, the couple loved to travel and had vacation plans that had to be cancelled. And they used to love to entertain friends. “I love to cook and bake,” Brown says. “Unfortunately, I have to eat it all myself now.”
They’ve also spent time redoing their backyard and finishing other home-improvement chores that they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten around to. They also miss eating out with friends, although they do some take-out now—any sushi place, as well as Urban Eats, a gay-owned and -operated bistro and market in the Heights. And morning runs to La Mexicana for breakfast tacos are also part of their new routine.
While Brown won his team regional Emmy awards for a documentary and a weather special, his favorite stories are the ones that have an impact on people’s lives. “Houston is a very giving city,” Brown notes. “When we do a story about someone who has lost everything in a fire, or they were moving here and someone stole their truck and all their belongings, we get calls from viewers wanting to know how to help with a donation. That makes me proud when I can help someone like that through my work.”
This article appears in the January 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.