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Behind the reporter’s desk: KSAT 12′s Dillon Collier on becoming an investigative reporter

From his start in journalism to his favorite things in San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO – In honor of KSAT 12′s Dillon Collier outstanding year covering ‘Conviction: The Bingo King Murder’ documentary with KSAT 12’s Isis Romero and helping to break over 50 stories on the former Bexar County Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela, we thought it would be appropriate to dive in on all things Dillon.

Dillon’s investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He also provides restaurant health reports for KSAT’s “Behind the Kitchen Door” segments.

Where it began

The Tucson, Arizona, native is a proud graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Collier’s first journalism job was in Laredo, Texas at KGNS-TV as a weekend sports anchor.

“My first TV station barely had a website,” Collier said. “That has obviously changed since then. My first job in Laredo was tough. I was making very little money, had to edit tape-to-tape on very old equipment. But I met my wife there and that alone made the struggle worthwhile.”

After moving up the ladder, he transitioned into his niche of investigative reporting in San Antonio. Dillon joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in September 2016.

Landing in journalism

Collier said becoming an investigative reporter was not on his mind at the beginning of his career.

“I wanted to the next Brent Musburger or Keith Jackson," Collier said. "Investigative journalism did not really become my passion until I was already working in the industry and began to witness how people who interacted with the media, most often spokespersons, were not always straightforward with the truth.”

First day at KSAT

Thankfully, Dillon made his way to KSAT, and he had to patiently wait until he could be on-air.

The first story I covered at KSAT was the Laborfest debacle. A San Antonio concert organizer had charged a lot of money for tickets and publicly said the festival would be a huge success. Privately he was begging the city for a $150,000 bridge loan to keep the event from folding. Sure enough, it folded. I could not appear on air the first six months I worked at KSAT, as I waited out a non-compete clause in my last contract, so I essentially had to write the story for another reporter.

Investigative reporting

I was brought in as a Defender after working in a similar role at another station in town for four years. I have always been detail-oriented and I put a lot of research into anything that I work on. I also ask way too many questions and am very skeptical of people. All of those traits come in handy for what I do.

RELATED: Breakdown Booth: Dillon Collier breaks down coverage on embattled Bexar County constable

What are some of your favorite stories or most memorable topics you have covered?

Any stories that evoke change have to rank up there among my favorites. There tends to be a lot of push back from people who we are reporting on, especially during the newsgathering stage. Moving forward with the story and making the information public is a proud moment every time it happens. I am proud of my work covering the problems within Bexar County Precinct 2 as well as law enforcement misconduct and our work on Conviction.

State-wide recognition

Collier received the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year Award in 2014 and 2015. He also won the TV Journalist of the Year by the Lone Star Awards in 2018.

“Individual awards are a nice recognition but I cherish the awards I’ve won as part of a team,” he said. “I work with an incredible photographer and lean on a lot of people to put stories together and make them look good, so the team awards are my favorite. Television news is a unique industry in that we get to compete with other stations every single day.”

RELATED: KSAT 12′s Dillon Collier named 2018 TV Journalist of the Year

Covering “Conviction: The Bingo King Murder” documentary with Isis Romero

It was an honor working and collaborating with Isis. I remember seeing her go through a massive box full of court transcripts and thinking that looks like a challenging project. We focused on a decades-old murder case involving a lot of people who did not want to talk to us and despite a long list of obstacles were able to uncover a lot of missteps by people who were in charge of getting things right and did not necessarily do so.

RELATED: Isis Romero & Dillon Collier take your questions about Conviction: The Bingo King Murder

News coverage on the former Bexar County Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela

I am proud of our work covering Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela’s short-lived tenure because there was so much push back when I first started looking into her and her office. I remember a competing station airing an interview with her in early 2017 in which she denied any wrongdoing and used it as a way to take a swipe at my work. She would repeatedly call our newsroom as well and demand to speak with station management. I am glad management backed me and to date, we have now done over 50 stories on the now-former constable.

Getting to know more about Dillon Collier

We asked Collier a few questions to find out more about his interests and favorite things outside of the office.

If you hadn't become a journalist, what would you be doing right now?

A commercial airline pilot.

What are your hobbies?

I love going on adventures with my family. Exploring the world. I also enjoy downtime with my family.

If you could live anywhere in the world, besides San Antonio, where would you live and why?

Tucson, Arizona. I miss my hometown. I grew up at a private airpark along the Tortolita Mountains. It was a picturesque, quiet place and I miss it every day.

What's the best piece of advice you ever got? Who gave it to you?

"Don’t be afraid to go to a dark place to tell a good story.” – Byron Pitts of ABC News told me that at a journalism conference a few years ago and it has stuck with me ever since.

Is there someone who inspired you, either in your career or personally, early in your life or later in life? Who do you look up to the most and why?

My parents. Both passed on qualities to me that I use in my everyday life. My mom is tenacious and fearless and my father was meticulous and calm.

Favorite things to do in San Antonio

Eat at our favorite restaurants. The Pigpen and Torchy’s are two of our favorites.

Top three favorite things about San Antonio

It still has a small-town feel even though it is huge. It’s mild winter and the people.

Favorite food and where to get it

The Republican taco at Torchy’s.

All-time favorite movie

Goodfellas.

Top 3 bucket list items

Own my own airplane, attend the Masters and ride on a float in the Texas Cavaliers River Parade.

Favorite book

Anything by Malcolm Gladwell.

Fun facts

I love to grill but I hate to cook. One of the world’s biggest Tiger Woods fans, even though I went to the same school as Phil Mickelson.

Have a Defenders story idea or a tip on someone abusing their power?

Send an email to defenders@ksat.com.


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