Arts and Culture | High Holidays | Local

Shining Stars: Claire Graham

Claire Graham holds her dog, Promo, in the KHQ studio in Spokane, Washington. (Courtesy Claire Graham)

Claire Graham found a unique platform to make a difference in the world. She parlayed her love for animals into successful adoption of at least 600 pets and made her own rescue pooch a television star.

Graham, 29, became a news anchor on a metropolitan television station just months after graduating from the University of Arizona with a musical theater degree. Her UA singing teacher Monte Ralstin advised her of an internship opportunity at NBC’s KVOA News 4 Tucson, where she quickly learned from the ground up and fell in love with broadcast journalism.

Within weeks, she put together a show reel and sent it to 80 stations. She got a job right away, starting as an anchor in the East Washington state Tri-Cities area. While most journalism graduates start from the bottom, scratching out a story a day and hoping it will air, she started at the top, at the anchor desk. She attributes it to her performance background. “I’m so glad I found this,” she says of her accidental career. “I talk and think a mile a minute. The faster you can write a script and be ready to present information accurately to people, the faster it is the better it is in this business.

“The job is very cool,” she says, adding that she has flexibility to develop segments and to be creative on air. Some of her “Mad Minute” news pieces ­— delivering 10 crazy news stories in 60 seconds — have been replayed on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live and NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. “It’s nice to have that connection to the national level,” she adds.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, she moved with her family to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, before landing in Tucson, which she considers home. Janece Cohen, cantor at Congregation Or Chadash and director of the Tucson Jewish Youth Choir, was a huge influence in Graham’s involvement in the arts. “I liked singing and performing,” Graham says, which she continues to do. She is on retainer for local sporting teams to sing the opening national anthem, when her schedule permits.

After three years in Tri-Cities, she moved to Spokane where she anchors weeknights for the NBC affiliate and delivers the local newscast that also airs on the local Fox affiliate. As an advocate for homeless pets, Graham is passionate about working with and promoting rescue groups to find forever homes for dogs and cats. That’s where Promo, the Yorkshire terrier she rescued on her first weekend in the Tri-Cities, comes in.

Because of her erratic work schedule she began taking Promo to the station when she didn’t want to leave him at home alone too long. Once she put him up on the news desk, a star was born. He earned his own pet rescue segment, “Promo’s Picks,” and garnered a fan club of his own. Now, anywhere Graham goes in public, fans are likely to recognize Promo even before the news anchor on the other end of his leash.

Graham recently adopted an abused, hairless Pomeranian named Static. “He was meant to be a foster dog, but I brought him home fully knowing that he wouldn’t leave,” she says. The two pups are now bonded.

Her animal advocacy has attracted news tips on unusual rescues and related animal story opportunities that scoop other channels. In addition, ratings have gone up significantly for the station, says Graham, and on her shows. “It feels good to know that people like what I’m doing. The ability to make a difference, that’s what I really love.”