History Alumna Tells Stories for Emmy-Winning KCET Series

Kathryn Noonan shows off her Emmy alongside "Lost LA" host Nathan Masters.

Kathryn Noonan shows off her Emmy alongside “Lost LA” host Nathan Masters. Photo courtesy of Noonan.

Kathryn Noonan ’15 (History) initially didn’t think there would be much correlation between history and television when her professors recommended she apply for an internship at KCET in 2015.

As her duties took her from the digital side of the public TV station to the production side and then on to a production shoot, that soon changed.

“I realized I had a knack and a passion for it,” said Noonan, who is currently working toward a master’s degree in history at CSUN. “Being on set and helping out behind the camera was something I was just drawn to.”

The people at KCET were so impressed by all the work Noonan put into her internship that, after she graduated from CSUN, they hired her and she eventually earned the title of associate producer. The job includes work on all aspects of the production process, from scriptwriting to organizing shoots to overseeing editing.

CSUN’s history department often sends its majors to intern at KCET, said professor Jessica Kim, who coordinates internships for the CSUN Department of History. The interns are a great match to the network due to its thoughtful and deeply researched focus on the history of Los Angeles and Southern California.

For the past three years, Noonan has worked on “Lost L.A.,” a documentary series that premiered on KCET in 2016 and covers Southern California history — with a focus on Los Angeles. Hosted by Nathan Masters of the USC Libraries, “Lost L.A.” analyzes archives, photos, documents and other rare artifacts to unlock untold stories of the region.

Noonan was part of the the production team that won a Los Angeles Area Emmy for the episode “Yosemite,” on Yosemite National Park covers its history, from how the land was maintained by indigenous people to the rise of tourism to how Californians from all over (including L.A.) have fought over what Yosemite means and how to manage it.

For Noonan, telling the rich history of Southern California involves hours of research, a lot of travel and a production crew. Filming “Lost L.A.” is similar to what she did in her CSUN history classes, Noonan said — pick a direction, like picking a thesis for an essay, conduct research and, finally, “create a story to tell history.”

Working on this series has taken her from ghost towns to beaches, Venice Beach to Yosemite National Park — the location that earned Noonan and her team a regional Emmy Award for the episode.

Noonan had been to Yosemite many times, but in researching the park for the episode, she said, she gained a new appreciation and understanding of its history. She recalled how honored she felt to talk to the indigenous people of the area.

Noonan landed the internship at KCET — a foot in the door — with the help of Kim and professor Josh Sides. Sides had been interviewed for KCET segments more than once, and he and Kim encouraged Noonan to apply her skills through public TV.

“Many of us in the history department recognized Katie’s great dedication to her work in the major, always trying to understand more, improve her writing, engage in conversation with us,” Sides said. “Her interest in thoughtful and historical storytelling for a broad audience will take her very far.”

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