Lisa’s wide, wide world
By Stephen Kasica
Many Front Range mass comm professionals commute to their jobs in bumper-to-bumper traffic, idling on I-25 towards their cubicles. But Lisa Robbins Menzies (’94) is often taxiing on the runway aboard a United flight to her job at a nationally televised event.
That is her commute. Last year, Menzies said, she flew so often that she has achieved “premier executive status,” which means she flew more than 90,000 miles in one year. As a freelance electronic video server, or EVS, operator, she edits tape and performs instant replays seen by millions. She said she started out covering Saturday games at Folsom Field for the “CU Sports Magazine” and now does the same thing for shows such as “Monday Night Football” for ESPN, thanks to her passion for sports and driven personality.
The values and standards which have garnered the success Menzies enjoys today can be traced to her experience at the J-school, she said. Sports is her passion, a value traceable to her relationship with her father. “My father always wanted boys, and there were only two girls in my family, so he treated me like I was the son,” she said.
Growing up, Menzies said she went with her father to football games and was encouraged to take up gymnastics. She competed for eight years at the state and regional levels.
“For me gymnastics was always a dream of mine where maybe I could go to the Olympics one day.” Eventually that dream faded, and at CU she focused her intention on broadcasting.
While perusing a Broadcast Production degree at CU, Menzies said she realized that a traditional news career was not for her. That dissatisfaction is in part how the “CU Sports Magazine” show was born. She not only volunteered at “CU Sports Magazine,” she helped found it in 1993 along with six other journalism students. They started without a budget. Steve Jones, still the Sports Mag adviser, got permission to use SJMC equipment. But the students had to build TV sets out of plywood – spicing them up with potted plants carried from offices in Macky Auditorium – and borrow chairs from classrooms.
Fellow founding member Robb Moody (’95) said, “There were a bunch of us running around like chickens with our heads cut off thinking we knew what we were doing. And then there was Lisa – calm, cool, collected – unlike the rest of us, she really did know her stuff.”
Sports Mag provided extensive experience on all the technical sides: editing tape, working with the cameras, recording audio and producing graphics.
In addition to starting and running a sports show, Menzies also had to take a full credit load. Outside of her classes, she said she spent all her spare time making Sports Mag work.
She said her experience at Sports Mag is directly responsible for where she is now. It started opening doors for her with KCNC-Channel 4 and KUSA-Channel 9 news in Denver where she “paid her dues.” She held a job and an internship at one time, drove to events, fetched coffee and, on the side, she trained with EVS equipment because she was determined to work her way up.
Her big break happened in 1996 when ESPN came to Denver to broadcast the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup. When ESPN added an extra camera at the last minute, one of the people who Menzies had been training with said to the producer, “You know your stage manager is an EVS operator, too,” and she was bumped up to EVS operator.
Now she commutes via airplane to Aspen for the X-Games, to the Kodak Theater for the Academy Awards, across the country for Monday Night Football or the NBA Finals, and around the world for the Olympic Games. For her work in the Salt Lake and Beijing Olympics, she won two Emmys in technical achievements.
But at the Olympic Games in Sydney is where her childhood dream came true, for the event she was covering was gymnastics. “I did go to the Olympics,” she said. “(But) I was just televising it.”
Today, 17 years after graduation, she is married to Doug Menzies, and they have a 4-year-old son, Maxx. Her premier executive status with United is actually a demotion compared to the year before. That year, she said she achieved “100K” membership.
When she can, Menzies tries to work locally now. “I miss being home with my son,” she said.
At the end of February, she worked a basketball game at CSU. No disrespect intended, but compared to being in Beijing for the Olympics, she said, laughing, “coming up to Fort Collins to do a men’s basketball game is not that cool.”