Although his first college major was business management, it didn't take Kevin Stoker long to switch to journalism.
Describing himself as a child of the Watergate era, he picked a career in journalism because "I wanted to be a writer, and the best way to learn how to write and get paid for it seemed to be in journalism."
Stoker, with seven years experience in the newspaper business, is the kind of reporter who throws a camera over his shoulder and hikes into the back country for a good story, or braves white water for a good photo.
One of Stoker's skills is sensing what makes a good story. He may have developed this ability as a youngster in his tiny hometown of Roberts, Idaho. Roberts then had two service stations, a general store and a grain elevator. The grain elevator, which his father owned, was where the action was. Young Kevin spent many hours in the office listening to stories spun by farmers. Even after years of interviewing people, he said, "Nobody can tell a story like a farmer."
His work in Church News typically includes interviewing sports personalities or business leaders, following church leaders as they visit distant cities, and nosing out stories where he can. As a photographer and writer, he likes to do human interest stories. His recent work has ranged from features on Tony Burns, chief executive officer of Ryder System Inc., to a wily car repossessor who makes a living by legally "stealing cars." Stoker was at ease interviewing each of them.
When he isn't writing, he enjoys a pick-up game of basketball, or a bout with weights.
A second love to writing is teaching. He will instruct a community education course in feature writing at Granite High this fall. He and his wife, Tammie, are parents of twin boys, Adam and Seth, 5, and a daughter, Leah, 8 months.
A graduate of Brigham Young University, he began as a sports writer at the Clinton Daily News, a small daily in Clinton, Okla. He later switched to a city desk beat and politics at the larger Lawton Constitution and Morning Press in Lawton, Okla.
From there it was a big hop over the fence to the Church News. "When the opportunity came to work here, I really jumped for it," he said. Often, on the city desk or legislative beats, he explained, the interviews seemed shallow, repetitive and occasionally even manipulative.
As a writer at the Church News, he reaches "inside people to find out what they really hold dear," he said. "I gain a lot of fulfillment in writing things that may inspire others. As a writer here, I really feel like I am accomplishing something.
"It is so much better to build up than to tear down."