by Len Lear
NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker, 43, who graduated from Germantown Friends School in 1994, became co-anchor of the Weekend Today show last weekend. The news came shortly after co-anchor Sheinelle Jones’ announcement that she will be stepping away from the show to spend more time with her family. Jones co-anchored the three-hour-long Weekend Today for five years. “This is the honor of a lifetime,” Welker said last week on the Today show.
Welker is an experienced journalist who was one of the four female journalists to moderate the fifth Democratic presidential primary debate in Georgia this past November. She also covered the presidential campaign and previously worked as an NBC News correspondent in California. Welker is the new co-anchor at Weekend Today alongside Peter Alexander.
Welker started as an intern at Today in 1997 while studying history at Harvard University. She also worked as a researcher at Weekend Today before getting her first on-air job at KRCR-TV in Redding, California. After that, she moved on to the NBC affiliate WCAU here in Philadelphia. Five years later, she joined NBC News and eventually became the official White House correspondent.
Welker and her husband, a marketing director named John Hughes, were married on March 4, 2017, in Philadelphia. The two met in 2014, thanks to mutual friends setting them up together. A political junkie, Welker recalled that she knew Hughes was the right man for her one night when he made her a presidential trivia crossword puzzle.
In a recent interview with the Local, Welker said her workday as a White House correspondent typically begins at 5 a.m. when she rises and reviews the political headlines breaking overnight to prepare for her Today show segments, then often doesn’t end until 11 p.m. While covering the 2016 election, she slept only two or three hours each night. If she makes it home for dinner, her husband usually cooks it for them.
“NBC is unique because we have a network and a cable station, so the volume of work we do is probably greater than any other network,’’ she said, “but this is a really important moment in our history, so every day I wake up invigorated to meet the challenge … It is this electric feeling to be out on the campaign trail. You are living a part of history.’’
Welker has visualized herself as part of history as far back as grade school when journalism was on her to-do list. “My friends and I would joke about it, in part because they knew that I talked a lot, and they thought that was one of the key qualities of a journalist … I loved writing, I loved interviewing people, and of course, I liked listening to people.”
While writing for the school newspaper, the Earthquake, at GFS, Welker lobbied for a “Frozen Yogurt Day” for lunch period and analyzed dreams as an “EQ psychologist’’ in a column dubbed “Kristen’s Couch.’’
When she graduated from GFS, Welker predicted on a questionnaire that she would be either (1) the first black woman president, (2) the next Oprah Winfrey, (3) the head news broadcaster of TV news magazine 20/20 or (4) an ambassador to Italy.
Welker caught the political bug long before she landed her television gig. While growing up, her mother Julie, described as an “uberrealtor’’ by Philadelphia Magazine, ran for Philadelphia’s City Council twice. And Welker recalls interviewing former Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode for a school term paper.
“I just learned an incredible amount about politics and reporting just from living in Philadelphia,’’ said Welker, who grew up a few blocks from the Philadelphia Art Museum and frequently jogged along Kelly Drive, then known as East River Drive.
“She was an outstanding student, and my main memory is … the class would pretty much start because she would walk in and ask a question,’’ recalled Anne Gerbner, who taught Welker in 11th grade English at GFS. Gerbner, who has kept up with Welker periodically, described her as “inquisitive, warm-hearted, a great communicator and serious-minded but also very funny.”
While announcing her new Weekend Today job, co-anchor Peter Alexander called Welker his “big little sister” and went on to say that “she is one of my best friends in the world, not just professionally but personally. I really do consider her ‘The New York Times’ part of my family.”
Welker’s Twitter account is @kwelkernbc.
Elizabeth Coady contributed to this article. Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org