Monday, May 11, 2020

From TV to online | Nate Eaton, East Idaho News

Nate Eaton
Renae Oswald

In 2006, Nate Eaton started his television career at KIDK and was there for three years, until he moved to Richmond, Va., to work for the ABC station there. After working for the Richmond station for about four years he received a call from Frank Vandersloot, owner of Melaleuca, with an idea to do an online news agency.

“The answer was no," he said. "I'd just gotten married, we'd just bought a house and I'd just signed a new contract with my TV station. Looking at it then, it was kind of career suicide. Once you leave TV it's hard to get back in.”

Two years went by, however, and he had kept the offer it in the back of his mind when he got another call from Vandersloot. After meeting with him and deciding a move back to Idaho would give him more of what his life needed, the answer was yes.

The only direction that Eaton was given when starting East Idaho News was to build a good product. He was given the creative freedom to construct his vision of an online agency, and in five years' time it has grown to what it is today.

Initially, Eaton didn't think it would work. “I figured, I could go and do this because I was ready for a change anyway. ... I'll go and do this for two or three years and if it completely bombs I'll go and do something else. We'll move back to the East Coast and maybe I'll get back in TV," he said. "It has succeeded a bazillion times better than I thought it would.”

East Idaho News covers a wide range of stories from public interest to investigative reporting. Much of what they report on comes from the public. “We want to interact with our audience," Eaton said. "Our audience is very interactive, and we like that for the most part."

When asked about negative feedback, he said that in the beginning it was hard to take and he had to work to not take it personally. “The instant reaction is to become defensive," he said. Today, he's got a more measured attitude. "For the people who are angry with me, I'd love to sit down and have lunch with them. I want to understand your perspective,” he said. “Generally though, within two to three days I've forgotten about it. The news cycle is so short.”

East Idaho News has been a conduit for giving to the community. One of the most well known avenues is Secret Santa during Christmastime. “It was our first year, and I got a call from a local couple who said they wanted to give away $100,000,” he said. The couple's challenge was that they didn't know how to find people in true need, so they asked for Eaton's help. That gave him the idea to bring a camera along to record the giving and spread the good feeling of being generous.

“We were out until Christmas Eve that year giving this money away and posting videos.” This was noticed by a national television show that shared some of these stories. It has continued to grow year over year, and this past year East Idaho News was able to give away $500,000 to needy families across eastern Idaho. Last year there were 4,000 applications. Throughout the year Nate receives emails from people all over the world who have been watching these videos on YouTube and have been inspired.

Having covered news since 2006, Eaton said his most challenging stories have been those who have involved children. “A lot of times, after the fact, some of my best relationships are those that I've covered in those horrible situations,” he said. He related that the stories where he has been able to help make a difference are some of his favorites.

Working with Dateline NBC on the Lori Vallow story has been a great experience, one on which they have been able to share resources. “We are independent at East Idaho News," Eaton said.
"Anybody anywhere can have our stories, just give us credit. On this particular story we are working more with Dateline just because they have helped us so much.” Despite the national attention, Eaton said he loves east Idaho and doesn't have plans to go to a bigger market at this time.

Eaton admits that he has feelings of doubt from time to time, but the stories keep him going. He's carried by the people he gets to talk to and share their lives. “There's a lot of insecurities that I have and sometimes I need to just push through it."

The month of March was the largest East Idaho News has ever had, and there's no sign it will slow down. Eaton would like to expand to other parts of the state and perhaps do some national expansion to small towns eventually. He's hoping that he's setting a precedent that can be replicated.


To learn more about East Idaho News, visit their website at Check them out on Facebook at Find them on YouTube at