Born and educated in the US, Cher took up broadcast journalism in New York University and began her career at the news desk of TIME Magazine while completing her internship at Cable News Network (CNN) in New York. She was eventually offered a part-time job at CNN, and continued working at TIME and CNN simultaneously until she moved to Manila to have her taste of Philippine broadcast journalism.
After her stint in Manila, Cher came back to the US and became anchor for Las Vegas’ KVVU Fox 5. Cher immerses herself in Fil-Am community events and is often involved either as a guest, an award recipient or a Master of Ceremonies.
Two years ago, she received the honor of being awarded as “Broadcast Journalist of the Year” by Reflections. A few months after she joined KTLA Channel 5 in Los Angeles, this writer interviewed Cher for AWE Magazine. Following are excerpts from the interview:
RV: How would you compare your anchor’s job here in LA to that in Las Vegas?
CC: I must admit that the chance I was given to work at KVVU, FOX 5 Las Vegas was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. Even though the grueling work schedule of waking up in the middle of the night was not easy to become accustomed to: doing four-hour live newscast, solo, for the first six months I was there, was what I like to call “anchor boot camp.” And because of the opportunity at FOX 5, I fee very fortunate that I am now a part of KTLA News. And who wouldn’t be! The station is renowned for many “firsts” in the industry in the West Coast.
RV: How easy (or hard) was your transition from KVVU FOX 5 to KTLA ?
CC: Luckily my transition to KTLA from FOX 5 was a smooth one. And that’s only because everyone here at KTLA really is so genuinely nice. They were all so welcoming. KTLA is a family and they treat their staff with decency, respect and honor.
RV: I read stories purporting that you had a tough start in KVVU?
Well, it was tough at first at KVVU. But mostly I was culture-shocked after being in the Philippines for five years. Yes, I am an American but I became so accustomed to ABS-CBN and the lifestyle there, that when I got to Vegas I felt like I was starting all over again. So it was rough at first. But toward the end of it all, I did enjoy my time at FOX 5 and the people as well.
RV: How long did you stay in KVVU and what was your overall impression of that job?
CC: I was in Las Vegas at FOX 5 News for two years. (2003-2005). Overall, I am thankful for all I learned in Las Vegas. It wasn’t easy to get used to waking up in the middle of the night and doing a 4-hour show….but eventually I got the hang of it. Most of all, what helped me through the first few months was the e-mails from the Filipino community that had followed my shows back home. They were always encouraging. That alone made me strive to make them proud.
RV: How is your typical day like?
CC: My day begins when most people are in their deepest sleep. I have four alarms going off…one at 2:30 and the other at 2:45 and two at 3 a.m. It sounds like a fire truck is coming through my place at 3 a.m. But it’s the only way that i can get out of bed. I start my coffee, jump in the shower, get dressed and literally zoom out of the garage to work. At work, I always check in to the news desk; I’m given the day’s morning paper and then I go over my scripts before heading to make-up. By 4:45 a.m. I am ready to go to the set. On the set, with my second cup of coffee ready, I go over my scripts one more time and then it’s show time! I’m on the air from 5 to 7 am. This is by far the best part of my day. Working with Emmett Miller and Mark Kriski is beyond what I expected. They’re always watching out for me and I am constantly energized by them. I couldn’t ask for a better team. After the show, we have a morning meeting and then I go to my office, research stories that I want to work on and maybe that day I’ll have a story to shoot so I’ll go out on the field. If not, I’ll be done at about 12 noon. The rest of the day…is pretty much a toss-up between a nap, errands, lunch with friends and a drive to the beach, a movie and home by 6 so I can catch up on the news and be prepared for the newscast the next day. I’m in bed by 8 pm and then at 2:30 am the fire trucks start rolling again.
RV: Tell us about your experience working with TIME and CNN in New York.
CC: TIME Magazine is where I got my start in journalism. I worked [at] the news desk. I was only 20 when I started there part-time. And I just couldn’t believe that I got a job there! I was still in college and I had a friend who worked full time at TIME. There was an opening and he suggested I come in for an interview. So I did. It was the greatest place for me to start my career. I monitored news, breaking news mostly and alert the reporters…especially on the weekends when I worked; if there was a break in their story or breaking news that they had to report. My first big breaking news story for TIME was the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. It was a Saturday and no one was in the office except me. That was my main job. Monitor the news. Then Rabin was shot. I began the alert process…calling all the reporters in Israel, the editors in New York. The cover of the magazine had to be changed to Rabin. And trust me, it was a busy night that lasted until Sunday night. CNN New York was a whole different ball game. I started there as an intern, getting the papers for the anchors/reporters, logging tapes, serving the reporters while they do their stories on the field. Get scripts for the anchors and bring them on the set. Then after my internship I was offered a part-time job at CNN. I worked at CNN New York and TIME simultaneously until I went to Manila.
RV: You had a stint in Manila as a broadcast journalist. How would you compare it to your current job in Los Angeles in terms of the way the news is written and delivered?
CC: Manila was the best time of my life. I went from anchoring a one-minute news update on GMA News Live to doing a morning show. Then I went to ABS-CBN and hosted “F” for four years and Points of View. At one point I realized that I had to get back to anchoring the news and started with ANC and News Central. It was a fast track in broadcasting and I owe a lot to GMA and especially to ABS for believing in me and giving me the chance to have all the exposure and experience they both gave me. Asking me to compare the difference between Los Angeles and news and news back home is like comparing apples and oranges. The reason why I say that is because the concerns of the communities are different. Since I’ve been in Los Angeles, the community concerns here are nothing to be overlooked. There have been the worst landslides since the 1970s, a new mayor who is the first Latino mayor in over 130 years, and there is also so much importance put on what’s happening in your neighborhood to our newscast in the morning. Mainly, the news has the same objective: whether you are in the Philippines, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles — anywhere in the world — people want to be informed.
RV: Did you always dream of becoming a TV journalist? Was that what you had in mind when you went to NYU?
CC: I wanted to be a doctor like my mother. But my strongest subjects in school were always English and History. But trying to pursue my dream of becoming an MD, I went to NYU Pre-Med. I just couldn’t get into it. I decided I would take Political Science and on a whim, I also took a broadcast journalism class. I fell in love with broadcast journalism and really set my mind to it. The program at NYU was incredible. We would go out on the field and shoot stories and even had a TV newscast class [where] we would be assigned stories and duties to either direct, produce, write, report or anchor. We would go live every week at the end of the class and broadcast a newscast to a local cable channel at the university. The 9-hour class [went] by like a breeze. I just wanted to be a journalist so badly…and then came the opportunity to work with TIME Magazine while I was in my junior year at NYU. Everything just fell into place.
RV: Who is the greatest influence in your life?
CC: My father. Without his guidance and support I would not be the woman I am today. I am thankful for his presence in my life everyday. He is my best friend and knows me better than anyone in the world. I am lucky that we are so close and that I can count on him for sound advice and a shoulder to cry on whenever I need him. He is so wise and I know that following his advice is the reason I am where I am today.
RV: What would be your message to the FilAm community in Los Angeles?
I am so thankful and grateful for the support that I am receiving from the Fil-Am community. We are so strong here in Los Angeles and I know that my kababayans are supporting me. This is what we Filipinos do. Bagamat ako’y isinilang, lumaki at natapos ng pag-aaral sa America ang puso at damdamin ko ay makaPilipino. Maraming Salamat Po sa inyong pagtangkilik at umasa po kayong hindi kayo mabibigo. (www.asianjournal.com)