She’s well known as a Leader in the Newsroom and Advocate for Women in Journalism. Meet Evening Anchor at NBC Bay Area News & Emmy Award Winning Journalist Jessica Aguirre
Q: What was your first job and how did it shape or influence you?
JA: My first job was in a mall, I was working at a clothing store called “The Body shop.” I was a senior in high school, got involved in a ton of clubs, and was working too. I knew I really could not complain since I saw how hard my parents worked, so it taught me how to manage my time and to multitask.
My parents also told me to be the best at whatever I did, so I was quickly the best sales clerk!
That really came into play when I was in college doing an internship at the Spanish Language station and the woman I was interning under quit.
The news director then asked me if I could handle her job and I didn’t falter, I said yes, and turned that internship into a full-time job.
I was back to working full-time and going to school full-time. To this day, my daily schedule is super full, with charity events, stories, interviews, and board meetings. Then, I actually go to the station to do my job.
Q: How did your career start as a News Anchor?
JA: My career started in Miami. Way before I was a news anchor, I was an intern at the local Spanish Language television affiliate for UNIVISION.
I was at the University of Miami when the woman I worked under suddenly quit, and in a “Broadcast News” (movie), they turned to me and said, “Can you do her job? You are hired “. From that moment on, I went to school during the mornings and worked as a night shift at the TV station until I graduated doing a variety of jobs from production assistant, prompter, assignment desk, and producer, and after I finished school, I became a reporter in Spanish.
It was great training because it really helped me have a grasp of how the entire news operation works and what I take to get a story on the air.
A year later I got a call from the CBS station in town, they asked me if I wanted to switch to English Language, and I said yes!
My next jump was to weekend anchor and eventually full time, from Monday through Friday primetime anchor.
I worked in Miami and Los Angeles before arriving in the Bay Area in 1998. I have always been a reporter at heart, I love being out in the field covering a story and really seeing it unfold for myself.
Q: Can you share with our audience one of your most memorable events that you’ve covered?
JA: I have had so many memorable experiences, some historic, some heartbreaking, some adventurous, and some silly.
My kids always tease me that I can’t remember all the people and things I have done and it’s true because I am always deleting them from my memory bank to make room for more. I have covered natural disasters like Hurricane Andrew and more recently the North Bay fires, manmade disasters like the Oklahoma City bombing and “9-11 “.
I have traveled to report on immigration issues in Cuba, Princess Diana in England, and the Olympics in Brazil. This is the beauty of this job; it is never ordinary, so it’s very difficult to single out one great event.
I have had the opportunity to interview Presidents, movie stars, and even the Pope. However, for me as a reporter, the most satisfying stories are often about ordinary people doing extraordinary things —these kinds of interviews stick with you and make you reflect as a person.
Q: for most of us, it’s very difficult to discuss events like 9/11 or Natural Disasters … for those seeking a career in broadcast, can you offer advice on how you dealt with these events emotionally and still be a calm voice to your viewers?
JA: I have covered almost every natural disaster including earthquakes, hurricanes, and manmade disasters like 9-11 or the bombing of the Murrah in the Federal Building. It is daunting to see the pain and fear that people feel when something that horrible touches their lives.
It is hard not to let it overwhelm you when you see so much loss and cruelty. The important part is not to let the barrage of tragedy ever take away your ability to feel.
I have over decades learned to use my empathy to be a better journalist, to share other people’s heartache with respect and dignity, and to highlight the human resolve and spirit of optimism. I see it so much… when tragedy strikes, we rise to be better.
I also know that it is on my shoulders to be that calm voice of information and reassurance that people desire when there is such breaking news.
It is in those moments like the “Wine Country “firestorm that we must individually and as a profession bring our best selves and put our own fears, our own worries aside, and do what is best for the viewers looking to us for answers.
It’s a strange profession when you have to leave your family and hope they are ok because you have a responsibility to care and inform others, but that is what we do without even thinking twice.
Q: What's the toughest part of your job?
JA: From a personal perspective, it’s the very nature of the job that requires that “it” be first in your life. I have missed many birthdays, holidays, vacations, and back to school nights. When there is breaking news, you have to go without hesitation because your commitment has to be to the community, often before your own family. In many ways, it is like a first responder. When things go bad and everyone is running home to take care of their loved ones, the firefighters, police, and reporters are the ones running toward the mayhem.
On a professional level, all that “mayhem” takes a toll on your psyche. I am the most prepared person at every event because I always think something could go wrong. I see potential danger everywhere! When I was the class mom at my girl’s schools, I would book the field trip busses, and everyone knew I would inspect them before anyone got on. I am a worrier and all my fears are on a grand news scale!
Q: What is the key to success when communicating with the public?
JA: Being yourself, being honest and allowing them to see who you really are.
Q: Do you have any advice you can share for those women who may want to pursue a career in Broadcast Journalism?
JA: I talk to women studying broadcast journalism all the time and I always say the same thing: start in the trenches. You need to know how to do everyone’s job in the newsroom, so you are self-sufficient as an anchor and reporter.
If you are looking to be on TV because you think it’s glamorous, you will be disappointed.
You are not reading the news; you are living the news.
I also always tell young women coming up not to be afraid, to be direct, to take chances, or to ask for what they want.
Q: What's the greatest fear you've had to overcome to get where you are today?
JA: I am still combating it: that I am not doing enough, accomplishing enough, or giving enough.
Q: Can you tell our audience one of your most memorable moments in your career?
JA: There is no single moment, it is a tapestry of moments woven together where you feel satisfied and proud that you made a difference, that you helped someone, and that you changed a life. What I often most remember are the hugs, the thank you notes, and the photos people send me years after I have done a story, updating me on how they are doing and reminding me that all the lost personal moments were well worth it.
Q: What’s the one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
JA: You get a new chance every day to do right.
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
JA: I see inspiring women on a daily basis, Moms who fight to get their kids’ medical care, Women fighting to get a seat at the table in corporate boardrooms, or Women battling to lead, I see it every day in my co-workers who are unafraid to run toward a dangerous story.
I see it at night when the elderly woman who cleans our studio comes by my desk. She does her job with such dignity and diligence to help pay for her granddaughters’ college.
I see the way she carries herself while she works so hard at a job that many would consider to be unskilled, and I think to myself, I hope I can one day live up to her.
Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
JA: I think a lot has changed since I started in TV in the 90’s. At that point, I was one of handful of minority reporters in the newsroom and the men ran virtually all the stations. Today, newsrooms reflect the communities in which we live. At KNTV the main anchors are Hispanic, Indian and Chinese and African American, I could not have imagined that level of diversity 30 years ago. Even more significant a woman runs our network division, my general manager is a woman, and my news director is a woman. But I would be naïve if I didn’t admit that we still face some of the same issues we did decades ago, as do most women in workforce, dealing with kids, family, and having our voices heard.
Q: What do you like the most about living in the Bay Area?
JA: I love the diversity of the Bay Area from the people to the landscape to the opportunities that are available.
You forget how beautiful it is here and how much there is to do until you have out of town guests. You have a very sophisticated social scene in San Francisco and a wonderfully creative vibe in Oakland.
The peninsula is innovative and the East Bay where I live still has a small-town feel. Go to the North Bay, it is breathtaking and healing. My only complaint is the ever-increasing costs to live here, which I fear will eventually force my own daughters who were both born here to move away.
Five Things about Jessica Aguirre
1. If you could talk to one famous person, past or present, who would it be and why?
I’ve actually met my favorite famous person: Madeleine Albright. As the first woman Secretary of State, she really set the bar for women, she never hid that she was the smartest person in the room and that she had ambition, but she also showed us younger women that we didn’t have to act like a man to be equal to a man. Crazy part ...I met her and Condoleezza Rice at the same time. I was a total fan girl. I keep the picture of the three of us on my phone!
2. What’s the one item you always pack in your suitcase?
My glasses! I have never been able to read without them, so I pack multiple pairs.
I’m always panicking about not having my glasses even when I am wearing my contacts.
3. If you were a superhero, what would your special powers be?
My superpower would be removing people’s pain.
4. What app can’t you live without?
Find my friends. I stalk my kids that way form the anchor desk, lol!
5. If they made a movie of your life, who’d play you?
If they made a movie of my life, I would make myself MUCH more glamorous, so I would pick Salma Hayak. If she was busy, I would pick Eva Longoria, both women are small but passionate.