Editor’s Note: The following story first appeared in Cal State East Bay Magazine. Read the most recent magazine, The Food Issue; view more photos; and check out back issues online.
Watching the KTVU Channel 2 newscast as a 4-year-old, Sabrina Rodriguez ’05 told her family they would one day watch her reporting from behind the anchor’s desk. Rodriguez never wavered from wanting to follow in the foot-steps of her idols: Bay Area news anchors Elaine Corral, Dennis Richmond, and Leslie Griffith.
“I don’t remember a time when I ever wanted to be anything other than a news reporter,” says Rodriguez, 28, recently named California State University, East Bay 2011 Young Alumnus of the Year for her work as an Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist. “After growing up watching some of the best local news in the country, I knew I wanted to report the news when I got older.”
Rodriguez, who grew up in Union City, credits the CSUEB Department of Communication with training her to work in front of and behind the camera. Taking broadcast news classes helped her master field reporting, producing stories, and editing news tapes. By working at the college’s television station, Rodriguez learned the importance of meeting deadlines and juggling roles such as writing, reporting, and producing stories.
“I received a tremendous amount of experience editing and shooting stories, which television stations require for entry-level jobs,” she says. “I’ve talked to students from other universities who only learned the theory behind working in television; they never received the hands-on experience I did at CSUEB.”
That experience helped set Rodriguez apart from other job candidates, and in her junior year she landed an internship at KTVU. Suddenly, she was working at the television station she grew up watching, meeting her role models, and receiving valuable career advice from KTVU Consumer Editor Tom Vacar and Weekend News Anchor Ken Wayne.
“It was a dream come true interning at KTVU,” says Rodriguez, who put in two years at the station before graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in communication.
Like most new graduates, Rodriguez started her career in a smaller television market, immediately securing a job as an anchor and reporter at CBS affiliate KCBY in Coos Bay, Oregon. There, she worked as a one-person shop doing everything from editing to shooting news footage. After 19 months in Oregon, she moved to ABC-FOX affiliate WGGB-TV in Springfield, Massachusetts, serving as an anchor and reporter. It was there that Rodriguez won an investigative reporting award from the Associated Press in 2008 for an investigative piece into the security systems of Springfield schools, where she went undercover as a high school student.
Missing the Bay Area, however, Rodriguez returned to California to anchor the weekend newscast at CBS station KBAK in Bakersfield.
“I love everything about my job.” Rodriguez says with a smile.
Her passion for reporting helped her win two Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Science Pacific Southwest Chapter in 2009 and 2010, both for her work as an anchor in the category of Outstanding Weekend Newscast.
“It was an honor to win my first Emmy Award at the age of 26 and then to win again the following year,” Rodriguez says.
Moving to Sacramento in the past year, Rodriguez now serves as a reporter and fill-in anchor on the morning news at FOX-affiliate KTXL, a job that has led to a range of assignments including a recent story for which she went undercover as a panhandler, playing her guitar, and asking for money over the course of three hours on the streets of Sacramento.
“It was a humbling experience,” Rodriguez says. “I received $27 in three hours, a sandwich, and an iced coffee from a homeless man. So many people asked why I was on the streets, and I also discovered a real brotherhood among the homeless who look out for one another.”
Rodriguez also has become social media savvy, keeping viewers updated on breaking stories she covers via Twitter and Facebook.
“Social media offers a way to engage our audience and to also get feedback from our viewers,” Rodriguez says. “When you’re reporting a story on location, you’re talking to the camera, so it’s nice to hear from viewers afterwards about what they liked about the story. Many viewers have also given me ideas for other stories.”
An avid runner, Rodriguez just signed up for her first half marathon, and enjoys reading, gymnastics, and hanging out with her cat, Salem, when she’s not at work.
Looking to the future, Rodriguez hopes to someday land a job at CNN in New York. While acknowledging that she enjoys producing feature stories, she also likes covering breaking news and investigative stories.
“My ultimate goal is to achieve a position of influence and to break convention,” she says.