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Joe Vazquez (BA ‘95)


Position: News Reporter

Employer: CBS

Current City: San Francisco, CA

What does your job involve?

I am a TV News reporter for the CBS affiliate in San Francisco.  Among the thousands of stories over the last 20 years, I have covered fires, murders, hurricanes, and major political scandals.  Some days are more dramatic than others. Often I am assigned to go to City Hall or the state legislature and do a story about a proposed piece of legislation.  It's my job to break down complicated issues into two-minute digestible bites.  It is also my obligation to hold elected officials' feet to the fire when they are engaged in activities that abuse taxpayer dollars. 

Just last month, my team won an Emmy for our coverage of a political scandal that brought down a sitting State Senator.  It's my third Emmy and 10th nomination, but the stories I'm most proud of don't usually get such recognition.  A few years ago I did a story about how the police chief of Oakland wrote a secret memo to the city council, refusing to come up with a crime fighting strategy for his high crime city.  Exposing that memo was one of my finest moments, but the story won no awards and got me unofficially banned and uninvited from city events for years. I wear THAT badge with pride!

How did your political science degree influence your career path?

While it is unusual for a reporter to major in political science, I find it has been instrumental in my career for this simple reason:  it has given me the confidence to look a politician in the eye and say, "With all due respect, that is not true."  My education under the legendary professor Ross Lence taught me to question everything.  Look at the issue from all sides.  Don't trust anybody, especially a politician because they are all, potentially, lying liars!  Seriously, though, I have been lied to, spun around, pointed in the wrong direction so many times that I don't trust anything or anybody until I have either seen it for myself or researched it thoroughly.  We have an expression: "Even if your Mama tells you she loves you -- check it out!"  Professor Lence also taught me to keep my papers tight and right to the point.  If he assigned a 3-page paper and you turned in a 4-pager, you got an "F"!  Pay attention to details and keep your story focused.  There is no better exercise in journalism.

Do you have any advice for students who aspire to hold a job like yours?

Following your passion is key, though not nearly enough.  Like an athlete who spends hours honing his skills, you have to work every day at improving.  You also have to recognize that in this field you do not start at the top. You often spend years making next to nothing at a small town TV station before you break through to the next medium-sized town (now making only a little more than next to nothing).  If you believe in yourself, work very hard and hone your skills you may advance.  You may not. It is extremely competitive, so you have to like competition.  When I was in college and I heard a professor say my field was competitive, I noticed that some of my classmates decided to hedge their bets and double-major. I doubled down. Competitive? Awesome. That means I could win!