2006-2007 Cronkite Journal

Page 49

2005 Cronkite School hall of fame

A passion for family Ellen Leyva


t’s 6:45 a.m. and TV news anchor Ellen Leyva has finished her first cup of coffee and started making breakfast for her husband, Mark, and their two young daughters. Her workday won’t peak until 5 p.m., when she anchors “Eyewitness News” on KABC Channel 7 in Los Angeles, the most popular nightly news show in the nation’s second-largest news market. But Leyva isn’t complaining. She remembers all too well the seven years she had to get up at 2:30 a.m. to do the morning news. “It was brutal,” she said. “I’m not a morning person. I was a tired mom.” Leyva, a 1986 Cronkite School graduate, is one of the two newest members of the Cronkite School Alumni Hall of Fame. When Leyva joined “Eyewitness News” in 2002, the ratings jumped 30 percent overnight, said co-anchor David Ono. “She’s the full package,” Ono said. “Part of the business is being a good journalist and part of it is being liked. People have to like watching you.” Her husband agreed. “She’s just really a down-to-earth person,” Mark Hair said. “That warmth carries over on the air. I think people pick up on that.” Leyva’s warmth was one of the qualities that ASU’s former TV and Radio News Director Michael Wong spotted back in 1985 when Leyva enrolled in his studio techniques class. “She had a presence,” Wong said. “She knew how to work with the camera and was comfortable with the camera.” She was also a serious student, Wong said. “She always asked good questions, and she was pretty focused.” After Leyva graduated, Wong lost track of her, but years later, while visiting southern California, he noticed an attractive, talented news anchor on KABC Channel 7 and thought she might have been one of his students. A quick Internet search proved his hunch. Wong reconnected, and in 2005 he nominated her for the Hall of Fame. Leyva, a native of Tucson, started her

By Kim Brooks-Blum

broadcast career in 1986 as an intern at KTSP-TV Channel 10 in Phoenix, a local CBS station at the time. She stayed for two years, then left for Sacramento, Calif., where she worked as a reporter three days a week and an anchor on the weekends at KXTV Channel 10. A year after that, she moved to Los Angeles. to be the 10 p.m. anchor for KCOP. In 1995 Leyva joined rival KABC as the health reporter, and six months later she was promoted to co-anchor of the morning show. Leyva said it’s luck that got her where she is today. The daughter of a Mexican immigrant and a high school math and science teacher, she grew up in a bilingual home in Tucson. Spanish was the first language she learned because she stayed home all day with her mother, who didn’t speak English. Her mother eventually learned English by watching soap operas on TV. Perhaps it was the hours of soap operas playing in the background that first inspired Leyva to become an actress. “I wanted to be a soap star,” she confessed. “But I’m too practical and wanted a little more control.” She decided the next best thing was to host “Entertainment Tonight,” covering the latest Hollywood gossip. “Then I thought, ‘That isn’t practical either’,” she said. When she discovered television news, she knew she had found the right fit. “It seemed like a fun, dynamic job and I could do it as a mom,” she said. “I wanted to be a hands-on mom.” Even the morning show in Los Angeles had its upside, she said. She could be home with her daughters by 9 a.m. Her priorities haven’t changed. Although she brings the evening news to more people than any other anchor in the L.A. area, she said the No. 1 show she performs is the one at home with her children. It’s called being a mom.

Ellen Leyva

more on levya Question: What was your childhood ambition? Ellen Leyva: To be an actress or writer; better yet, to write my own film and star in it. Q: First job? EL: Flipping hamburgers at Hardee’s. Q: Who has inspired you most in your life? EL: My mother, who is a stay-at-home mom and helped us with our own kids. Q: What is your proudest moment? EL: The days my girls, Emma and Audrey, were born. Q: What is the biggest challenge that you face? EL: Trying to balance work and family — and do a good job at both. Q: What is the best advice you have ever received? EL: If you can, try to raise your own children, even if it means waking up at 2:30 in the morning when you’re not a morning person. My husband, Mark, and I have always juggled our careers and schedules so we can be hands-on parents.



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