Farewell, New York City; hello, Manila! From 1998 to 2003, Calvin became a familiar face on national TV, anchoring news programs on GMA and ABS-CBN. Audiences welcomed the refreshing Calvin, who embraced her Philippine roots thanks to her father, Roger Calvin of Floridablanca, Pampanga, a dashing matinee idol in the 1960s, and her mother, the late Delia Santos, a psychiatrist from Malolos, Bulacan.
But Calvin’s love affair with journalism first began with print 12 years ago. She was on track to finish her political science degree at New York University (NYU) a year earlier than expected until she decided she wasn’t ready for the real world just yet. A class she took called “Minorities in the Media” which tackled the responsible reportage on minorities (Asians, Africans and Latinos) and the issues affecting them “changed everything,” she says. “I realized that journalism was my calling.” She added to her academic load, majoring in Political Science and Broadcast Journalism and managing to graduate on time.
While her peers were busy doing the rounds of interviews or living up their final year at NYU, Calvin nailed a job as a desk assistant with the prestigious newsweekly TIME in the second semester of her senior year in 1996.
“That alone made me even hungrier to be a journalist because I was surrounded by some of the world’s best print journalists. It was a blessing,” she adds. Calvin kept her plate full, working for TIME and simultaneously freelancing as an assistant assignment desk editor for CNN. This first real-life exposure to broadcasting, which included an interview she did with controversial former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, fed her desire to do news on-cam.
“I really wanted to get my start on TV and come out from behind the scenes,” Calvin says. “I always wanted to live in the Philippines and thought that it would be a great place to start my career because of my interest in international politics.”
For Calvin, the native New Yorker, the Philippines became both her boot camp and playground. When asked what she remembers most about her stay in the Philippines, she replies: “How lucky I was to be working with some of the greatest broadcasters of the country. They all taught me so much.”
She got her break anchoring “Mornings@GMA” in 1998 before moving to ABS-CBN soon after, where she stayed for four years, learning the ropes and winning kudos. She hosted “Points of View,” which won the Golden Dove Awards for Best Talk Show during her stint there. Calvin cites Korina Sanchez and Dong Puno as two of the best broadcasters she enjoyed working with. In earning her broadcasting stripes, she cherished this dictum: “Do not be afraid to ask the questions you want to ask because those are the questions the public wants to hear answers to.”
Her most memorable interview experience however was for a defunct magazine show called “F” which she co-hosted with Daphne Oseña-Paez and Angel Aquino. The subject? Prince Albert of Monaco, whom she interviewed on his cause, environmental awareness.
“‘F’ was the only show to interview him exclusively when he was in town. I was so nervous, I barely remember the questions I asked… I do remember asking him about his love life, since he is, even until now, still unmarried. He glossed over the question as I knew he would. But it was worth asking,” she says.
A NEW CHAPTER
With her Philippine broadcasting experience under her belt, Calvin returned to the US in 2003 after hearing of an opening for an anchor position in Las Vegas for the Fox News network. A year later, she moved to a bigger market, Los Angeles, where she continues to anchor the morning news of KTLA, an affiliate of America’s second largest newspaper publisher, the Tribune Company.
Among the most challenging interviews she’s done was with Maria Shriver, an accomplished journalist and wife of California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I really felt that I had to be extra prepared. The segment was live and remote and was only supposed to be four minutes, but we were live for seven minutes. The interview went on more like a conversation and was very fluid,” Calvin says. Her most excruciating interview? With actor Robert Downey in New York City for the film Shaggy Dog. “I was one of the last to interview him and he was just not in the mood for questions anymore. I got what I needed but the interview itself just felt like a flop. When I saw the tape, it was painful,” she says.
It was her anchor duties on the news show one May morning in 2004 that won her the Emmy in 2005 for the best talent in a regularly scheduled daytime newscast. This is the feather in Calvin’s cap, and while she doesn’t rest on her laurels, she sees herself with KTLA for some time to come.
“Things have really changed. The things that were important to you in your 20s are not the same concerns that you have in your 30s. I am so excited to be in this stage of my life. It’s much more peaceful and focused,” says Calvin. And part of that focus comes from her marriage on August 8, 2008 to her 32-year-old Swedish boyfriend, whom she met at a friend’s wedding. She was the maid of honor, and he, the best man. “He is wonderful and I have never been happier,” says Calvin, who looks forward to having kids, and respects women who juggle career and motherhood, as well as full-time moms.
Calvin considers her dad her “mentor in life.” “He always has my best interest in mind and that is irreplaceable.” Her parents have kept her grounded. “I believe that keeping close to your family will always keep you on the right track. They are never afraid to tell you the truth.”
What has she learned that she wants to share with Filipinas? “Respect yourself, believe in yourself and know that if you work hard, play by the rules and do what you love, you will achieve your goals.”
And true to her unflappable journalist nature, she adds: “Never let them see you sweat, and always do your homework.”
(First published in Marie Claire, January 2008; photo used with permission from Cher Calvin)