24
Mar
09

Broadcast journalist

my book

my book

Dear Readers:

by Maria Celeste Arraras

I was fortunate to grow up in a family with a great passion for excellence. Both my mother and father instilled that in me. They believed that every time you reach a goal you have to raise the bar and go on to the next level. I spent my childhood surrounded by the wonderful academic world because my father was the chancellor of the University of Mayagüez. One time I got a C in school and my father sat me down and said, “In this house, you come in with an A or an F. You have to be either the best of the best or the best of the worst. But never mediocre.” And that is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned.

After I graduated from college in New Orleans, I went back to Puerto Rico, but at the time there was really no opportunity on the island for new graduates, so I took a job as an advertising copywriter. I figured that advertising deals a lot with the TV industry and that I had a better chance to find an opportunity to make the crossover. And sure enough, that’s what happened!

Soon after I began working, I went to an Advertising Awards ceremony where I met an impresario who was about to start a 24-hour news station in Puerto Rico–kind of a CaribbeanCNN. He was looking for hungry and driven young people for on-camera jobs. It was the job I had dreamed about and a great place to learn. This  man sent us all over the world to report on every major event at the time. I covered civil wars in Latin America, the Olympics, the presidential elections in the U.S.

After a while I was offered a better-paying job at one of the established local stations. Because it was one of the many that didn’t open the door before, I declined. I could have brought up the offer to my boss as a bargaining chip to get a raise, but I didn’t. I felt a sense of loyalty. My parents always told me to let my principles guide me.

Eventually my boss heard what I had done and rewarded me by giving me the most coveted assignment at the time– to cover the beginning of glasnost and perestroika in the Soviet Union. I went to the Soviet Union and came back with a one-hour special that won me the Journalist of the Year award. At the awards ceremony, I met the man who would be named news director of the Univision affiliate in New York three months later. The same week he started, he asked me for a demo tape. That’s how I entered the Hispanic television arena.

After a couple of months, a new management cleaned out the staff. The new news director brought a new anchor and new reporters because he wanted his own people. Because of my contract, I had the option to stay as a reporter or cash out and leave. I decided to stay because I knew I could learn from this experienced news director. When I informed him of my decision, he said, “You have two choices. You have a bag of lemons and you’ll either get sour or make lemonade.” I was so eager for him to trust me and accept me that I went all over New York City until I found a card that had a lemon on the front. I wrote on it, “Let’s make lemonade,” and I bought him a bag of lemons. It did nothing for him. He would always send his reporters on assignment, not me. He took my office away and sat me in front of a Formica desk looking at a wall.

But finally, I got to do little stories and I put my heart and soul into them. I got noticed by the news director of Univision network. He offered me the job of substitute national anchor and head of the L.A. bureau. A year later the network moved headquarters to Miami and they asked me to come along as the national newscast anchor for the weekend edition. I later became coanchor of “Primer Impacto,” an infotainment news magazine with a more flexible format that became the national newscast. The show was a big success, but after almost 10 years, I decided it was time to grow in a different direction, and I joined Telemundo network.

It has been  seven years since “Al Rojo Vivo con María Celeste” first aired on Telemundo. As the managing editor of the program, I told everyone from day one that we were going to keep raising the bar while sticking to principles and ethics. And we have.  Not long ago, when I had the honor of receiving an Emmy for my career achievements, I dedicated the award to my father. In my acceptance speech, I spoke to him directly and said, “This is definitely an A, Dad.”

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