New Mexican turned Oregonian Bridget Chavez took home her second Emmy win on June 5 for best newscast reporter.
The award was given to her for her reporting on an avalanche that occurred in Alpine Meadows, Calif., during early 2020
Chavez said reporting on stories that resonate with people, raise awareness and change things for the better make her job worth it.
“I really love doing stories that have a lasting impact or that have the potential to help someone,” Chavez said, “especially this past year, covering the wildfires when everyone wanted to know what was going on and had to figure out how to get help.”
While Chavez currently calls Portland, Ore., home and has lived around the United States, she traces her roots and beginnings of her broadcast journalism career back to Belen — the Hub City.
“I think there was always a piece of me that always wanted to do something in storytelling,” she said. “I was always interviewing my grandpa, who was a World War II vet, so every time we were doing some sort of report or anything like that, I would always say, ‘I’m going to interview my grandfather’ — obviously, he had the best stories.”
As she was growing up, family wasn’t hard to come by. Chavez lived with her parents and three sisters, and her aunt, uncle and cousins lived next door, and her grandparents lived around the corner with other family within a 10-minute drive of her childhood home.
“We were always outside, not wearing shoes most of the time,” Chavez remembers about her childhood in Belen. “Just running around during summers and going to the swimming pool at the high school, which was kind of like a big activity during the summer.
“I feel very lucky to have grown up in that environment because it was all very family-centered. I never had a baby sitter that wasn’t related to us.”
In addition to enjoying speaking to her grandfather and documenting his stories, Chavez said as a child, she always had a journalistic curiosity — always asking why.
The curiosity led her to join the newspaper in both middle and high school, but credits her former teacher, Roselyn Wisneski, for encouraging her to pursue journalism as a career.
Wisneski began a school news broadcasting program out of the newspaper class at Belen High School, where Chavez tried out for one of the two anchor positions. After auditioning, Wisneski pointed out Chavez had a natural quality in front of the camera and could pursue broadcast journalism professionally.
Chavez graduated from Belen High School in 2010.
“It was the first time I realized that,” Chavez said. “I knew it was a job because I grew up watching (‘Good Morning America’) and things like that, but it hadn’t clicked in my head before that point that it could be a career.”
After Chavez graduated from The University of New Mexico in 2014 with dual degrees in multimedia journalism and political science, she made the decision to enter into the Teach for America program, which took her to the Bay Area.
“I don’t know why my brain was like, you need to do something that’s volunteer-based, that going to make you really uncomfortable, but it’s going to help people and it’s really going to force you to grow out of your comfort zone,” Chavez said, adding that she was grappling between Teach for America and the Peace Corps, but felt TFA was more up her alley.
After spending two years in San Francisco, Calif., completing the Teach for America program, another crossroads came for Chavez — teaching or journalism.
She had already earned a master’s degree in special education, but rode the decision on her admittance to the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.
“If you want to do broadcasting, you go to Newhouse,” Chavez said.
Through the 14-month program at Syracuse, she was able to cover the 2016 presidential election and promptly moved to Reno, Nev., to work for the ABC affiliate following earning her master’s degree.
Chavez earned her first Emmy win for best newscast with her team at KOLO 8 News Now for their special coverage on the anniversary of the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif.
She reported in Nevada for about two years before her contract with the station ended and began looking for her next opportunity.
“The main places that I was considering were Portland, Vegas, San Diego and Austin, Texas,” Chavez said. “Then the job in Portland opened up. My now-assistant news editor called me up and we did a phone interview. The next day, I talked to her again and my current news director. The next day they were like ‘you’re hired’ and I was like ‘great, I’m moving to Oregon.’”
She moved to Oregon last summer and now calls Portland one of her favorite places because of the proximity to the Pacific Ocean as well as snowboarding on Mt. Hood.
Chavez is now a news reporter for Fox 12 Oregon.
However, she added, through all of her travels across the United States, the place she is living always tops her list of favorite places.
“When I’m in the place, I’m like this is my favorite,” Chavez laughed. “They all just have such amazing aspects. I will definitely say that I am partial to the West Coast.”
While she didn’t rule out moving back to New Mexico in the future to be with her family again, she said the only certainty is wherever her journey takes her, she will continue to report the news.
“It’s not out of the realm of possibility,” Chavez said about the possibility of moving back to her home state. “It just kind of depends where life takes me. New Mexico will always be where I grew up and I will always be very proud to rep 505.”