Q+A: Erika Gonzalez
by Michael Sones | @IFmsones
Erika Gonzalez is the lead consumer reporter for WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. I recently spoke with her about her recent promotion, life in D.C. over the last three years, and much more.
First of all, congrats on the promotion! How do you like the new gig?
Erika Gonzalez: I will say that ‘refreshing’ is an understatement. To be able to not only work Monday through Friday night but also come into a team of individuals that has been honing this craft and this department for years…it’s been great. Liz Crenshaw left behind some really big shoes to fill and my management team here has been phenomenal in making sure that I not only found my footing but that I also took off running. They have helped make the transition seamless. There didn’t need to be an overhauling, I didn’t need to come into something that was in pieces or a wreck. It was a success story. The biggest homework assignment is making sure that the brand continues to ride that wave of success, yet at the same time evolve. It’s been a lot of fun, there have been a lot of wonderful projects that we’ve been able to tackle.
What are some of the biggest differences and/or similarities you’ve noticed working as a consumer reporter?
EG: I think the biggest thing in shifting from general assignment to consumer is that often times in general assignment you run into the dilemma of ‘How do I make this important to someone that doesn’t live in the area where this incident happened?’ Whereas in consumer, whether you make $20 thousand or $20 million, everybody is a consumer. And so the news that we report affects everybody, no matter where they live or how much money they make.
Also, consumer reporting in my eyes is still storytelling. I’ve tried not to look at my career as a journalist but I want to be a great storyteller. And so when I approached this it was, ‘I’m gonna take off this hat, this storytelling hat, and I’m gonna put on another one.’ But I’m still not a fact-finder or a fact giver, I’m a storyteller. And so now I’ve got to learn how to tell a story with a different focus.
And it’s still finding contacts and reaching out to people…thankfully we have a really broad base of individuals that we work with on a frequent basis. It’s kind of been more of a listening tour and meeting these people that we’ve already dealt with on a regular basis. Just approaching them and asking, ‘What have you liked? What is it about the consumer brand at WRC that you’ve enjoyed? What is it that you would like to see more of, or that you think we haven’t done at all?’ Before coming in and saying, ‘We’re going to do this, this and this,’ it’s really been an approach of, ‘Let’s listen first. Let’s listen and get some feedback from those that we’re serving, and find out if they want to see more of something, less of something, or a brand new side of something.’
How’s working in Washington, specifically at WRC?
EG: I’m so thankful for the management eye at WRC because I think if I had seen myself a couple years ago, I would’ve said, ‘No, she probably needs more time.’ This is the first station that has placed such an emphasis on me growing as an individual, as a journalist, as a woman, as a human being. I am better because they have invested in me. Because they have seen the potential. Because they have said there is work there, there is value there, and we’re gonna continue to play into that until we are really getting the fullest out of Erika. And I’m so thankful for them- they’ve given me the opportunity and the platform to grow. Gratitude is an understatement for what I feel. I’m so honored to work with colleagues that have been in this business and have been doing it damn good for years. For them to take me under their wing and show me how they’ve been able to do it successfully- I’m grateful.
You’re a Texas native… how does D.C. compare?
EG: It’s not Texas, that’s for sure. I’m a Texas snob, one of those ‘say it loud, say it proud’ people. But I will say that the audience here has been so gracious in embracing me and my growth. I think the biggest moments when I feel appreciated in this town are when individuals say, ‘Congrats, we’ve been watching you since you started, and the growth- wow!’ Everybody grows in their careers and the good and the bad part about TV is that you grow in front of an audience. The D.C.-Virginia-Maryland area has been so gracious in allowing me to grow before their eyes and transition into new projects. I’ve felt overwhelming support and I feel welcomed here and I finally feel like I have found my groove, like I’ve found my niche. It feels good now. It really does.
I think the fact that I so often say I’m from Texas- there are so many people here that understand that because people here are not really from D.C. I mean there are of course the ones that are, but it’s really such a hodgepodge of people that are from all over the place, and it really is a place where the best of the best come and spend some time and try to make this country a better place. It really is the epicenter of what happens in the rest of the country. And that’s in my backyard and it doesn’t get old. It still boggles my mind to look out over the Washington cityscape and think, ‘This is where I live now. This is where I make deposits, this is my community.’ It’s incredible to see that.