By Judith Salkin
Moving around the country, trading up stations and hoping to land at one in a top 10 market is the life most broadcast journalists look forward to after college.
Some will find a position at a company where they can stay and put down roots.
But only a few will be luckier still, like Coachella Valley native and KMIR morning show anchor Gloria Margarita who has made her broadcast career where she grew up.
The anchor spot is only one of her jobs that affect the lives of valley residents. Margarita is also the executive director of the Dr. Carreon Foundation, which grants scholarships to Coachella Valley students and is an instructor at College of the Desert.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” she said recently of juggling the different parts of her career. “Luckily the foundation and the station are very supportive of me.”
Margarita, who was born Gloria Margarita Rodriguez, has lived most of her 31 years in the valley. She was born in Palm Springs and raised in Cathedral City. Her parents had come to the valley on their own honeymoon from Mexicali, and decided to make a life here.
“My dad was a gardener and my mother was a housekeeper,” she said. “They taught my brother, sister and me that getting an education was one of the most important things in our lives.”
She graduated from Cathedral City High School before leaving the valley to attend the University of Southern California in Los Angeles to study broadcast journalism and political science, and later the Columbia University School of Journalism in New York City, where she earned her master’s degree in broadcast journalism.
At 13, she got a close-up introduction to broadcast journalism when her brother took her to work one day at Univision in Los Angeles. The bright lights, the action and the high adrenaline levels all caught her attention.
“I got to watch a live broadcast and I knew I wanted to be on television,” she said.
Coming from a working class family, she needed scholarships to help pay for her education. That included money from the Dr. Carreon Foundation.
“My parents couldn’t afford to send me to those schools,” she said. “The Dr. Carreon Foundation supported me through USC and Columbia. It was a great help. Today I don’t think most students have the financial means to continue their education without help, which is why I’m so devoted (to the foundation).”
While in NYC, Margarita interned as a print journalist at the New York Times and later covered the Yankees for the paper during playoff season. She’s had her work also published in The Boston Globe, St. Paul Pioneer Press and locally in The Desert Sun.
Her first on-air job was at KNWA, the NBC affiliate in Fayetteville, Ark. Initially her plan was to follow the jobs until she made it to a major market. That was until she lost her mother to a massive heart attack.
“I came back to take care of my dad,” she said. She only planned on staying a few months and then looking for another on-air position.
As it turned out she was hired as a weekend anchor and field reporter for KMIR and started at the station in January 2006. As a former scholarship recipient, she donated her time to the Carreon Foundation’s board of directors and when the executive director’s position came up, she moved to work full-time with the nonprofit in 2009.
While the work with the foundation was fulfilling, “I missed being a reporter,” she said. When Gino LaMont moved to the evening anchor position, Margarita filled the spot as co-anchor of KMIR’s two-hour Today Show lead-in.
“It works perfectly for me,” she said. “I do news in the morning and work at the foundation in the afternoon.”
As an area native, Margarita brings a unique perspective to her reporting. “I see the changes that have happened,” she said. She sees the changes in the faces of the valley. “It’s very rare to see someone who grew up in the Coachella Valley, especially a Latino, in an anchor chair. Even though it’s a smaller market, I know I have to behave!”
She also gives back to the community by teaching mass media, public relations and broadcast classes at COD. “Whatever they need me to do,” she said. “My degree from Columbia has allowed me to teach the next generation.
In all her positions, Margarita is someone from the Coachella Valley’s Latino community who left the valley for their education and has returned to lead by their own example.
“Part of my job in television is to raise awareness,” she said. “Today there are so many more Hispanics who are in leadership positions, like Raul Ruiz, who have come back and are making the Coachella Valley a better place.”
Coming back to the valley was the right decision for Margarita.
“I lived in L.A. and New York, and I loved the cities and the opportunities they offered,” she said. “But being here, I’m still busy, but it’s like being on vacation every day. It’s so calm and relaxing.”