The Marathon of the Anchorman

News Anchor Artie Ojeda Found his Calling at City College


Artie Ojeda at NBC 7 after his newscast. Photo credit: Troy Orem

David Pradel

As the sun begins to rise, sweat drips down Artie Ojeda’s face as his eyes capture the beauty of San Diego. The local news anchor isn’t wearing a suit and tie but rather sporting his running clothes. The former San Diego City College graduate wakes up and runs early in the morning before heading down to the NBC station to begin his day.

Ojeda can be spotted running along the coast or at Lake Miramar trying to relieve the stress of the daily newsroom grind, but if it weren’t for a weekend morning while on the job, the NBC 7 reporter may have never laced up his running shoes.

“It turns out, many years ago, I was anchoring the weekend morning show and we had a guest who was running a marathon to raise a petition to the liver foundation because her daughter needed a liver transplant. So she is there with her daughter … and on the air she challenged me to run a marathon. And I was like ‘Uhhh.’ What are you going to say?” Ojeda said.

He agreed to the challenge on live TV and with the young girl making sure he kept his word, he began preparing for his first marathon. The days spent training for his first marathon soon turned into running for a second and then a third. He caught the running bug and found not only a great way to stay in a shape, but a way to relax before he gets in front of the cameras.

In the past 14 years, Ojeda has ran in about 20 marathons, including The Boston Marathon as well San Diego marathons, where he said, “it’s great because so many people recognize me.”

With the locals cheering on Ojeda as he runs amongst the large crowds, it was in 2003 in St. George, Utah, where the news reporter ran his fastest time of 2 hours and 59 minutes.

Although running helps Ojeda relieve stress, he admits that a few bad words have slipped when things do get out of hand in the newsroom.

“It’s one of those things that I’ve been doing it long enough where most of the time I’d like to think that I’m in control of the situation,” Ojeda said. As the stress levels rise and the deadline pressure can get out of hand, he admitted, “That’s probably the beauty of this job. Because you never know what you are going to be doing from day to day.”

For almost two decades many San Diegans have watched Ojeda’s familiar face on TV, where he can be seen out in the field reporting in the weekdays, and anchoring the weekend newscast in the evenings with his co-anchor, Danya Bacchus.

Whether it’s reading news scripts on the weekend before a newscast or going out into the city after an editorial meeting to tell a story, the one thing that motivates this Latino journalist are the people.

“It’s great. It’s awesome. (I) get a chance to go out and learn about people and get to meet people and it may sound a little corny but I thrive on that,” Ojeda said. “… And then here, I feel like I work with a bunch of really, really good people and it starts with my co-anchor Danya. I like to think that we have a really good working relationship.”

When the cameras are off, the two weekend co-anchors provide each other with comic relief which Ojeda confessed, “… that, too, helps relieve some of the pressure and stress that goes along with the job.”

“Co-anchoring the weekend newscast with Artie is a lot of fun. He is a consummate professional who doesn’t take himself too seriously,” Bacchus said. “The job can be stressful and Artie is always able to stay calm and provide comic relief, if needed. Artie is a veteran journalist who is considered a leader in our newsroom. I’m proud to sit beside him on the anchor desk.”

As a native San Diegan, Ojeda knows where the “bodies are buried” (a newsroom term for knowing all about the place), and according to his co-anchor, he is always willing to help with contacts or connections for a story and is someone she looks up to in the newsroom.

“Artie is a hard working, dedicated and self motivated journalist,” Bacchus said. “… He understands all aspects of the business. I believe the ethical and moral standards he has set for himself as a journalist makes him well respected, not only in our newsroom, but the community.”

Apart of the job is to represent the station outside in the community and when Ojeda can’t be found in front of the cameras or running along the coast – the local Latino journalist can be found in the North County as an event emcee or workshop presenter for non-profit organization called Encuentros Leadership.

For the past 10 years, Ojeda serves on a volunteer basis for the organization that focuses on helping Latino boys from middle school throughout high school.

“The boys are always excited to see Artie at the Encuentros conferences each year, because they watch the news. They come up to him at the conferences to say hello or ‘Hey, I know that guy…he’s the guy on the news’. Artie is always very friendly to the boys and engaging. He is a wonderful role model for our youth and an inspiration to know,” said Lisa Montes, a Board Member for Encuentros Leadership. “…Artie is a great role model because he is a giving person and expects nothing in return. He has volunteered with Encuentros for ten years and does this on a volunteer basis, because he truly cares about the future of our youth. The boys sense his willingness to give back to others and see him as a role model.”

Each year, Ojeda offers a workshop or two during their Education and Career Exploration Conference on broadcast journalism.

“He brings a camera from the station and shows the boys how it works and what happens behind the scenes of a broadcast. His workshops are always super insightful and the boys really get excited about learning what it takes to have a career in broadcast journalism,”said Montes.

In addition, Ojeda also serves as an emcee during their Leadership series where they invite local businesses to hear what they are doing to help the Latino boys continue their education. According to Montes, Ojeda is like a brother to the other board members who are involved with Encuentros.

“He shows up to the conferences very early in the morning and gets to work on his conference assignment. After working with us for a half day, he heads down to the station (NBC 7 San Diego) to prepare for his anchor spot on the 11 p.m. news,” Montes said. “Just thinking about it, he works more than a twelve hour day and never complains. He is positive, upbeat, and always, always has a smile on his face.”

After winning several awards throughout his career, the news anchor and reporter has the opportunity to deliver the news in his hometown, but how did it all begin for the local Serra High School graduate?

Little did he know then, but his very first marathon began in 1979 at San Diego City College.

“I kind of went to City College by chance because my SAT English scores weren’t strong enough immediately to get into a four-year college, so I ended up going to a junior college,” Ojeda said. “One of the classes that I had to take was an English 50 class, a dummy English class, and as it turns out the professor for that class happened to be the journalism professor. So I did okay in the class, and he said hey if you want to get into journalism, you might want to think about joining the City Times staff. So that’s how I became involved in journalism on the newspaper side.”

While working for the student newspaper, Ojeda served as the sports editor for his first year on the staff. He wrote about City College’s football team, soccer team and many other sports. His name and story headlines could be seen on the entire sports page.

Ojeda was a dedicated writer and during his second year, he was named editor-in-chief of the student-run newspaper for the 1981 school year. That same year, the young journalist won first place in on-the-spot copy editing and headline writing at the Journalism Association of Community Colleges conference.

When Ojeda wasn’t writing stories for the newspaper, he could be found across campus, practicing his on-camera skills for the student broadcast program, Newscene. Ojeda explained that while working for City Times, he was interested in the telecommunications courses offered at City College.

“(He) was really professional, he took everything really seriously, if he started to work on something — he was serious about it, he took it to heart and made the deadlines and did the best job he could. He stood out, there was no doubt about it,” said Larry Quick, the department’s chief engineer, who was working in the TV department at City College when Ojeda attended.

Today, Ojeda attributes a great deal of his success in the business from his time at City College.

“The nice thing about City College, and I can’t speak for the other junior colleges but you get in there, you take a few prerequisites courses and then it’s hands on and you’re in front of the camera, you are doing Newscene and putting together that newscast and going out putting together reports. So it’s real world experience, not daily but you get to do it,” said Ojeda.

While honing his journalistic skills on campus, Ojeda also gained experience in the news field after interning at KFMB-TV Channel 8. He encourages students interested in the same career path to do the same.

“My biggest suggestion is to obviously stay in school, but to get an internship. All of the local stations offer fabulous internship programs. That’s how I got my foot in the door, because it could help get that foot in the door and lead to a job at that particular station, but it also allows you to take a look and see what people are doing,” Ojeda said. “And you may find that well maybe this is not what I want to do or it may reinforce the fact that this is definitely what I want to do. And for me when I interned over at Channel 8, I knew this is what I wanted to do.”

After spending three years at City College and receiving two associate degrees in telecommunications and journalism, many might wonder what kept Ojeda so focused at such a young age.

As an intern, Ojeda had to balance his workload with the school and life issues. But even with such a busy schedule, the 20-year-old Ojeda found time to hear wedding bells ring and he decided to get married during his time at City College.

“Without a doubt my wife kept me grounded and she was also there to support me. So there was a great built in support system …” Ojeda said. He smiled and continued to say that his wife is still by his side — 32 years later.

Ojeda continued his journalism education at San Diego State State University. After graduation, he opted to leave his hometown to start his career working for KTAB-TV in Abilene, Texas, in 1985.

Developing his reporting and anchoring skills in west Texas proved to be a big culture shock for the San Diego native.

“I can remember one of my first Texas experiences, is where they had this thing called The Rattlesnake Roundup and it was in a place called Sweetwater, Texas, and the whole thing is where you go out and you hunt rattlesnakes and you bring them back and they had this big festival and they make boots, belts, key chains and they cook snakes. And (I) was like ‘Wow, you’re not in San Diego anymore,'” he said.

Luckily, Ojeda was able to find a job after spending four months in west Texas at KGUN-TV in Tucson, Ariz. After almost a year in Arizona, Ojeda found his way back to San Diego in 1986 for KFMB-TV, where he reported the news for three years before becoming the weekend sports anchor for Channel 8 for two years. During his time at Channel 8, Ojeda received an Emmy for Best Performance in News and a Golden Mic for Outstanding Coverage of the Cerritos plane crash in 1986.

After this first go-around in San Diego, Ojeda decided to travel up north to Los Angeles in 1991 to continue his career as a weekend sports anchor for KCOP-TV. While in Los Angeles, Ojeda was named Best Weekend Sports Anchor by the Associated Press in 1995.

“I had an opportunity to go to Los Angeles and I just kind of wanted to get a taste of that big, big market and I was doing sports at that time so that was very neat. I got to do some of my most memorable things when I was doing sports.” he said. “Whether it was following Magic Johnson around with the Lakers or when the Los Angeles Kings hockey team made their first Stanley Cup run that year and we got to go to Toronto and Montreal. So it was nice and a lot of traveling. That said though, it was probably not the best place to raise a young family and so after five years we decided to come back home and that’s where I landed with NBC.”

In 1996, the journalist returned to San Diego and found his home away from home at NBC.

After all the stories he has covered, and all the accomplishments in his career, family remains important to Ojeda. In fact, he admits with a laugh that “raising my two kids” has been the biggest accomplishment of his career, though the credibility he has established with his audience remains just as important.

“I think at this point, gosh I’ve done so many stories. People ask me often times what was the biggest story that you’ve ever covered but I don’t really have an answer. But what I think right now, what is important to me is the credibility that I have established with my viewers and that comes with doing it for such a long time,” Ojeda said. “I’ve been here long enough where I can go to a story and people will recognize me and they’re willing to give me information that maybe otherwise if they weren’t comfortable with a reporter that they wouldn’t. So that’s pretty important to me, that I’ve established a credible presence in San Diego, which is cool because it’s my home city.”

The anchorman leaves his office and walks down from the second floor. On his way to the studio, he walks passed the loud newsroom, where his second family can be seen answering the phones and glued to computer screens. He smiles with a stack of news scripts in his hand, along with a water bottle, making his way to the anchor chair. He’s ready to go. It’s the same way he approached the job several blocks down where it all began at City College.

The red light goes on …

“Good evening. I’m Artie Ojeda …”