When Ana Cabrera ’04 first set foot on Washington State University’s Pullman campus in 2000, she had no idea she’d be live on national television in 17 years.
She didn’t know she’d go on to work as a weekend anchor for CNN and live in New York City. She was unaware that she’d cover major stories like riots in Ferguson, marijuana legalization, and immigration—or that her life would soon be at the 24/7 mercy of the “news gods.” And she certainly couldn’t predict that the president of the United States would call her and her fellow journalists the “enemy.”
What she did know was that she was home.
“Oh man, I can’t wipe this smile off my face,” Cabrera said, grinning as she settled into a chair in Studio B in Jackson Hall. “I feel like my heart is pumping outside my body coming back to WSU.”
In Pullman for the forty-second annual Murrow Symposium in April, Cabrera credits her successful journalism career with the hands-on education she received at WSU. She had access to professors with real world experience and Cable 8, WSU’s student-run TV station. There, she produced her own shows and gained experience in front of and behind the camera.
A distance runner for WSU’s track and cross country teams, Cabrera was no stranger to overcoming discomfort. She applied that mental toughness to her education, building industry connections and completing two internships before her senior year. She still uses those skills today to hold even the highest-ranking officials accountable on live television.
After graduating from WSU with degrees in communication and foreign languages and cultures, Cabrera worked as an anchor and reporter for KHQ and KAYU in Spokane. In 2009, she moved to Denver and anchored the top-ranked daily morning news program at ABC affiliate KMGH 7 News. In 2013, Cabrera joined CNN as a Denver-based correspondent. She covered major stories, including the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting of Michael Brown and the legalization of marijuana in Colorado.
In March, CNN promoted Cabrera to weekend primetime anchor in New York City. She is on air for nine hours every weekend. Cabrera spends her days reading news stories, researching facts and statistics on the latest issues, writing scripts, and brainstorming with her producers about prospective guests. It often makes for crazy hours.
“There have been some 80-hour weeks. There have been days where I’ve had just a couple hours of sleep over the course of a few days,” Cabrera says. “I go back to my old days as a cross country athlete and that perseverance and endurance.”
Then there’s the challenge of being a journalist in the age of fake news and alternative facts. For Cabrera, it’s made her want to work even harder to find the truth and be the best journalist she can be.
“I feel like my job has never been more relevant or more important to our communities and beyond, to our country,” Cabrera says.
She knows she’ll meet the challenge, with Edward R. Murrow’s brand of courage and truth, “right now, in terms of the role of the free press to be a government watchdog, to inform, to educate, to shed some light on disheartening realities sometimes, to hold people accountable.”