By Ryan Barrera
Since she could remember, she had always wanted to be on TV reporting the news. At the age of 5, a young Irma Cervantes would walk around her house talking into a hairbrush, pretending it was a microphone and telling the news to the wall or to anyone who would listen.
“The news back then, was pretty much what my mom was doing or what I was going to play with or where I was going to go,” Cervantes said.
Cervantes was born to Mexican immigrant parents and was raised in Delano, Calif. When she entered high school she began to question whether she would make it in journalism. She went back and forth because she thought being a journalist wasn’t as possible as a popular job like teaching or becoming a nurse.
Once she entered college at California State University, Bakersfield she went back to her original dream of having a career in journalism and she continued her quest to become a reporter.
During her last quarter at CSUB, Cervantes saw an opportunity to get a job at Channel 45, which is owned by Univision Communications, when a couple of the station’s representatives came to her video production class to explain what it’s like to work at a news station. When they asked for questions she asked if they were hiring.
“I asked if they had any jobs. They said they had a production assistant job. So they gave me an application and they were finishing taking questions and I was finishing filling it out while they were talking and they left. When I was done I left class and ran after them. I didn’t know which way they went, but I got lucky and I found them in the parking lot in front of the Doré. I gave them the application and they called me about two weeks later and I went in for an interview,” Cervantes said.
After graduating CSUB with a BA in Communications in 1999, Cervantes immediately started working as a production assistant at Channel 45 Univision Communications.
Though the media production assistant job wasn’t ideal for her, it was her entrance into the world of journalism and an outlet for her to learn and obtain some experience.
She met many new people including Michael Thorpe, currently a photography teacher for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, who was working as a producer and director at KUVI 45/KABE 39.
“Irma was a little diminutive, but she was eager, obviously knew the language well and showed a willingness to learn and get her hands dirty doing the day to day grunt work of making TV commercials,” said Thorpe. “She didn’t flinch from any of the requirements of the job, from wrapping cables and carrying gear to learning to use the big broadcast cameras and editing on tape or computer.”
In May of 2002, a position for a news reporter and photographer opened up. Knowing she wanted to report the news, the station offered Cervantes the new position and she accepted.
From fires to political debates, Cervantes has reported and photographed it all. During her 14-year run at Univision Communications, Cervantes has earned many awards for her work. The two that stand out the most include Edward R. Murrow awards and Emmys. She won two Emmys in Jun. 2012, for her work as a reporter in a newscast and the other for her series on the United Farm workers (UFW).
The two Edward R. Murrow’s are considered the most prestigious honor in journalism. Earning the Murrow’s was no easy task; they are even more difficult to obtain then the Emmys, because the regions are bigger. Cervantes competed with other news stations from Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Hawaii and even Guam, just to name a few. She earned the Murrow awards for best use of video and sound in two feature stories on La Rosa Paletas and a child pianist prodigy. And the other was awarded for best video sports reporting for story on the League of Dreams, a sports league for children with special needs.
Despite her successful journalism career, she’s humble about the impact of her work.
“I think it shows that I always strive to do really good work. That’s really the message I want to send, not ‘look I’m an award winner’, but, ‘Look, I work hard and I do good work when I do it,’” Cervantes said.
In February 2013, Cervantes said goodbye to the job she coveted to become the Public Affairs Coordinator for CSUB. Some might ask why she left a job where she was doing what she loved and was so successful.
Her answer is that she felt she did her dream job and did it well long enough and it was time for her to move on and experience other things and grow from them. She also felt her dream job had some caveats. After almost being shot at and attacked by a pit-bull, Cervantes wanted something more stable and safe.
Colleen Dillaway, Director of Public Affairs and Communications, is not only Cervantes boss but hired her as well, for her impressive résumé and successful journalism career and how it impacted the community.
“She is incredibly hard working person and I’m proud of her accomplishments, not for herself, but for what they represent to her family. She was one of the first in her family to go to college. Not only did she go, she earned her degree and then turned around and earned a Masters in Public Administration (CSUB Class of ’13). Irma’s an important part of the Communications team. I can’t imagine it without her,” Dillaway said.
Now, in her new position, Cervantes works in University Advancement connects with the community at CSUB and in Bakersfield. Despite having a lucrative career in journalism she didn’t really leave that life behind entirely, she still gets to do the things she loves, like writing and photography.
Being the public affairs coordinator, Cervantes manages CSUB’s social media presence and she still gets to shoot and edit video and take photos for university events. She also writes for the CSUB blog, telling the stories of past CSUB graduates.
Cervantes is happy in her new position at CSUB and is looking forward to leadership roles in the future after obtaining her master’s in public administration.
“I really see myself being even more involved in the community and growing in my career,” Cervantes said.