Erika Bazaldua ’14 has spent much of her life involved in radio/TV. At the age of 11, she began her career in mass communication serving as a “kidcaster” for Radio Disney — a position she held until her graduation from Mansfield Legacy High School.
Today, Bazaldua is a main anchor on KLTV’s Good Morning East Texas, which airs weekdays from 4:30 to 7 a.m. At the age of 24, she has quickly climbed the news anchor/producer ladder with hopes of one day sitting at the anchor desk of a national news network.
During high school, Bazaldua was diagnosed with a kidney disease and missed about 100 days of her sophomore year. “During treatment, I became close with my doctors and nurses,” Bazaldua said. “So, when I was deciding on a college major, I initially wanted to become a nurse to help kids like me because I knew I could provide them with the same compassion I received.”
Bazaldua came to SFA with her sights set on a nursing degree. Although program acceptance is highly competitive, she got in and remained in the program until what she calls a “massive light bulb moment” during the summer of her sophomore year.
“I made the decision to change directions, roll up my sleeves and chase my dream of becoming a journalist. I changed my major to mass communication,” she said.
Already a seasoned communicator, Bazaldua leveraged that talent and joined the Jack Walkers, a group of SFA student tour guides. As a guide, she led prospective Lumberjacks and their parents around campus detailing the university’s many amenities and sharing her own stories of her time at SFA, including her younger sister, Julia, joining her as a Lumberjack.
“My position as a Jack Walker played a pivotal role in my success as a young reporter,” Bazaldua said. “Jack Walkers are the first faces prospects see, and I held that role very close to my heart because I knew what incredible opportunities SFA provided me and my sister.”
As she progressed through SFA’s mass communication program, Bazaldua stood out to faculty members, including Dr. Al Greule, associate professor of mass communication.
“Erika took advantage of every opportunity to participate in broadcasting on air and behind the scenes,” Greule said. “The most impressive thing about her was that she had her own blog. It wasn’t your average college-student-talking-about-herself blog that exists everywhere; instead, it had real journalistic content with real interviews.”
One of those interviews was with actress Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on the popular 1960s TV sitcom Gilligan’s Island.
“Clearly, Erika raised the bar for herself and excelled,” Greule said. “She was always alert and eager — the hallmarks of a good journalist.”
As she prepared for graduation, Bazaldua applied for hundreds of media-related positions. She was determined to cast a big net and land a job, and she was willing to go anywhere — applying for positions as far away as Alaska.
It turns out, she wouldn’t have to travel far because local ABC affiliate KTRE contacted her a week before graduation and offered her a job as a multimedia reporter.
“I remember pulling into the SFA parking lot to take a final exam and crying my eyes out as I got the news. My dream was coming true,” she said.
After working at KTRE for about two months, she had the opportunity to join KLTV in Tyler to anchor regional newscasts. However, it wasn’t long until she was promoted to the Good Morning East Texas Weekend anchor position.
“I produced and anchored that show for almost a year,” Bazaldua said. “Then, another amazing position opened as a main anchor on the Good Morning East Texas weekday newscast.”
In her current role, Bazaldua reports to work at midnight and reviews news stories while writing and producing a portion of the newscast. After a quick trip to hair and makeup, it’s time to go on air.
“It’s a fast-paced show, and many times, we don’t have long to review our scripts,” Bazaldua said. “Breaking news often happens, and we are required to be on our toes and ready for anything.”
Bazaldua said she still gets nervous before she goes on air, especially when she has important news to deliver like election results and severe weather events.
“I have to put my nervousness aside and remember that I have a responsibility to deliver fair and accurate information to the people,” Bazaldua said. “I take that responsibility seriously. News reporting has the potential to affect and change lives, and I do my best to ensure I am prepared.”
However, sometimes emotions are hard to hold back. Especially when reporting on a story that involves death.
“Often, we speak to family members who just minutes or hours earlier lost a loved one. That is tough for them and for us,” Bazaldua said. “The most important thing I can do as a journalist is to remind people that I am not a robot. Journalists are people first. And at the end of the day, our hearts break when theirs do.”
Pat Stacey ’85, KLTV/KTRE vice president and general manager, said Bazaldua's ability to bond with the audience adds to her on-air appeal. “Erika is a rare personality who is focused on learning everything new about her job,” Stacey said. “She is curious and has an approachable spirit that enables her to relate to the viewing audience, which is so important in today’s media world where the norm is delivering content rather than truly connecting with the audience.”
Although she has already achieved many of her short-term career goals, Bazaldua said she would one day love to be a war correspondent in areas of conflict, like Syria. “There are so many untold stories there from people all over the world who are trying to stop terrorism,” Bazaldua said. “I know it sounds a bit crazy, and my parents would probably have a heart attack, but if I ever got the opportunity, I would jump on it.”
Five years from now, Bazaldua said she expects news will continue to transition into digital platforms, as the younger generation watches less and less network television. However, she said she is ready for whatever challenges that brings her way.
“As a journalist, my responsibility is to act as a mirror for the people — to tell their stories and have their voices heard through whatever method allows them to receive accurate, important and honest information.”