Not Just Sugar and Spice
January 2003

by Jim Parisi

It takes toughness to make it in television news. Strength of character to be sure, but there’s more than a little physical strength needed to be a videojournalist as well. Add to that a major market and its swarms of media, the arrogance of some of the grizzly veteran shooters, and big city traffic problems, and the job is not for a timid soul.

My former co-worker had never been to Boston. While I grew up in nearby Providence, even I couldn’t find my way around that twisted New England city. Yet my friend drove the news van to stories under deadline, always needing to circle the city looking for a place to park. Then, the rush to set up a live shot, after of course the necessary battle for position of the ‘sticks’ during news conferences. My friend even had to voice and do the strong on-camera work necessary to put good packages on the air every week. Imagine, doing “One-Man-Band” work in a competitive television news market such as Boston!

This was back in the first days of New England Cable News. That rogue regional network that at the time was a novel idea. The situation was even competitive inside the building. The News Director gathered all the employees on their first day, and told them a story of how they should imagine that there is an airplane circling overhead, full of journalists just waiting to take their jobs. There were anchor positions to be had, and too many reporters being teased to fight for them.

There were times the hill looked too tall to climb, and my friend would share a beer with me after work and talk of the struggle. But this TV journalist never quit. Just a few years later my friend would become the primary anchor of a station in Hartford, earning a good living and respect in the industry. By then, we were married and thinking of starting our family. Because my tough co-worker was a sweet little thing, all of five-foot-five and 122 pounds. Valerie Cavazos, now in her late 30’s and the mother of our two wonderful children, is the always-smiling face viewers see each morning at the CBS affiliate in Tucson, Arizona. She lives life at a bit of a slower pace now, and in her eyes there is no hint of the struggle. No signs of the big-city pressure she felt all those years. No clue of the eight-markets-in-twelve-years climb…the tough road it took to get where she now chooses to be: her hometown with her family and friends.

But make no mistake; she’s every bit as tough as anyone I’ve known in the industry. She’s a survivor, and lugging her gear and shooting her own stuff in those cold Boston streets some years ago has more than a little to do with that.

© Jim Parisi

(Jim Parisi dabbles in television news management where he specializes in interactive news, is a former anchor/reporter, and is the editor of

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