Latina trailblazer Rita Garcia has a flair for storytelling, a welcoming wit and an endearing personality. Garcia is back in Houston from Good Day Los Angeles to co-anchor the weekday morning news on ABC-13 replacing Tom Koch who retired after 39 years. She was featured in the Los Angeles Times as the first morning news anchor in LA to broadcast an entire live morning newscast from home during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. We caught up with Garcia to hear about her stellar career.
When did your passion for media begin?
My mom gave me a tape recorder in elementary school and I enjoyed playing it back and critiquing myself to learn how to project my voice. When I was 15, I developed an interest in radio broadcasting and started announcing on our high school radio program at Fresnos High School in the Rio Grande Valley where I grew up.
How did you break into your career as a reporter?
Internships! I interned at a station in Austin where I got first-hand experience by going into the field with reporters. Eventually, I asked if I could do camera work. So, when job searching, my tapes stood out to news directors because I had the live experience. My first job was in the Rio Grande Valley as a reporter for KRGV-Channel 5.
Where was your first anchor job?
I was reporting in South Texas for three years and applied in other markets. Los Angeles’ CBS KCAL (number two in the market) offered me a job as a freelance reporter where I worked for six years. I became a weekend anchor for FOX26 when I moved to Houston. It’s all about timing, patience, talent and having a little luck! I’ve been flexible with moving from city to city to further my career.
What are some of the most memorable news moments you’ve covered?
In Houston, 2017 was a huge year for the Super Bowl, followed by Hurricane Harvey—everybody had a story about the devastating flooding. Also, it was amazing covering all seven games at The World Series, and of course, the Oscars and Emmy red carpet events in LA.
What are striking differences between living in Houston and living in LA?
Both are known for dramatic natural disasters, but there are things that make both cities wonderful. Obviously, the weather is the best thing about living in LA, but the worst is the traffic! In Houston, I can drive multiple places in one day—but not in LA.
What’s a typical workday and how early does your day begin?
I wake up at 2:15 a.m. and from that moment on, I am watching the news and checking out our news app for major stories. I get to the office at 3:30 a.m. and check all the ABC channels online, study Twitter for top trends, hard news or a fun video occasionally.
Advice you can give journalists trying to break into television reporting?
Networking, networking, networking! Join local journalism organizations (I belong to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists) and go to journalism conventions to hear speakers. Follow fellow journalists on social media and connect with them.
What do you do in your leisure time?
I’m a newlywed and I married a Houstonian—he proposed to me in Paris. We have a rescue dog named Rocky, who was a part of our wedding (he wore a tux!). We enjoy local dog parks and I also love to travel. We were fortunate to have visited Mexico City, France, and England in 2019 pre-pandemic.
Any Texas food you missed most when living in LA?
Crawfish season and the Houston crawfish boils—they never got it quite right in LA. Also, I couldn’t find any kolaches there!
How would you like to be remembered in your career?
As a trusted voice. Being an anchor is about knowing the story, not just delivering it. I want the community to feel they can rely on me to be honest and present the facts on both sides. I call that quality journalism.
Photo above courtesy of ABC-13/KTRK-TV
Top of page gallery: Crawfish photo by Jj saezdeo, Wikimedia Commons