CP Interview: Ybeth Bruzual

Spectrum News 13’s morning news anchor, Ybeth Bruzual, earned her reputation as a respected, admired journalist through hard work and tenacity. We met at the studio in downtown Orlando, where she greets everyone by name with a bright smile. Ybeth lives in College Park and is warm and very open, enthusiastically discussing everything from motherhood to her work ethic.

What led to your career on TV?

Growing up I always knew I wanted to be a journalist. I’d watch the TV, and there would be crazy stuff going on in the Middle East. I’d ask, “What’s the problem? Why is everyone screaming?” The TV fascinated me.

My parents divorced when I was very little, so my mother moved back to Puerto Rico where she raised us until we moved to Orlando in 1981. We spoke no English at all. My mother said, “We are blessed to be in this country,” and we had to learn English.

Ybeth Bruzual reporting from the Democratic National Convention Floor, Charlotte, NC, 2012

Have you been to Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria?

I am going [in March]. The last time I went was last April; we go regularly. I don’t want to be a crying mess, but it’s going to happen. My role is to go and see it at the six-month mark. I’m going to walk you through places that I know and what they were a year ago. I’ll venture out and profile folks and focus on their personal stories on education, medical care, and any local groups who are working on the power grid. I’m connecting what’s happening there to here.

As the morning anchor, what is your schedule?

I get up at 2:20 a.m. I am here at 3 a.m. I’m hands-on because I’ve been a producer and a writer. I still find joy in helping out.

How did you start in TV journalism?

I started at Telemundo. I did everything. I inched my way into different jobs covering for people who called in sick. I was waiting tables and going to school at the time. Here I was hired as the overnight assignment editor. I always knew I wanted to do on-air. I would come in weekends on my days off and go with a camera guy, and whatever stories they were shooting, I’d grab a mic and do the story and build my reel.

Across from our office at the time, a man with a gun barricaded himself in the Sentinel. My general manager said, “Suit up, kid. You’re going in.” I get out there, and the K-9 officers get the guy out. The dogs are barking; the cameras all surround the guy. Afterwards, my then-boss said, “OK. I don’t know what other test to give you; you passed it.”

I’d never done live anything in my life, much less a dramatic scene like that. The midday anchoring position came open, and I went straight to that. That was it.

You’re involved in a lot of philanthropy. Do you get more requests than you can fill?

I really only say no if I’m out of town. There are weekends when I’ll emcee two or three events. My passion is, if it involves children, I’m done.

Ybeth and her husband, Alfredo, at the Cannonball Kids’ cancer (CKc) Gala in 2017

What is your connection to Cannonball Kids’cancer Foundation and the gala?

I am the emcee for that event. I became friends with Melissa Wiggins, who is the founder of the organization. I come in at 3 a.m., and it popped up on my Facebook feed, and she would be imploring people: “Just pray.”

I didn’t even know her, but I posted, “Honey, right now I am praying for Cannon.” That’s how we connected.

Tell us about your own son.

His name is Christian. He’s 10. I absolutely love my schedule. I’m out of here and am there for every school pickup. That, as a mom in TV, is unheard of.

How did you meet your husband?

He’s my tall husband! He’s 6’7”, and his name is Alfredo, like the sauce. That’s what he tells people. He was the passenger next to me on an airplane. I had been to see my family in Puerto Rico. I mean, I write about people like this! We celebrated our 16th anniversary in February. He’s the husband and father I always dreamed of.

How do you stay so grounded and authentic?

God is good to me. It was my upbringing in Puerto Rico. It was simple. I remember being a waitress, sitting in my car, saying, “God, I want to be a journalist.”

It’s all good. I thank God every day for the opportunity. If there was ever a moment that changed me, it was Pulse. I have always taken time for my family. I’m involved in my church. After Pulse, if it’s a challenging day, it’s OK.

You won an Emmy for your Pulse coverage. How did you keep it together?

I got the call in the middle of the night. Within 48 minutes, I was here on the air. Our former anchor, Scott Harris, who has passed, said, “You’re the anchor. When the ship is going side to side, the anchor has to keep that ship steady.”

The Emmy was bittersweet. We won for coverage of the vigil a week later when the rainbow appeared in the sky. It took weeks for the emotion to come out. After Pulse, I realize I’m still here. God has put me here, and I have a great responsibility as a journalist. It recalibrated my life. Now I have more compassion.

What do you do to relax and recharge?

I cycle. I love it. I’ll cycle 20, 30 miles on a weekend. That is my jam! And gardening. I’m an avid gardener. And cooking. I started doing videos out of my kitchen. Mexican food is my favorite. I post them on my Instagram and Facebook.

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