LaCuesta has been instrumental to AAJA’s success. He is a past AAJA national president and was the first president of UNITY. He also spent many years as a trainer for AAJA’s Executive Leadership Program. As an award-winning reporter and South Bay Bureau Chief for KTVU, he became known for leaping in and covering all kinds of assignments, from the Los Angeles riots to a flight into the Mount St. Helen’s volcano crater.
What’s your life motto?
Ha! My life’s motto! This sounds like one of those ELP moments. I don’t know if I have a motto. I do have standards such as to treat everyone with respect and fairness. And the golden rule of course: Do unto others as you would have done to yourself.
What do you wish you had known before becoming a journalist?
How incredibly stressful the job can be. Maybe, then I would have handled it better. But then that stress and the adrenalin rush became an addiction and I actually thrived on it. I would advise future journalists to always be truthful, accurate, fair and ethical. Do not treat people as just a story but as real people with issues that deserve respect. Also do not make journalism the whole reason for your being. Enjoy everything life has to offer and lead a balanced life with equal time for family and friends not just work.
Why did you become a journalist? What inspired you?
I decided to become a journalist because I simply liked it. As a young child, I was an avid reader. That naturally dovetailed into writing. I enjoyed figuring out how to string words together in a coherent manner so it meant something. My high school teacher, who was a retired newspaper woman, told me I had a gift and a talent and that I could make a living out of writing. I was never deterred from that day on from my mission to become a reporter.
Why is media diversity important to you?
When I started, I was usually the first or one of the few minorities in my newsroom. People knew that I was there become the federal government’s edict was to integrate the news media. When you’re hired under those circumstances, you’re under the gun. My co-workers were looking to see if I would fail, if I couldn’t do the job. I think those kind of pressures made me a better journalist. I worked extra hard to prove that I belonged. Now more than ever, I believe there needs to be more journalists of color. Just from a business standpoint, the media needs to be all-inclusive and be able to cover communities that have too often been ignored in the past.
What do you love most about being Asian American?
Eating rice with my meals! There is a comfort with the cultural lifestyle that I was born and raised in. But, as a journalist and just a well-rounded human being, it is important that we involve ourselves in all aspects of American life and not separate ourselves to just our particular ethnicity. There is richness in the Asian culture and with all other cultures. That’s what so great about living in a place like the Bay Area, there is a chance to sample and enjoy other ethnicities.
I am discouraged when I go to a school and see Asians hanging with just Asians, blacks hanging with blacks, white and Latino kids all not reaching out to people outside their racial communities. We all truly have something to learn from each other. By educating and exposing myself to a wider perspective of community, it makes me a better journalist.
I’m getting business cards made that say, “I used to be Lloyd LaCuesta.” Retirement should be enjoying every single day and doing things that I want to do and enjoy. I will continue to teach in the San Jose State School of Journalism & Mass Communications. I hope to do volunteer and nonprofit work. I will spend more time with my wife. I will take time to relax and reflect.
I’m just a guy who had a dream to become a journalist and I lived that dream. I have come a long way from a brown kid in Hawaii who was shy and introverted … to out there for all the world to see as a broadcast journalist. It has been a great journey so far and I look forward to what is up ahead.
Learn more about other AAJA members profiled for AAPI Month.