Reporter shares experiences with Chronicle

Los Angeles Times reporter Carla Rivera, who wrote about the Harvard-Westlake cheating scandal, shared her professional experiences as a journalist and talked about the job’s vulnerabilities with the Chronicle staff last Monday.

Rivera now focuses on writing education-related stories for the Times, but early on in her career she covered other national and local news.
While covering these stories, she found herself in many dangerous and vulnerable situations.

“Having a press pass, you sort of feel that you can go beyond the fire lines, beyond the police lines,” Rivera said. “But it’s also something that puts you in situations that are really dangerous, that the normal citizen is not going to be in.”
Some of her major stories put her directly in the line of bullets and uncontrolled wildfire.

“You don’t have to be in a war zone to really be in dangerous situations,” Rivera said.
While covering the Malibu fires in the 90s, Rivera came up close to an uncontrolled flare up. During the Los Angeles riots, while on the streets getting her story, she was in the line of bullets.

“I was shot at and had rocks thrown at me,” Rivera said. “It was one of those stories that was really compelling and tells something about the city.”

Rivera was again in the line of bullets while covering the 2000 Democratic convention. Reporting about the protests at the convention, she found herself in danger from the authorities themselves.

“When you’re a journalist, you’re sometimes put in that position of being on the outside of authority, trying to do your job,” Rivera said.

Beyond the dangers she has faced, Rivera described a typical day on the job. As a journalist, she said, she always is reaching sources, meeting deadlines and dealing with editors.

She explained the roles journalists have adapted to like maintaining the website, writing long term articles and copy editing.

She also described the vulnerability her profession is currently facing.
“It’s a difficult time for journalists,” Rivera said. “If you read what the experts say, it’s like the entire profession is doomed or something.”

But after 20 years at the Times, Rivera is sure that articles about education will always be necessary. Education, Rivera said, is a topic the general public is always interested in and a topic that is very story-rich.

“There is a lot of pressure, but the agenda is always to try and be more local, and education works really well for that,” Rivera said. “Someone’s always got to cover it.”

Beyond that, Rivera also is confident that journalists in general will remain essential.
“We’re sort of necessary as the bed-lock of everything that ultimately filters out there,” Rivera said.

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