Cecilia Vega made history this year when she became the first Latina correspondent for 60 Minutes in the storied news magazine’s 55-year history.
During this week’s conference of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Vega encouraged young people of Latino descent to pursue careers in journalism and to shatter their own barriers.
Vega, who was formerly Good Morning America’s chief White House correspondent, spoke with The Latino Reporter about her ascent.
The Latino Reporter: You’re now in a new role at 60 Minutes, as the first Latina correspondent. How does that make you feel, and why do you think it’s taken so long for a Latina to get there?
Cecilia Vega: It’s a little bit crazy to think in 2023, we’re still breaking barriers like this. I don’t know why it’s taken so long, but all I can say is, it’s good that it’s changed. It’s great to be a first. I feel an enormous responsibility that comes with that. But the one thing about being the first is you just want to make sure you’re not the last.
LR: What moments in your lifetime do you think helped shape you be the journalist you are now?
CV: There used to be what I think of now as an antiquated way of thinking about being a reporter, which is, you have to check all of who you are at the door when you put your reporter hat on, and your background doesn’t matter. How you were raised doesn’t matter. What you look like doesn’t matter. And I think that’s not true. I think I am a better reporter for all of those life experiences that I have had. I bring that to my interviews. I bring that to how I interact with my sources.
Coming from where I was raised in the East Bay in Richmond, California, growing up with not a lot of money and being Mexican American and speaking Spanish — all of those things, I think, make you a better reporter. You can’t leave those things. What you do is try to leave your personal opinions as much as possible. You try not to let those opinions influence the questions that you’re asking, the stories that you’re choosing, the things you’re ignoring. You make sure you’re aware of biases because of how you were raised. All of that makes me the reporter I am today.
LR: What would you tell your younger self now that you’re here?
CV: At the start of the 2016 presidential campaign, I was covering Hillary Clinton, and I walked into the campaign headquarters. They had a big meeting with all the campaign officials and journalists from all over the country — it was like a who’s who of political journalists — and they’re all talking about political maps and polling and I felt like I was way in over my head. I actually went home to my husband and I cried. I said, “I don’t think I can do this. I don’t think I’m ready to do this.”
It took a while on that campaign, but I finally realized that, actually, coming in as an outsider who hadn’t really covered national politics, I think made me a better political reporter because I ended up approaching covering politics over the course of my career kind of asking myself: “What would my mom back in Oakland, California want to know?’ And not just, “What do Washington insiders want to know? What does Capitol Hill want to know?” I think it made me ask different questions, and maybe approach stories in a different way that actually gave me an advantage.
And I wish I’d known that earlier. That being an outsider wasn’t a bad thing or not knowing wasn’t a bad thing. Learning how to study for it, preparing yourself, and owning that kind of otherness, that outsiderness, made me a much better reporter.
But I do wish I’d learned that sooner.
LR: What advice do you have for other Latinas who are not only trying to break into the world of political journalism, but journalism as a whole?
CV: I’ll tell you something that someone here at this conference just told me, and it was profound, and she’s a young student.
She said “I see being Latina as a superpower.” I think being Latina is an actual superpower in our world. Look, we’re coming at this from a very beautiful, rich cultural history, and no one can tell me that somebody works harder than Latinas. How hard do our moms and our grandmothers work, and all of the women in our lives. We are innately hard workers, and we are willing to sacrifice a lot to get to where we want to be.
Those are things that are going to give you such an advantage in this business — when you lean into that, when you lean into how you already know how to bust your ass, how to get back up and keep going.
*Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
Itzel Giron is a senior at the University of Texas at El Paso majoring in multimedia journalism with a minor in creative writing. She is aspiring to become a broadcast journalist. Reach her at iagiron [at] miners [dot] utep [dot] edu or onTwitter @itzel_anahi_16.