MNP Q&A: Jared Bray, Reporter for TFC's 'Balitang America'

By Media Newser Philippines | Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Used to be, Filipinos are the ones trying to get into the international news industry. We've seen that from the success stories of former EbruTV anchor Claire Celdran, KTLA's Cher Calvin and former CNN Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz, just to name a few. In the case of Jared Bray, it's the opposite.

An American journalist who had a stint as a writer for Yahoo! Sports and a short tenure as reporter for the NBC affiliate KULR-TV, Jared decided to fulfill his lifelong dream of working in a Filipino news program via The Filipino Channel's Balitang America. "Reporting for a Filipino news program is something I wanted to do since I returned from the Philippines and began studying broadcast journalism at Brigham Young University," he said in this exclusive interview.

In 2004, Jared left his hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona to serve in a two-year church mission in the northern provinces of the Philippines — an experience which he considers the best years of his life.

"While living in provinces like Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela and Cagayan, I quickly learned Tagalog and fell in love with the culture and customs of the Philippines," he said. "Natapos ko ang misyon ko noong 2006, pero buhay pa rin ang pag-ibig ko sa Pilipinas."

In this Media Newser Philippines Q&A, Jared spoke to us about his broadcasting career, his love for the Filipino culture and why he is one of us "sa puso at isip." Be sure to be part of the discussion by tweeting us @medianewserphil or posting your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Name: Jared Bray
Birthdate: February 3, 1985
Occupation: News Reporter, English/Journalism Teacher
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism, Master of Arts in Secondary Education
Guiding Principle: "Kapag may tiyaga, may nilaga."
Media Idols: Matt Lauer, Anderson Cooper, Al McCoy
News Sources: Social media, online news sites
Twitter Handle: @JaredBray

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
The first thing you should know about me is that although I don't have Filipino blood, Pinoy ako sa puso at isip. I've been that way since 2004, when at the age of 19, I left my hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona, to serve a two-year church mission in northeast Luzon (Region II). Those were two of the best years of my life. While living in provinces like Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela and Cagayan, I quickly learned Tagalog and fell in love with the culture and customs of the Philippines. Natapos ko ang misyon ko noong 2006, pero buhay pa rin ang pag-ibig ko sa Pilipinas.

A lot of reporters usually would want to go mainstream or work in network news. You did the exact opposite by working in a non-American television network. Tell us what drew you to The Filipino Channel.
Reporting for a Filipino news program is something I wanted to do since I returned from the Philippines and began studying broadcast journalism at Brigham Young University. However, because I wasn't Filipino, I was worried that I wouldn't be taken seriously and therefore didn't apply to a network for quite some time. In 2011, I finally gave it a try. With the help of a friend, I made a video in which I introduced myself in Tagalog, discussed my qualifications and showed some clips of my past work. I sent the video to The Filipino Channel on Jan. 9. Two weeks later, I was contacted by the executive producer of Balitang America, Vivian Araullo. I'll never forget that call. Vivian told me that she loved my video and wanted to hire me as a freelance correspondent. She also said, "I think you could be a big s**t." Once I heard that, I thought, "Astig! Let's get started."

What did you take away from being part of that church-related mission? Also, what did you learn about the Filipino culture?
Photo: Jared Bray
I gained a lot by serving a mission. It was a classic coming-of-age experience, and one in which I was able to cement traits of leadership and diligence. More important, I was able to build upon the gospel foundation I had previously established for myself and developed a stronger relationship with my Heavenly Father.

While serving my mission, I also learned about — and really tried to soak up — the Filipino culture. One of my favorite aspects: "pakikisama." I know there are varied interpretations of that term, both positive and negative. I think of it as a good thing. For me, it means camaraderie or being friendly to others. I enjoyed living in the Philippines because so many of the people I met there had that "pakikisama" quality, and they helped me feel welcome and comfortable. They made me feel like I wasn't a foreigner but one of them. I loved that.

You have a pretty good resume even before joining TFC. From BYU-TV you jumped to the NBC affiliate KULR-TV. Tell us about your experience working on those networks.
I loved working for both of those networks. At BYU-TV, I reported for a show called BYU Weekly, which covers upcoming events, ongoing research and noteworthy people at Brigham Young University. Toward the end of my time there, I also got to help produce the 30-minute newscasts as well as host and narrate them. For a young student journalist, it doesn't get much better than that.

Reporting for KULR-8 was my first full-time job and quite the adventure. It involved moving to a place I had never been to before — Billings, Montana — and covering various types of stories, from fun features to breaking news. I was also frequently assigned to report live from the field, studio and newsroom, something I found extremely thrilling.

And what about your experience with Yahoo! Sports?
At first, it was a challenge, because writing for Yahoo! Sports was different from writing for BYU-TV and KULR-8. Rather than write for the ear, I needed to write for the web. It was a fun skill to develop, and I loved being able to use statistical analysis to tell stories about teams and players I enjoy following, such as the Utah Jazz and Manny Pacquiao. It was also exciting to see my work reach a wide audience. Oftentimes my articles would generate tens of thousands of page views as well as hundreds of comments.

Given your story as the first white reporter for a Filipino network, do you think the networks, not only here in the Philippines or in the U.S. but also in other parts of the globe, should diversify their staffing?
Certainly. I think a newsroom can gain a lot by adding diversity. New perspectives. New ideas. New skill sets.

If you could interview anyone, be it Filipino or American, politician or celebrity, who would it be and why?
Grabe, ang hirap naman ng tanong na ito. Hmm. I think Bob Ong would be a fun interview. I just finished reading ABNKKBSNPLAko?! and would enjoy picking his brain.

Who do you consider your mentor? Do you think it's important to have one especially in this industry we're in?
I've had some great mentors throughout the years. At BYU, for example, some of my professors became mentors to me, and thanks to their help, I landed my first full-time job at KULR-8. A few of them still support me today by sending uplifting messages or "liking" my stories on Facebook. I really appreciate that.

Right now, I consider a lot of my coworkers at The Filipino Channel as mentors, such as Henni Espinosa, Troy Espera and Paul Henson, our new North America bureau chief. They do an awesome job of (a.) encouraging me to pursue stories and (b.) helping me sharpen my journalism skills with thoughtful feedback. Steve Angeles, our Los Angeles correspondent, is also someone I consider a mentor. We have yet to meet in person, but we chat quite a bit via social media. He has my back, and I know I can turn to him anytime.

As a young journalist, what publications do you regularly read to stay informed and to understand what's happening in and around the world? 
I read siyempre, but I also follow other major Philippine news outlets via Twitter and try to stay informed through a variety of sources. For local news, I turn to, a popular news site here in Utah.

You've done a wide variety of reporting: from national to sports news to consumer reports, where are you most interested?
I'm most passionate about covering Filipino news. It's fulfilling and something in which I find a lot of happiness. In fact, last August, while I was visiting TFC headquarters in Redwood City, California, I was assigned to cover the 2014 Pistahan Parade and Festival in downtown San Francisco, and it was the most fun I've had as a journalist. Ever. I got to work with my TFC friends such as award-winning videographer Jeremiah Ysip, hang out with thousands of Filipinos, eat delicious Philippine cuisine and interview Kapamilya stars like Gary Valenciano. Ang saya!

And what among your reporting has made you particularly proud?
I'm proud of this: Every time I step out to do a story, I'm on a quest for perfection. From shooting video to conducting interviews to writing and voicing the script, I do my best to get everything right.

Filipinos, much like the Americans, like sports particularly basketball. You've covered a lot of sporting events and interviewed many sports heavyweights. What can you consider as your biggest "get" in that area and also who's your most unforgettable sports interviewee?
I think my favorite sports story is a feature I did on Kyle Korver, back when he played for the Utah Jazz. It was about how he was shooting lights out on the court while being a light to underprivileged kids off it.

As for my most unforgettable sports interviewee, that would be Shaquille O'Neal. He was laid-back and even tried to crack some jokes. At one point, for example, after he found out I went to BYU, he smiled and said, "I know Brigham and the young." I still don't really know what he meant by that, but his lightheartedness was refreshing.

Screenshot: Balitang America/TFC
Like Steve, Yong, Don and the other ABS-CBN Global reporters, you also write, produce and edit your stories — a jack of all trades. Why do you think it's important for journalists to have a vast variety of skills?
I think it's very important, because the more skills you have, the more you can do for your team. However, in addition to obtaining a variety of skills, it's also important to refine them. My ABS-CBN press badge features the following phrase: "In the service of the Filipino worldwide." I take that seriously, and one way I strive to serve the Filipino community here is by working on each aspect of my craft. Journalism is a service connecting people to one another, and I want to achieve that the best I can.

You said this Balitang America gig you have right now is your dream job. You must be excited to go to work everyday, right Jared? Tell us your day-to-day life like.
I consider myself very lucky because right now I'm doing two things that I love: reporting and teaching. In addition to being a correspondent for Balitang America, I'm also a full-time English and journalism teacher. Both positions are extremely fulfilling.

I think one reason I love my Balitang America job so much is the fact that every report is an adventure. For instance, for one of my most recent stories, I got to meet up with Sean Reyes, Utah's Filipino-American attorney general, and talk with him about a secret trip he made to help rescue child sex slaves in South America.Likewise, back in 2013, I got to trek to the ranch of former beauty queen Melanie Marquez in rural Utah, where she showed me what her new life is like as a cowgirl. Nagpapasalamat talaga ako sa job na ito.

Photo: Jared Bray
Growing up, who inspired you to pursue a career in journalism?
I'm not sure if I can pinpoint a specific person or event that drew me to journalism. It was probably a mixture of things. I know that I've always loved newspapers. While growing up, I frequently read them to stay updated on my favorite basketball team, the Phoenix Suns. Also, in high school, I had a lot of fun writing for our school newspaper.

How do you find a work-life balance? What would be your advice to those journalists struggling to keep the personal aspect of their lives?
Reporting can be addictive, so I understand why some journalists may struggle with finding balance between their professional and personal lives. I try to stay balanced by setting time aside for family and friends, as well as recreational and religious activities. Being well-rounded is very important to me, and ultimately, I think it makes me a better journalist.

What do you do outside work?
When I'm not working, I'm usually spending time with my wife, Cristina, and two-year-old daughter, Isla. I also like to read, write and play sports.

Lighthearted question: What would be your favorite Filipino dish, music or movie? Anything in particular that you like about the country and the culture?
Dish: There will always be a special place in my heart (and stomach) for daing na bangus. Sarap!

Music: Mahirap pumili ng isa e. Here are my top 10 (in no particular order): "Wag na Wag Mong Sasabihin" by Kitchie Nadal, "Para Sayo" by Parokya ni Edgar, "Noypi" by Bamboo, "Narda" by Kamikazee, "Bahay Kubo" by Hale, "Pare Ko" by Eraserheads, "Simpleng Tao" by Gloc 9, "Jeepney" by Sponge Cola, "Makita Kang Muli" by Sugarfree and "Umaaraw, Umuulan" by Rivermaya.

Movie: All About Love starring John Lloyd Cruz, Bea Alonzo and Anne Curtis. Every time I watch that, I get homesick for the Philippines. In fact, the last time I saw it, I might have shed a tear or two by the end.

Tell us about your family. How do they feel about your success? 
Very supportive sila. Palagi silang nanonood ng mga reports ko, at kung ano ang pangangailangan ko, binibigay nila. They're the best!

What's next for you? Is being part of the local media here in Manila (ABS-CBN or ANC) something that would appeal to you? 
Being a part of the media in Manila is very appealing to me. Sana'y darating ang pagkakataon na iyan. But if not, that's okay. I love what I'm doing right now.

Photo: Jared Bray
What do you want to do more this year?
Matupad ko lang yung mga iba't iba kong pangarap. Do more stories for Balitang America. Spend time with family and friends. Travel. I'd love to visit the Philippines, for example, and see the people and places I got to know during my mission. While there, I'd also like to explore Metro Manila and make a trip to ABS-CBN Broadcasting Center.

What's the best advice you can give to aspiring journalists out there?
Maging masipag. The more you do, the more you learn and grow. Also, it can be a stressful job at times, but don't let that get to you. Enjoy the ride.

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