FEW FACES ARE more recognizable than that of Sabrina Salas Matanane, who comes on to your television screen like clockwork almost every evening as primetime news anchor. She also happens to be the woman in charge of KUAM News, being its news director.
Matanane has always been drawn to journalism. While others might attend college, graduate with a specific degree, and then take a different path entirely, Matanane’s college experience is one that continues to show each day in her team and broadcasts. “I’ve always been interested in journalism. When we lived in California I used to watch the news with my parents. I loved watching Connie Chung. When we moved to Guam in the fifth grade, I signed up for the yearbook staff at Agat Elementary.”
Although born on Guam, Matanane moved around quite often with her father in the Air Force. By middle school, her family was planted in Oklahoma. There she attended middle and high school. For college, she knew her heart belonged to Oklahoma. “Sports is huge in Oklahoma. We love football, wrestling, gymnastics, basketball. You were pretty much either an OU Sooner or an OSU Cowboy.”
Initially, Matanane was neither. She was offered a full scholarship to cheer for Rose State Junior College in the same state. “I wanted to attend OU, and so I was elated after I was offered an academic scholarship,” she recalled.
Matanane was ready for Oklahoma University, ready to be a Sooner, and ready to be catapulted into a career in journalism. “My education set the foundation for my future,” she declared. “The University of Oklahoma provided me with the training and tools needed to succeed in this industry. It was Professor Bill Loving who taught me to toughen up. He was my writing professor, and of course, made me cry by embarrassing me in front of the entire class for a 'factual error.' Needless to say, that was the last time that ever happened. I ended up taking him again for Media Law. Once again he was tough, thorough, and memorable. I learned to always stand up for what’s right, and to know your rights as a journalist.”
The door had opened for her at OU, where despite her busy schedule, she squeezed in internships, first as a junior at KNOR radio in Norman. “I knew I loved journalism and broadcasting, but wasn’t sure if I should do radio or TV, so I interned in both areas,” she said. At KNOR she wrote and read the weather and news for a semester. The following semester she interned for KOCO TV, the ABC affiliate in Oklahoma City. She began her internship during the week with few responsibilities beyond logging tapes. “One of the reporters suggested that I come in on the weekends, so I did. It was the best decision ever. I worked on the morning news show, which meant I would have to get to the station by 3 a.m., but I didn’t mind. Because it was just me, the producer, anchor, and assignment editor, I was given the opportunity to write multiple stories and learned a lot from the experience.”
By 1994, Matanane was ready to graduate with a degree from OU in Electronic Journalism.
Although her family had always been supportive of her career choice, and OU Sooners fans to boot, they had other plans in mind for her. “My dad wanted me to be an officer in the USAF after graduating, but I wanted to be a reporter. We made a deal that by the end of the summer after graduation, if I didn’t find a job, I would join the military and follow in his footsteps. But just as the summer was about to end I was offered a job to work part-time as an associate producer at KWTV9, a CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City. My foot was in the door, and that’s all I needed for my career to take off.”
It certainly did. That first job was a baptism of fire when she found herself covering one of the biggest acts ever of domestic terrorism, the Oklahoma City bombing. “I remember we were preparing for our noon show. All of a sudden in the newsroom we heard a loud booming noise, the building shook, and for a second there was a moment of silence while my coworkers and I looked at each other wondering what just happened. The phones suddenly began ringing off the hook, and we learned that the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building had been bombed.”
“My education set the foundation for my future. The University of Oklahoma provided me with the training and tools needed to succeed in this industry.”
For hours, Matanane and her news teams refreshed scripts and graphics for the nonstop coverage of the tragic event. “I learned to remain calm, breathe, concentrate, and stay focused because people were counting on the news to keep them informed about what was happening. That experience alone prepared me for Guam,” she said.
By June 1996 Matanane was back on island working for Guam Cable News. She joined KUAM in 1997 and has been there ever since, where she’s covered other major events including the Korean Air crash, the arrival of Kurdish evacuees, and the devastating super typhoon Paka.
Through all of these, Matanane has remained focused on her role. “I’m reminded of what happened in OKC, and to take a few seconds to breathe and then focus because people are depending on you. I think the industry is changing, and therefore our roles as journalists are changing. As news director my responsibilities are constantly evolving. But the journalist I am today can all be attributed to everything I learned from my training at the University of Oklahoma. I’m proud to be a Sooner,” she concluded.
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