Two weeks ago, while trying to recover from his jet lag after flying home to Palma from Los Angeles, Pablo Bujosa Rodríguez was bombarded by messages congratulating him on winning an Emmy at the Los Angeles awards the night before.
“I could have stayed but I honestly didn’t think we had much of a chance of winning, plus all the Covid protocol didn’t made the event much fun. You could only go alone, prove a negative test or vaccination, and there was no after-show party. So I decided to grab a flight to Mallorca and take some holiday, although I am remote working from Palma until I return to L.A. in a few weeks time.”
Pablo won a Los Angeles Area Emmy Award for his work Lakers Fans & Resilience about a Latino graffiti artist in California. The Emmy is in fact his third but one he is most proud about considering the conditions under which it was achieved.
Pablo graduated in philosophy and audio visual in Barcelona and began working for TVE, Spain’s equivalent of the BBC, with some of the country’s top news presenters and chat show artists. Although he didn't train as a journalist, news has always been his passion and he eventually set up his own production company and began producing his own documentaries. The financial crisis in 2008 complicated life a great deal and he decided to relocate to the United States.
“I first went when I was aged 24. I was advised to improve my English if I really wanted to succeed in my profession, so I went to New York for three months to study. I immediately fell in love with New York and for the next few years worked between Spain and the States until in 2010 I made a permanent move and began working for Time Warner Cable’s New York One news channel. I remained in New York until 2019.
“It was great working in New York, especially as the focus was very much on local news, deep local community news, so I really got to know the city. But it’s a hard city to work in and I got burnt out and decided to take up an offer in Los Angeles.
“I did win my first Emmy while in New York in 2018 for an advert I produced for Black History Month, so I guess I got to make a name for myself. By then, Time Warner had been bought by Charter Communications, which is the second largest cable operator in the United States. This was in 2016 and literally overnight we doubled the number of local news channels.
“We now have over 26 million customers in 41 states, and in some of the larger states we have multiple channels and neighbourhood news bureaus. The thinking is to have local journalists based in and covering their neighbourhood and surrounding district. That way we have people who really know how their local community works, who the key people are, what makes it tick and get that extra edge over journalists coming in from outside. It’s hyper local news and it works. For example, people living in northern Los Angles don’t really care about what’s happening in the south or downtown, never mind at a national level. All the 24-hour news channels like CNN and Fox cover the same stories; the only difference is their political leaning. It’s the same across the world and with the States being so big, people tend to only care about what’s happening in their neighbourhood.
“In Texas, for example, we’ve just opened two more bureaus because people living in Houston are not interested in what is happening in Dallas, for example. It’s a very different way of tackling news, but it works and sits well with how people get their news today. In the States, people gave up reading newspapers years ago. They don’t even go directly to specific websites any more. It’s all podcasts and, like me, we all have a menu on our phones of Twitter and Instagram feeds from our favourite news outlets, journalists and reporters. It’s a bit like your own music list but news instead, and podcasts are what people are listening to for their news in the States right now. I think that’s going to be the future.”
After having been a news editor and producer for years, he was offered a key role in the marketing department.
“I had gained a reputation for my filming. I never studied it, I picked it up on the job, on the streets; that’s the best place for any journalist to really learn the trade, not sat in a classroom. It’s a communication industry, so we need to be out communicating with the public because everyone has a story. The trick is to convince them to tell you their story and that is how this latest Emmy came about.
“Two of Charter’s channels in L.A. are dedicated exclusively to the Lakers and the Dodgers. Basketball and baseball are very much part of the lives of people in Los Angeles. The Afro-Americans tend to follow basketball and the Hispanics baseball.
“L.A. as a whole had a terrible pandemic. We had two waves which were some of the strongest in the States. It was extremely tough but as we never had a curfew, as journalists we were still able to get out and about and work, but it was like a ghost town at times. It’s hard to imagine L.A. with no cars on the streets - everybody drives, they don’t use public transport, it’s too big. I like to walk but even I have to get the car out to do the big shop at my nearest store.
“But what I noticed during the pandemic was that everyone was following the Lakers and the Dodgers because both teams were doing so well and they eventually went on to win their respective championships. The Lakers went on to defeat the Miami Heat 4-2 to win the 2020 NBA Finals, while the Dodgers won the World Series. This really brought Los Angeles together.
“The sporting success captivated everyone’s attention and was the perfect diversion; it stopped people worrying about Covid and the pandemic. It brought great joy and happiness to the city and L.A. is still buzzing on the back on the teams' success.
“So, in my marketing role I had to come up with an advert for the coming season and decided to turn sports promotions on its head. I went back to my roots of community journalism. Instead of the usual promo of short highlights of the best plays of the previous season, I decided to go out into the community and find a real Lakers fan and let him tell his story.
“I came across a well-known Mexican graffiti artist called Hector. He was in the process of painting a giant mural of the Lakers. He let me film him in action and told me how he remembered as a kid travelling with his mum to work as a cleaner on the train and seeing all the graffiti paintings of the great Lakers players over the years along the railway sidings.
“That not only inspired him to become a graffiti artist but also a huge Lakers fan and his story is testament to just how much passion sport can spark and how much it really means to people. It’s a game and life changer.”