FEATURE: Interview with Gasia Mikaelian
BY: CHRISTINE SOUSSA
When my family and I (Christine) first moved to the Bay Area, I distinctly remember hearing a commercial say, “With Gasia Mikaelian…” I was so proud to see a fellow Armenian on TV and that she kept her name and had not changed it to something more marketable like “Grace Michaels.” I became an instant fan!
Gasia Mikaelian began her career in 1997 as a reporter at KSWT in Yuma, Arizona. She then was a reporter at KSWT in Huntsville, Alabama from 1998-2000. She was an anchor and reporter at XETV in San Diego from 200-2002, and an anchor and reporter at KPRC in Houson from 2002-2005. Currently, Gasia anchors KTVU Channel 2 news at 7:00pm on TV 36.
I had the great pleasure of meeting Gasia at that AIWA-SF launch two years ago as she was the Master of Ceremony. Her humble yet energetic personality was infectious, and her bright smile made her very welcoming.
I was delighted when Gasia accepted the invitation to be interviewed for our blog. I must admit the interview quickly became a chatty conversation among friends, and as we continued to speak, my admiration for Gasia grew. She is such a positive role model within our Armenian community.
When asked whether any of the networks requested that she change her name, Gasia said the following:
I [Gasia] started reporting 17 years ago when I was fresh out of college. It never occurred to me to change my name. My first manager never asked or suggested it and for me, it was never an option. It wasn’t until I was working at my fifth station when they asked, “Have you ever considered a name change?” I gave them a blank look and that was the end of that.
My husband’s last name is Perez, to take his last name would have made me more marketable, but that’s not my identity. I was 31 when I got married. By then, I had formed my adult self. This is who I am; I am Gasia Mikaelian. I jokingly say that people can call me “Mrs.Paul Perez”, but it never occurred to me to change my last name and my husband has never brought it up.
Next, Gasia shared with us her journey of becoming of a reporter:
I was the latest of all late bloomers. During my senior year in high school all of my friends knew what they wanted to be– doctors, lawyers, etc. I had no clue. I knew I enjoyed reading and writing; therefore, I did two years at a Las Positas College in Livermore and took all writing classes. When I transferred to San Diego State University, I worked at the University Radio Station and wrote for the University newspaper. I enjoyed that experience so I thought I would pursue radio. It was new and adventurous.
I interviewed at KFMB a station that had both Radio and TV. When I’d go into work, I would enter on the radio side, and I would see others go into the TV side. I would observe the TV people go report about amazing stories; they were out and about. I was so interested and intrigued, I felt myself being pulled to the TV side.
Then in 1997 the radio side started to go through a wave of layoffs. At that time I started thinking in practical terms: TV news reporters are always needed, there is always a good story in your backyard. So I applied for and began an internship on the TV side. I loved it instantly.
When asked about Gasia’s reporting style and process, she shared:
Eighty percent of the stories are assigned by the producers. Anchors have an average of 1.5 minutes to run a news story, we can ask for more time if needed, :15 seconds or so. Twenty percent of the stories are based on personal encounters. For example, there was a story about a school that intentionally did not use technology in order to promote human interaction. Everything must be approved by the editors and producers. We typically start filming our story at noon. Interviews, b-roll, etc. Sometimes we go straight to breaking news, each story unfolds a bit differently.
When I [Gasia] come into the office at noon, I go into collect mode. Since we are owned by FOX, I have access to local and global FOX feed and all affiliate feeds including CNN. I look for the best photos and the best sound bites. Once we have a photo and sound bite, we can wrap our own story, then I have a “package:” a sound bite, the track (my voice), and another sound bite.
Other times, we receive stories straight from the source or by email (Newstips@foxtv.com). For example, Lucille Packard will reach out with a story. The whole news room loves getting tips. We have a team of desk monitors who keep a pulse on daily stories, and we also have police scanners.
The anchors ad-lib during transitions in the show to maintain a flow and to make the news personal and relatable. Thus, we will share our personal stories or experiences.
We (entire news room) love Breaking News and Exclusives particularly if it is investigative. We also love unique stories, especially when we get an exciting “tip.”
Finally, Gasia discussed her life’s motto as an Armenian working Mom:
After I [Gasia] had the kids, I felt guilty and that I should be at home. But I realized by going to work, I am taking care of my family. This was a big realization for me, and helped me feel less guilty, because I work we can enjoy a nice life including things like a Zoo Membership, etc. At home, we structured life so I can work. If someone at the station is sick, I cover. My husband stays home with the kids. I call my husband, Paul Perez, Saint Paul. If you take the two of us then you have a complete solution. He does things that I cannot do.
More broadly, my motto is to be proud of your identity and embrace your roots. I am Armenian, and I speak Armenian. Growing up, I would have sarma in my lunch. I was the only kid at school with a weird name and weird food in my lunch pail.
My parents did the hard work. They sent my siblings and I to Saturday school, gave us Armenian names, and taught us the Armenian language. My husband and I named our sons Armenian names: Tigran is six and Zaven is four and a half. I see now that my parents were right in doing the hard work. It’s cool to be different. Hard work is the right work.
Recently the network was just acquired by FOX, previous ownership was COX Media Group. Fox is taking the network into a new direction by wanting to show more “personality”. Gasia mentions “I’m so excited to do this! I think some of the most memorable moments in our newscasts are the “human” ones. I feel grateful that I work for people who recognize that I have something to give”. AIWA-SF thanks Gasia for all she does as a leader and mentor in our community. Keep it up, we are huge fans!