The versatile Channel 11 air talent bolted for KNBC in Los Angeles where she starts on Monday as a general assignment reporter.
Lopez began at WPIX in 2001 in that same role. But she added weekend sports anchor to her resume. Eventually, when top sportscaster Sal Marchiano was dumped in 2008, Lopez was promoted.
However, when news director Bill Carey (who joined WPIX in 2009), dropped sports from the newscasts earlier this year to make his station stand out, Lopez’s trip at Channel 11 went full circle to street reporter.
Lopez, the highly visible sports anchor at the time of the unprecedented move, isn’t sure how it will affect viewers in the long term.
“It’s going to be a unique challenge, because sports does well,” Lopez says. “…There hasn’t been any complete uproar, and we still have the Mets on our station. I don’t know how they handle that. [Carey] said he was going to do it, and he did it. That was the decision that he wanted to make, which is completely fine.”
Personally, though, Lopez was open to change.
“I actually liked the switch,” Lopez tells FishbowlNY. “I was surprised I’d like it so much.”
Regardless, Lopez had nothing left to offer creatively at WPIX.
“I thought it was just a good time to make a switch,” Lopez admits. “…It was great for what it gave me during that time [at WPIX], but I felt for me personally that’s where it ended.”
Lopez says, despite the overhaul, she was confident that her job was secure at WPIX.
“I left with more than six months left on my contract,” Lopez says. “…It had nothing to do with thinking that Channel 11 was going to pull the plug on me, or me wanting to run out and leave.
“…If the interest hadn’t been so great on the KNBC side I might still be there,” Lopez adds.
So Lopez, was ready to take her news and sports skills elsewhere. She thought that the best way to challenge herself going forward would be in a new market.
“Los Angeles came to mind. KNBC was very forthcoming,” Lopez says. “We had some great conversations early on.”
Once KNBC offered Lopez a full-time reporter position, she discussed it with her husband and young daughter, but was a no brainer.
“Let’s do it,” Lopez recalls. “I’m 35, still relatively young… I just thought it was a good opportunity if I was going to try something new and completely different to do it now.”
In the end, Lopez and KNBC had a marriage, but not before feelers went out to many other stations, including several in New York. Lopez also had possible opportunities at networks.
“When I sat down and thought of what I wanted to do, I liked the fact of being in a city,” Lopez says. “I like what I was able to do in New York, I hope, which was be a part of the city.”
Being part of the city for Lopez means meeting people and becoming involved in community organizations.
While the move to California felt right for Lopez, it was still a difficult decision. Her seven-year-old grew up while Lopez was on the air at WPIX, while her husband was a photographer/satellite truck operator at WCBS/Channel 2.
“We had to weigh all of those things in very heavily,” Lopez says. “But we both know that it was a good opportunity for both of us in our careers.”
If her profession were predetermined, Lopez, a native of Puerto Rico who grew up in Houston, was weaned on her dad’s influence as a track and field coach at Rice University. Plus, her father’s best friend was her “Uncle” Jose Cruz Sr., the longtime Houston Astro.
She gained sportscasting interest after attending Harvard University. While there, Lopez was a standout volleyball player. Additionally, Lopez was the only person named as captain of the squad for two seasons.
Despite her talents on the court, at “only” 5 foot 7 inches, Lopez wasn’t in an Olympic class of volleyball athlete.
“I was always the defensive specialist. I was a really good jumper,” Lopez recalls. “I was a high jumper in track, so my vertical was pretty awesome.”
Although hired at KNBC for her storytelling ability on the news side, she’ll miss her sports work.
“If there was an opportunity to be able to do both, I would certainly love that.” Lopez admits. “It’s the best of both worlds for me. But at this point, it’s not something that’s necessary.”
While certainly proud of her sports prowess (Lopez is a two-time Emmy winner), she admits another turn as full-time sports staffer didn’t excite her.
“When I was looking into avenues of just looking at sports networks, they weren’t attractive to me,” Lopez says. “…This isn’t exactly what I wanted to do.”
But, of course, many times, especially in big markets like New York and Los Angeles, sports stories get higher priority in the newscast. Even though specific discussions about doing sports for KNBC did not come up in negotiations, Lopez says her work ethic—with sports and news at WPIX—was.
And it was at PIX that Lopez was at the apex of her career, at least to this point.
“I was the youngest in the least amount of time at Channel 11,” Lopez says. “The Kaitys [Tong], the Jims [Watkins]…everybody’s at 15 plus years.”
And she loved her time at Channel 11 and in the Big Apple.
“New York is just a vibrant city. It’s a city that when you walk outside you see all kinds of different people,” Lopez says. “You can eat anything you want at any time of the night.”
Along with the late night nosh, Lopez always appreciated New Yorkers honesty, sometimes brutally so, thanks to popularity of social networking sites Twitter and Facebook.
However, there is something Lopez will not miss about New York—the snow.
“I love the sun,” Lopez laughs. “And the weather out here is fantastic.”
Not waiting for the first flakes to fall, Lopez got out of Dodge with a cross country driving adventure to Los Angeles.
“New York is not gone forever,” Lopez admits. “I never close the door on anything.”