When Miguel Marquez was fresh out of a master’s program in international affairs at Columbia University, we arranged to meet at my tiny little East Village studio apartment in Manhattan to talk about the ‘real world’ of a working journalist.
I gave him perhaps the worst career advice anyone could have offered.
At that moment, I was totally spent, barely eeking out an existence while launching an unfunded newspaper venture that eventually succeeded.
“It’s the most difficult and competitive, nastiest business you could get into. Finance would be easier,” I remember telling him, nicely. “Don’t bother.”
“I want to be a TV journalist,” he said in his made for TV voice.
“There’s always “New York 1,” I said dismissively.
I hope he will forgive me if I rolled my eyes — I was wrong. I may have even known it at the time. I saw that he was determined, whip-smart and startlingly handsome. Miguel stood a chance.
Since then Miguel, who has never spent a professional moment in the closet, has soared.
He began as a desk assistant at CBS News in New York and quickly found himself reporting from the streets of the city for WNBC in New York. He was recruited by KSAZ in Phoenix as a general assignment reporter before being spotted by CNN.
For a time he anchored Headline News from Atlanta before being transferred to Los Angeles to cover the second Michael Jackson trial. ABC News came knocking and it wasn’t long before Miguel started to find his footing as an international reporter, covering flash points around the world.
His reputation as a fearless journalist was sealed when, while reporting live from Bahrain during riots there, officials beat and attempted to arrest him while the world watched. He has been THE reporter at the center of many of recent history’s most critical struggles; he reported from Tripoli and Benghazi in Libya, the frontlines of Afghanistan and Iraq. CNN took note and brought him back into the fold.
He quickly became one of CNN’s leading on the scene reporters for breaking news. His reporting from riots that erupted in Baltimore after Freddie Gray died while in police custody and throughout the ensuing federal investigation, earned CNN international recognition. He covered the 2016 presidential election for CNN, focusing in part on the tensions within the Democratic party and on Trump’s supporters in key parts of the country.
He has popped up around the globe: when Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared, Miguel covered the story, traveling to Perth; he covered the triumphant story of Jose Alvarenga, a Marshall Islander who spent six months lost at sea; he was CNN’s man in Rome for the election of Pope Francis, the first South American born Pope, and also covered his jubilant arrival in Rio.
Closer to home he has been just as prolific: he covered the emergence of Colorado’s marijuana industry; he toured a border tunnel near San Diego; covered the trial of Jodi Arias; reported on the murderous rampage of ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner; he broke the story of the rape of five Spanish tourist in Acapulco; and he even took on Scientology, reporting on the controversial book “Going Clear.”
And that barely touches his resume.
But it was his heartfelt reporting from smoldering Sonoma County that caught our eye. The thoroughness and obvious affinity for the families of missing people, people rummaging through the rubble of their lives after record setting fires engulfed dozens of communities, was astonishing.
He told the Los Angeles Blade that one of the most painful moments he experienced while reporting the fires in Northern California was chatting with winemaker Pierre Birebent and watching him struggle emotionally as he looked at his life’s work in ashes.
“Seeing this beautiful part of the world in such distress is surreal and terrifying. Watching people struggle through it and survive is humbling and inspirational. I’m always amazed at how people lose everything in an instant but are determined to rebuild. Human resiliency gives me hope,” he added.
Los Angeles’ LGBT community can be proud he again calls L.A. home, but he’s barely had time to even touch the ground.
“I got to LA 11pm on a Friday in August and was gone at 4 the next morning for the Eclipse in Oregon, then got tear gassed at Trump protests in Phoenix. Was then off to Texas: San Antonio, La Grange, Houston and Beaumont for Harvey. Then came Irma and was in Miami, Belle Glade, Punta Gorda and Fort Lauderdale. Mexico’s earthquake was next. Returned to LA with a terrible sinus infection then got back on the work horse to cover the Northern California fires from Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Calistoga and Healdsburg. LA, not quite feeling like home yet.”
Finding an apartment is still on his list of things to do.
Can I apologize for discouraging your career by helping you find an apartment? LOL.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
26 years. My best friend’s family.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Equally enamored with James Baldwin and Oscar Wilde.
What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present?
Describe your dream wedding.
Loads of friends, champagne, cake and music.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
What historical outcome would you change?
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Michael Jackson’s second trial.
On what do you insist?
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
FB, about the NorCal fires. Twitter, Brexit.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Encourage others not to use it.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Develop and implement a rural strategy.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
Family and friends.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That being gay means one comes with a specific set of beliefs.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
How easy, and simultaneously complicated, life is.
Why Los Angeles?
Gravity. It just keeps pulling me back. I LOVE Cali.