Dave Lopez: 48 Years of Journalism and On-Camera Reporting

Lopez was one of the first Hispanic reporters in Los Angeles and has been known for years of human interest and sports stories.

By Annette M. Lesure, Staff Writer

(Photo by Annette M. Lesure)

CBS Reporter Dave Lopez opened up about his nearly 50 years in television, releasing his memoir “It's a Great Life If You Don't Weaken: Family, Faith, and 48 Years on Television” last month.


The father of two worked as a reporter for 48 years, starting in 1972 until his retirement in 2020, spending 43 years at CBS.

Lopez wrote his most profound story at age 33 after “freeway killer” William G. Bonon confessed to him in a jail cell interview. Lopez later testified to Bonon’s confessions of 21 murders and was criticized by fellow journalists for breaking confidentiality, claiming that he jeopardized sources coming forward in the future.


 

What prompted this memoir?

I’ve wanted to do this ever since I could remember. I thought I had a good story to tell. I wrote it primarily for my grandkids. I wanted them to know what I did, who I am, and what makes me tick.


How old were you during your first job as a journalist?

I was 16 years old; I got a job at the Southgate Press. I used to get ten cents an inch for the stories I covered for Parks and Recreation and the local high schools.


When did you switch from writing copy to ad-libbing the news on camera?

One day, [18 years into reporting], I didn’t have any time to put together a story, so I said to my cameraman, “Let’s try this. Let me just wing it. I know what I want to say; we’ll fill in the blanks; let’s just get going.” So he started the camera, and I just started ad-libbing.


How did you teach yourself the art of ad-libbing on the spot?

I used to always mouth out my track before I wrote it down when I was off walking around, and people used to think I was talking to myself. I always wanted to give the idea that I was speaking to one person, not an audience, but to one individual. And I wanted to make sure it was easy to understand and free-flowing.


How did you prepare for your interviews?

I was always thinking ahead about what I was going to do. I never went to a story without having an idea of what I was going to say and how I was going to do it. It would sometimes change if I got on the scene and it was something different than what I thought it was supposed to be. But I never went in guessing. Like a good attorney, you always know the answer to the question you’re going to ask. I tried to know exactly how I wanted to front my stories and how I wanted to make them flow.


What advice can you give journalists about writing a story?

I always used to try to do a story with what I call the “snap, crackle, pop effect.” You have to make a story move. You cannot be dull and you cannot bore your audience with details that they don’t really care about. Make it quick. Make it sound. Make it fast.


What newsroom advice can you offer future journalists?

I learned to never, ever make an excuse as to why you’re not going to have a story done.


 

As a teen, Lopez had no desire to go to college after high school, as he was already working for a newspaper in his chosen career. However, the Vietnam War began drafting 18 to 26-year-olds, and a college deferment pass was the only way to avoid the draft and continue working as a journalist. Lopez immediately enrolled at LACCD after high school in September of 1966 and graduated from ELAC two years later with an associate’s degree in journalism. He then attended Cal State LA for two years, where he majored in journalism with a minor in political science.


The prostate cancer survivor, currently book signing for his memoir, says he plans to enjoy his retirement by spending it with his family and traveling through Europe.