Liberty Zabala, four-time Emmy Award-winning reporter and recently departed weather anchor for Fox 5 San Diego, was born the day before Independence Day.
That’s why her parents named her Liberty.
As a first generation Filipina-American, Zabala grew up hearing stories of her father, Laurencio V. Zabala Jr., working his way out of poverty through journalism when he was appointed as a foreign diplomat to the United States.
Growing up hearing those stories, it would instill in me this gratitude for being an American and for all of the rights and opportunities that were afforded me because I was born here.”-Liberty Zabala.
“My father, he grew up in extreme poverty, and he would always tell me stories about his life and the difficulties he faced in the Philippines growing up in a fishing village with nothing,” Zabala said. “Growing up hearing those stories, it would instill in me this gratitude for being an American and for all of the rights and opportunities that were afforded me because I was born here.”
On the immediate horizon for Liberty is a big life change and the beginning of a new chapter.
Liberty is moving to Washington D.C. during the first week of July with her fiancé, Tyler Simmons, who is an infantry officer in the Marine Corps and received orders in Quantico, Virginia.
Following in her father’s footsteps
Zabala realized she wanted to follow in her father’s journalism footsteps while writing for her high school’s campus paper in Eagle Rock, northeast of Los Angeles.
She said she instantly fell in love with the career path and has been working full throttle ever since.
In 2014, she was selected as one of four reporter trainees from across the country for the NBC Reporter Development program.
In this intensive development program, Zabala said she ran a one-person band— writing, shooting, editing and reporting on camera.
She worked her way up to the morning show, breaking news reporter, and weekend weather anchor before moving to Fox 5 San Diego in 2019.
Fostering diversity and inclusion
She was a member of the Asian American Journalists Association and served as the former president of the San Diego chapter, with the goal to foster diversity and inclusion for Asian American voices.
We, as journalists and news organizations, have a duty to reflect the community we serve, and that leads to more accurate and more comprehensive coverage.”-Liberty Zabala.
“We, as journalists and news organizations, have a duty to reflect the community we serve, and that leads to more accurate and more comprehensive coverage,” Zabala said. “I want to continue to help others grow and ensure they are able to serve as journalists in the industry, bringing in an Asian American perspective as well.”
Zabala just finished her Master of Arts in Homeland Security with a concentration in Counterterrorism from the American Military University on top of her full-time job as a reporter and weather anchor for Fox 5.
She also was sworn in as a Navy Reserve Public Affairs Officer in August, taking the skill sets and knowledge she has gained from covering the military in San Diego for nearly a decade.
“I feel like every second counts, so every second you should be doing something to accomplish the goal, and that’s how I’ve been able to get through it,” Zabala said. “If you are in this role to serve yourself, you’re not going to go very far, but if you’re doing it to serve your community or serve your country, then that is going to be something that is going to motivate you through every challenge.”
Sharing the Navy’s stories
Zabala said her role as a Navy Reserve Public Affairs officer has been a sink or swim endeavor since being sworn in in August.
Zabala went through a 5-week intensive officer development school in Newport, Rhode Island where she trained in situations simulating a sinking ship and fighting fires.
The bootcamp included damage control training, physical training and hours of lectures.
Zabala served as the company commander at Officer Development School and since graduating, drills one weekend a month plus additional training.
Her decision to join the reserves centered on her desire to give back, to share and protect the stories of the Navy.
“I am so grateful to God for what my family has been able to accomplish here and what I have been able to accomplish here, and for me, it’s important to give back,” Zabala said. “I have been just so touched and moved by these stories that I’ve covered of our service members here of heroism and bravery and those stories have always stuck with me.”
Zabala noted that her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the Department of Defense.
Moving to D.C., still a reservist
Zabala, who recently did her last segment for Fox 5 San Diego, is excited to take on a new adventure, and will be continuing her career and roles as a Navy Reservist.
Zabala said it has been an honor to get to know the people who make San Diego such a wonderful place, the people who have welcomed her into their homes and trusted her to share their stories.
“I’m really excited for this next chapter,” Zabala said, as she heads to Washington, D.C. “It’s obviously something very new, and for me, very bittersweet because I have lived here and loved this community of San Diego for nearly a decade.”