The last time The Coronado News spoke with four-time Emmy-award winning reporter Liberty Zabala, she was gearing up to leave San Diego and move across the country to Washington, D.C. 

Zabala left a repertoire of accomplishments in San Diego while she worked for Fox 5.

On top of her full time job as a reporter and weather anchor, Zabala finished her Master’s of Arts in Homeland Security with a concentration in counterterrorism from the American Military University. 

She also became a Navy Reserve Public Affairs Officer, a role she still fulfills in Washington, D.C.

Now, Zabala is on the morning show team at DC News Now as a reporter, host and fill-in news anchor.

Checking in with Zabala

The Coronado News checked in with Zabala to hear about her move, the new job, wedding planning and an exciting project she is leading at DC News Now in honor of Veterans Day. 

Zabala noted that her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the Department of Defense.

Some of the answers are edited for brevity. 

The Coronado News: Last we left you, you and your fiancé Tyler Simmons were about to take off on a road trip to start your next chapter in Washington, D.C.  How was the moving process?

Liberty: The moving process was a lot. We had a lot to deal with in terms of moving our entire lives across the country. It was also our first cross country road trip together, so we also made it kind of like a mini vacation, stopping in different cities along the way to see the rest of America.  

Moving can always be stressful and adjusting to a new part of the country can also be stressful, but we got through it. 

We’ve settled here nicely in the DMV, and we’re really enjoying it. It’s so beautiful here on the East Coast, especially in Virginia. We’ve been able to explore the Shenandoah Valley and we’re really outdoorsy people, so we’ve been loving the natural beauty. 

New role with DC News Now

The Coronado News: Can you tell me about your new role as part of the DC News Now morning show team?

Liberty Zabala is a reporter, host and fill-in news anchor at DC News Now. Photo courtesy of Liberty Zabala.

Liberty: It’s going wonderfully. It’s truly been a blessing to be honest. I didn’t know that I would love my new home and new career path here so much, but I am truly grateful. 

I am also in the Navy reserve at the same time, so it was almost like I was able to seamlessly move from San Diego to the DMV without skipping a beat. I thank God for all of that, to be honest, because I know moving across the country can be very stressful, especially if you don’t have a job lined up. So it just happened to fall into place. 

Vampire hours

The Coronado News: What is your schedule like with the morning show? 

Liberty: I work what I call vampire hours. So I get up at 1 a.m. every morning, Monday through Friday and then I’m in the station around 3, and then I’m hitting every half hour from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and then I turn a package for the later shows. 

I work what I call vampire hours. So I get up at 1 a.m. every morning, Monday through Friday and then I’m in the station around 3.”

-Liberty Zabala

But basically, I get up very early when the sun’s not even up and then I have to be in bed very early as well, so I’m like a grandmother in terms of having to be in bed by 6 p.m. latest. 

So the hours are rough, however, I love my morning show team. I’m a reporter, and I’ve already had an opportunity, thankfully, to fill-in anchor, which is something that I love doing and have a passion for. 

I have also been blessed with my new venture, which is “Veterans Voices.”

Liberty Zabala will be the host and anchor for the Nov. 11th “Veterans Voices” special. Photo courtesy of Liberty Zabala.

What is Veterans Voices?

The Coronado News: Can you speak more on DC News Now’s “Veterans Voices” Project? (Zabala will be the host and anchor for the Nov. 11 show)

Liberty: This is a show and a project that is really dear to my heart. “Veterans Voices” is our half hour special dedicated to the military and veteran communities here in the DMV. 

So, I’m basically digging for, finding and collecting these heartwarming and moving human interest pieces about the men and women who serve our country, who have served our country and who continue to serve our country both as veterans and active duty and reservists. 

What we are doing here at DC News Now is honoring them by showcasing their wealth of stories here in the DMV. 

I’m very excited about this project and I will be leading it, and I have been basically working nonstop over the past couple of months on this. But it is very special to me, and meaningful and purposeful for me, because I know that the men and women who serve our country, and who have served, just have incredible stories that deserve to be highlighted. 

It will air on Veterans Day on DC News Now and throughout the holidays as well. 

The Coronado News: Where can we watch your “Veterans Voices” special?

Liberty: We are on Youtube TV. Locally, we’re on different channels depending on your provider, but we also have

‘Juggling multiple things at once’

The Coronado News: It must be crunch time since Veterans Day is right around the corner, so how have you been fitting this project into your schedule? 

Liberty: It takes a lot of time management. When I talked to you last time, I was still deep in my being a reservist. I was a reporter, and I was also wrapping up my master’s degree, so thankfully I have experience juggling multiple things at once. 

I’m very busy. But, it’s a good kind of busy— it’s an exciting kind of busy where my days are jam packed, but I know that the work that I am putting in is going to lead to something so  fruitful. 

I’ve already been able to highlight such incredible servicemembers and veterans. I interviewed a World War II veteran, a Filipino World War II Veteran and one of the last remaining living Filipino WWII Veterans here in the DMV, and he told me his story about how he walked 32 miles to join the U.S. Navy during WWII to serve our country. He is still fighting for Filipino WWII veterans to get the recognition they deserve because towards the end of the war, their benefits were stripped away from them. 

Preparing to capture stories

Liberty Zabala interviewed 96-year-old Remigio Cabacar for the “Veterans Voices” special. Photo courtesy of Liberty Zabala.

The Coronado News: When you interview veterans for this project, what do you do to prepare, so you can fully capture their stories? 

Liberty: I always make sure to research. I always make sure to not have these set in stone questions. I like the conversation to be very fluid and go with the flow to see where that interview evolves. 

You want to be fluid with your questions, always researched and just be real, be authentic, with the person that you’re interviewing. That will help build your rapport, build trust and lead to an authentic interview. 

Bridging both worlds

The Coronado News: How has your past experience, both with your work covering the military for Fox 5 San Diego and being a Navy Reservist, prepared you for this project and this new job?

Liberty: I am in this incredible, unique position where right now, I have been able to not only balance being a reservist and a reporter, but because of both of my experiences, I am able to bridge both worlds. 

Of course, I did that at Fox 5 in San Diego as well— being able to cover the military for nearly a decade—but now I’m able to bring that experience of covering the military, also serving as a reservist, and that has honestly helped me tell these stories in a more meaningful and more purposeful way than someone who didn’t come from that experience. 

I think that’s what I brought from San Diego to here, is that passion to share the stories of the men and the women who serve our country and now I’m able to bridge both worlds. 

Liberty Zabala is a Navy Reservist and returned to the USS Midway in October from Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Liberty Zabala.

The Coronado News: Speaking of San Diego, congratulations on your San Diego Press Club Award. What specific story did you receive that award for? 

Liberty: I feel like I really have two homes, because as I moved over here, I found out that our coverage of a downtown building fire,with my colleague photo journalist at Fox 5, Michael Saucedo… earned a San Diego Press Club award, first place. 

That was such a blessing. It’s such an honor to leave a city that I love dearly and receive this award as well. 

Planning a wedding

The Coronado News: What aspects of DC, in terms of lifestyle, are different from San Diego? 

Liberty: Well I will say, I have never experienced fall before. Fall here in the DMV is beautiful. It honestly looks like God is painting a new, beautiful painting every day. There’s oranges, yellows, and reds on the trees and every road you drive on, there are these beautiful, colorful trees everywhere. 

I also really love Virginia—the beautiful mountains and the rivers here. We’ve been able to experience fly fishing for the first time here, so it’s a very outdoorsy area and community here, and we love nature. 

Liberty Zabala and her fiancé, Tyler Simmons, are in the process of planning their wedding. Photo courtesy of Liberty Zabala.

The Coronado News: I understand that you and your fiancé are in the process of planning a wedding. How is that going on top of everything else? 

Liberty: I feel like planning a wedding is another version of my master’s degree right now!

I’m trying to reach out to vendors; I’m trying to line up every detail; I’m trying to make sure every important person is invited but also balancing the venue capacity. So, it’s a lot, but I am so excited to start my life, our marriage, together with Tyler, my fiancé. 

I love him so dearly and he is truly the one and my soulmate, and my hero, and I wouldn’t want to be doing this with anyone else. I hope our marriage is honoring to each other and to God and we’re just really excited to start our new adventure here. 

Role of faith in relationship, career

The Coronado News: How does your faith play a role both in your relationship and your reporting at DC News Now? 

Liberty: I feel like my faith plays a role in every aspect of my life. It is important for me to make sure everything that I am doing is honoring God. We have a Catholic church here, and for me, that provides just a strong foundation because when life throws storms at you, or things get hard or too busy, the Lord is my peace. 

I think that’s the greatest foundation to build your life upon, your marriage upon. So for me, my faith does color every aspect of my life and everything I do, and I am so grateful that it is the guiding force in my life. 

Future plans?

The Coronado News: Looking ahead, what are your future plans and goals? 

Liberty: I am adjusting to all of the new changes, and I firmly believe that, as a human being and as a child of God, you should be making sure that you are growing where you are planted. 

I think when you look too far ahead, or you jump too far, you don’t plant a good, solid foundation where you are and that will lead anyone into a situation where they fall apart. But when you firmly plant yourself, and then grow from there, that’s when you can build upon things and then see where the next steps in your life should be. 

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Sofie Fransen is a staff writer for The Coronado News. She graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University, majoring in English-Education and minoring in Journalism. She was the Opinion Editor of The Point student newspaper. In the summers, she has been commercial fishing for the sockeye salmon run in Alaska. She can be reached by email or at 360-527-5848.