Reporting Live from Los Angeles, This Is Steffan Tubbs
Student and network correspondent appreciates the flexibility and quality of the HUX program

Each morning when graduate student Steffan Tubbs, drives to work, he has no idea where the day might lead and where he may sleep that night. But it’s the unpredictable nature of the news that keeps him excited and motivated as a correspondent and anchor for ABC News Radio and Television.

“That’s the best thing about journalism: you never know what’s going to happen next.

I could wake up at my home in Glendale and end the night in Tokyo,” says the Humanities External Degree student who has tailored his studies to give him a more solid foundation of world history and to examine how past journalistic coverage and the U.S. government has affected coverage today.

Above: Tubbs reporting after 9/11 from "Ground Zero"

Standing at Ground Zero after 9/11 or in a packed Eagle, Colorado courtroom for Kobe Bryant’s trial, Tubbs’ face and voice are regularly broadcast across the country to more than 5,000 ABC affiliate stations. Here in Los Angeles, his mini-documentaries frequently air at the top of each hour on KABC, and he has won two national Edward R. Murrow awards for excellence in feature reporting.

Tubbs has spent most of his time in radio and relishes the challenge it poses to not just tell a story, but bring listeners into the story without the convenience of images that television offers. He does all the reporting, recording of interviews, writing and voiceover, which he intermixes with “nats” (natural sounds) to set the scene.

“I really have to take the listener through a small journey. It may be corny, but being a journalist is like being a painter. You have these elements that are your paints, you use a little here and a little there, and in the end, it has to all come together to make a pretty picture,” he says.

Since he was nine years old, Tubbs has always known he wanted to be this kind of

break with coverage of the Oklahoma City Bombing and the ensuing trials of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, which were staged in Colorado.

Above: Tubbs reports on the wildfires in Lake Arrowhead, California.

Since then, his coverage of national and international news has been highlighted as the anchor of several specials on the war in Iraq and as ABC Radio’s live anchor the night of 9/11. He took over for his colleagues in New York City when they were spent from a physically and emotionally draining day, continuing the streaming coverage well into the night.

Despite the nature of his job covering many negative events though, he remains grounded and connected to the people in his stories because of his own family. With his wife, Kristen, and two children, ages 1 and 3, the impact often hits home.

“Journalists are often regarded on the same level with used car salesmen – not caring about anything other than getting the story. But there are a lot of us who are compassionate in our coverage. I’ve cried at stories. I’m a human being first, there’s no way you can separate that.

“Covering the recent fires here in Southern California, transmitting pictures or audio of these horrific things, it often makes me appreciate what I have. Seeing homes leveled to ash, it makes you think twice about complaining about the price of a gallon of gas,” Tubbs says.

His ability to balance career and family is rare in the industry where many of his colleagues are on their third and fourth marriages. Spending 83 days on the road in 2002, oftentimes, the child-rearing responsibilities get thrown completely on Kristen when Michael Jackson’s latest escapade sends Tubbs to Santa Barbara in a flurry. He insists that her flexibility and compassion has been the key to his success as much as anything in his career.
Finding time to study, then, is just one more ingredient in an already busy schedule. Still, he had the strong desire to enter the Humanities External Degree (HUX) program in fall 2001 with the long-term goal of becoming a college professor after he has tired of the rigors of the road and long nights.

Extended Education’s HUX program is implemented entirely through mail and Internet correspondence, and the master’s degree students receive a broad, interdisciplinary education in all five areas of the humanities – history, literature, philosophy, music and art – with an opportunity to specialize in one. Because students are never required to come to the actual Carson campus, HUX is ideal for students like Tubbs who are concurrently involved in unpredictable, full-time careers.

Like many HUX students, Tubbs flatly says that such a degree would be impossible without the flexibility of the program. Studying time is still hard to find though, so he wakes at 4:30 a.m. to grab a few hours before his kids are up, and reads while awaiting courtroom decisions across the country.

Tubbs typically takes two courses per semester and hopes to graduate in May, 2005. The rigors may be difficult, but the benefits of the program have not waited for him to graduate – the payoff has been immediate.
“I’m taking a class called ‘The Arab World,’ and I cannot think of a better example of how this translates to my career. I certainly don’t know nearly enough about that subject, and with this, I can apply it to the news I’m covering all the time. That’s a total bonus,” he says.
— Ryan Brandt

This article first appeared in Inside Dominguez Hills, March 2004. Reprinted with permission.