As moderator of tonight's vice presidential debate between Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine, CBSN anchor Elaine Quijano will become the first digital reporter to officiate a national election face-off. Not a regular CBSN viewer? We can still get you up to speed on Quijano’s career, the ignobility of reporting on cats, and how she convinced the President to change a key policy.
1. A FAKE CRIME GOT HER INTERESTED IN JOURNALISM.
Elaine Quijano (who originally went by the name Elaine Cagas) enrolled in the University of Illinois intending to pursue a degree in engineering. While in school, she grew curious about a journalism class taught by Robin Neal Kaler and decided to sign up. “One time [Kaler] staged a mock crime,” Quijano told the Asian Journal [PDF] in 2008. “In the middle of a lecture, someone ran in and grabbed her purse, and Robin ran out after him. We were just stunned. And I was so naive—I had no idea it was a ruse. But Robin came back in and said, ‘You were all just eyewitnesses to a crime.’ It was a test of our powers of observation.’” Quijano shifted to broadcast journalism, eventually interning for WCIA-TV in Champaign, Illinois before landing at CNN Newsource in 2000.
2. SHE HAD TO COVER A CAT STUCK IN A TREE.
Quijano at WCIA in 1997. The Illio
Before graduating to a national platform, Quijano gained experience in small-town markets like WCIA. According to Adweek, she was once dispatched to cover the fate of a cat that was unable to climb down from a tree. “Suffice to say, it was not a high point in American journalism,” she said.
3. SHE SPENT A LOT OF TIME IN A GAS MASK.
After moving to CNN correspondent status, Quijano covered several major stories of the early 2000s, including the presidential election and the September 11 terrorist attacks. While embedded in Kuwait, Quijano was awakened nearly every night to the sound of alarms that signaled a possible chemical attack. “There were sirens and alarms all hours of the day and night, and each time we’d have to evacuate with our chemical and biological sets with gas masks and all this gear," she said [PDF]. “So we’d lug all this stuff down flights of stairs to the basement, and someone would test the air. That’s frightening—these guys sniffing the air to find out if we were breathing chemicals.”
4. SHE HELPED CONVINCE PRESIDENT OBAMA TO REVERSE POLICY.
During her tenures at CNN and CBS, Quijano covered politics extensively as a White House correspondent. In 2011, she reported that President Obama’s office had not been sending letters of condolence to families of military members that had committed suicide. After Quijano’s report, a policy was enacted to make sure that correspondence was delivered.
5. SHE LIKES TO SCUBA DIVE.
Of her many career accomplishments, Quijano still has one major item to check off her bucket list: swimming with whale sharks. Although she’s an experienced scuba diver, she hasn’t yet gone swimming in the waters of her native Philippines. In 2013, she dove in order to report on a story about the Aquarius Reef Base, an underwater research lab.
6. SHE’LL BE THE FIRST ASIAN-AMERICAN DEBATE MODERATOR.
Quijano will be making history in more than one way on October 4. In addition to being the first digital correspondent moderating a national debate, her appearance will also mark the first time an Asian-American will take the seat.
7. HER FAVORITE BOOK IS ...
… The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. “It’s interesting to think about the world beyond what we think we know,” she has said.