Time is an elastic concept in understanding the world of associate director Esperanza “Candy” Martinez. On the one hand there’s live on-air time during news broadcasts, which is compressed and finite and measured in seconds. On the other hand there’s longevity at a single company - 34 years and counting since she became part of the news team at WABC 7 in New York.
That longevity makes her pretty unusual in a fast-changing media culture, but it’s not the only thing that stands out about Martinez - there’s also her long and varied service to the DGA, which won her the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award in 2003.
A career in broadcasting was never a given for the South Carolina native, but she chose it quickly after a job as an assistant producer at Like It Is, a black public affairs show at WABC in Manhattan, brought her into contact with the world of news directors and ADs. “I realized I liked that aspect of it much better than what I was doing.” The station was looking to make an in-house promotion, and Martinez got the job.
It was 1972, and “there were not many women or minorities in the industry at all,” she recalls, “so some of the petty nonsense I had to go through - I think of it as hazing - I just said to myself that I would not let anybody else go through it. At that time, I didn’t have anybody to look to for help, but over the years I became that person for anybody else who comes through here.”
After years of showing up for work at 3 a.m. for the 5 a.m. morning show, she now arrives at 9:30 each morning to handle associate directing chores for the noon and 5 p.m. editions of Eyewitness News. The job includes coordinating the live shots coming in and constantly re-prioritizing as news breaks and evolves. “You make sure everybody knows what they need to know exactly when they need to know it,” she explains.
Martinez frequently brings in middle school and high school kids for a glimpse of the broadcast world. One day a group arrived just as a plane had crashed. “Instead of showing them around the building, I said, ‘Just come into the control room and I’ll explain what’s going on when we get a break.’” Another time a group arrived just as they were getting a helicopter feed of a dog stranded on an ice floe in a New Jersey river. “So you never know if it’s going to be the horror of a plane crash, or something lighter like a pet rescue,” Martinez marvels. “Every day is different.”