On The AirMay 01, 2022 ● By Diann Nichols
Matthew Torres didn’t always dream of being a broadcast journalist.
In fact, the three-time Emmy award winner, who was largely raised in Frisco, recalls that when he was young, he wanted to go into the fine arts or have a career in architecture.
It wasn’t until his senior year at Frisco High School that fate intervened. Needing one additional elective class credit, he chose the only course that was available: broadcast journalism. That one class was all it took to fire what became his passion.
“I was just drawn to the idea that you get to call people and set up interviews and just have different stories. … Each time, there was something completely new about it,” Torres said during a recent call from Washington, D.C., where he currently works as a news reporter and full-time anchor for WUSA, a CBS affiliate station.
After graduating high school in 2007, he attended Collin College before transferring to the University of North
Texas. There, he was asked to declare a major and, on a whim, decided to pursue broadcast journalism. “I just love the cameras and the storytelling through pictures and audio and images, and so that's what drew me into my major.”
After making that decision, Torres has never looked back. His dream job for more than nine years the has taken him from a position at KTAB in Abilene to WTVF, the Nashville CBS affiliate, and now to WUSA.
Torres said his life and career could easily have taken a different path had it not been for the influence of his high school broadcast journalism teacher, Eva Coleman. “She's been an inspiration and someone who's really motivated me to pursue this even though initially I wasn't interested,” he said.
Coleman, who is also the Region III director for the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), encouraged Torres to get involved in the local journalism community by participating in workshops and joining the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). She also convinced him to participate in a free urban journalism workshop sponsored by the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of NABJ. “He actually was one of our top-performing students,” Coleman recalled.
Throughout his career, Torres said he hasn’t forgotten Coleman or her influence on him. In fact, when he landed his first professional gig, she was one of the first people he told. Nor has Coleman forgotten Torres. “You have some students that you always remember,” she said, ”and he is one of those students. I really noticed his drive in meeting with people when interviewing them and getting to the heart of the story. He's very confident on camera - confident, not cocky. He just had that ‘it’ factor about him.”
That likely has helped take him far: Torres has earned a trio of Emmy awards, a regional Edward R. Murrow Award and a Tennessee Associated Press Award as well as numerous other nominations.
His 30-minute Murrow Award-winning special, titled Hooked, which he wrote and produced, delved into Tennessee’s opioid crisis. Because of the state’s high number of opioid deaths, Torres was assigned to cover “everything and anything regarding the opioid crisis.”
He worked stories pertaining to the law enforcement, recovery and prevention angles of the crisis. As part of his reporting, he has heard personal stories from people who became hooked on drugs through prescriptions or as a way to deal with heartbreaking personal tragedy. Torres interviewed members of recovery groups and experts as well as first responders about how the opioid crisis impacts families and what the state of Tennessee has done to lessen the crisis.
Torres won his most recent Emmy with a six-month follow-up story about a deadly March 2020 tornado in Tennessee. “We followed up with a family who lost two loved ones to this devastating tornado just to see how they're doing and how they're commemorating this couple that died,” he explained of the piece. “It was a very emotional story. We talked about how it really impacted the small community.”
For another heart-wrenching disaster story, Torres recently visited Mayfield, Kentucky, to cover the deadly tornado that devastated the entire town in December 2021.“They flew me out there to help and I was there for four days putting together stories,” he said. “I think, unfortunately, my best work came from one of the worst natural disasters I have professionally covered in my career.”
One of the biggest career challenges he has experienced so far came early on, when he recalls “facing criticism for the first time. One viewer in particular kept commenting negatively about me and it began to affect my confidence. I sought advice from my mentors who advised me that no matter how you approach the story, not everyone’s going to be happy.” The experience demonstrated how important it is to “stay fair, thorough and professional. Don’t give energy to people who only have a lot to say (from) behind a computer” keyboard.
Born in the Philippines, Torres’ family moved to Canada in 1997 when he was seven years old. In 2005, the family moved to Frisco looking for better opportunities – a move he remembers as a pendulum swing. “It was a culture shock in many ways,” he recalls, “but, you know, Texas will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Living and working in the nation’s capital is “so different from Texas,” he said, “but I like it. It’s exciting. You’re literally in the heartbeat of a nation and to be so close to all that, it’s kind of surreal.” Moving frequently for his job doesn’t bother Torres. “I think there's something about traveling and getting to know communities that intrigues me. I had a goal of wanting to go to the East Coast and I just want to travel and explore as much as I can before I truly settle down – wherever that might be.” Washington, D.C. is “an active city with a lot of places to see and to be active in nature, but also has all the restaurants and bars. It's always a busy city. To be in more density was a huge adjustment for me, but I love the idea of being able to just walk outside and grab a coffee.”
In the future, Torres said he hopes to either work as a national correspondent or sit behind the anchor desk in a smaller city. No matter where he eventually lands, Coleman is confident that Torres will “keep telling the stories of others. … Most importantly, he cares. It's evident in his work. … He is a definitely a jewel that came straight out of Frisco.”
Diann Nichols is a music lover, an armchair traveler and an amateur photographer who never tires of learning something new.