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The DaVince-y Code

Rarely in most professions outside of the theater do superiors request that their employees color their hair gray or use an eyebrow pencil to create the appearance of forehead wrinkles. Unless you're Vince Gonzales, who worked for a news director who suggested that he do both because he looked too young on camera. As a general assignment reporter based in Los Angeles who focuses on investigative reporting, Gonzales has had some other unique experiences and he shares some of them below by answering our questions and yours.

So, what do you do for a living?

I am a general assignment correspondent in our Los Angeles bureau. If anything happens in the Western U.S., Mexico, Alaska or Hawaii, there's a chance I'll be sent to cover it.

CBS has also allowed me to carve out a niche as an investigative reporter. Working with producer Barbara Pierce I've been able to uncover some fascinating stories that I'm very proud of. Basically, my job is to find stories or documents some people would prefer to keep hidden. Then we track them down to ask the questions they don't want to answer.

Investigative stories can be complicated and take quite a bit of time. What ends up on the air is just a small portion of our research. We always end up with boxes of documents and supporting information. Thanks to that research, my friends tell me I've become a "jack of all trades."

For example, over the years, I've learned way too much about how blood banks work, how anthrax vaccine is made, and how energy traders conduct business.

The best part about this kind of work is you're usually out there on your own. On my wall is the favorite motto of an investigative reporter I worked with in Arizona, Rich Robertson. It reads: "There is no news where there are other reporters."

What is not being covered enough at CBS News?
I have to echo my colleague Sharyl Attkisson. We could always do more original, investigative reporting. That's what will differentiate us in a world of 24-hour news channels and internet news on demand.
What's the strangest thing that has ever happened to you on the job?
There have been so many strange experiences. Covering the Michael Jackson trial was a six-month long strange trip. Nearly every day had its surreal moments. Off the air, I guess it would be when a local news director who told me I looked too young and that I should put powder in my hair to give it gray streaks and draw lines in eyebrow pencil on my forehead to simulate wrinkles. I declined, figuring I would get there soon enough.
If you had 10 broken fingers and no gas in the car, which colleague would you want to be there?
Any of our great CBS News producers, photojournalists or editors would do, but if I have to pick one person it would be producer Eleanore Vega. Whenever news breaks, people in our bureau turn to her to make the impossible happen. It doesn't matter whether you're facing off with Mexican police along the border, standing in the middle of a massive forest fire, or going undercover with a hidden camera … with Eleanore you know you're going to get the story.
If you were not in news, what would you be doing?
I've been told by the subjects at the heart of some of our investigative pieces that I would have made a good cop or prosecutor. I'll take that as a compliment.
What is the biggest change at CBS during the time you've been here?
That has to be the departure of Dan Rather from the anchor chair. When I decided at age 11 that I wanted to be a reporter, he was there. When I first became an intern at CBS News, he was there. And he was anchor when I became a correspondent. I was lucky enough to work for him and learn from him.
What are the last three books you've read or the last three movies you've seen?
I recently saw (and really enjoyed) the Johnny Cash biopic "Walk The Line." I just finished reading "Brodie's Report" by Jorge Luis Borges, "Year of The Hangman" by Glenn F. Williams and "Swords Against The Senate, The Rise of The Roman Army and The Fall of The Republic" by Erik Hildinger.
What is your first memory of TV News?
My first memory is watching the "CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite" with my father. I also have a vivid memory of both my parents being glued to the TV as CBS covered the Watergate hearings.
Would you want your child to go into the news business?
I don't have children yet, but if I do I'm not sure the news business as I know it will be around when they are old enough to consider it as a profession. Maybe the state of the news business will be better, but when I see the boom in celebrity news and cable channels devoting hours to stories that in the past didn't even rate a mention, I worry the industry is not heading in the right direction.
Who is the most fascinating person you've covered and who is the biggest jerk?
The most fascinating person I ever covered was a man I never met. In fact, he died in Vietnam when I was 4 years old. His name was Michael Blassie and he was the "Unknown Soldier" from the Vietnam conflict. Our seven month CBS News investigation proved that for two decades the government hid the fact that it actually knew the identity of this Unknown Soldier. I was fortunate to get to know Michael through my research and from the many hours I spent talking to his family and fellow pilots. As the son of a career military man, I think what some government officials did to Michael and his family is reprehensible. I still have many questions for those officials … who may be the biggest jerks I've ever covered.
And finally, Ph47f3, posed this question in our comments section: "Most news tends to come from New York or Washington, with little daily hard news from the Western U.S. I know Vince is posted to the West Coast … Does he think that the CBS "Evening News" shows enough news for the Western U.S.?"
I actually think the West is well-represented on CBS News broadcasts. When there is a story of national significance, it's covered by the Los Angeles bureau. There are plenty of nights on the CBS "Evening News" where there are two or three pieces from the West. We also tend to do at least one or two pieces nearly every day for "The Early Show."

CBS has also tailored broadcasts to Western viewers. For example, producers in New York have updated the West Coast feed of the "Evening News" by providing extended coverage of events like the California recall election. Other times they've replaced stories that aired in the East with pieces focused on the West for that feed.