NAME: Patti Roberts
JOB TITLE: spokeswoman, California Department of Health Services
by Jessica Weidling
Capitol Weekly: Tell us a little about how you ultimately ended up as
spokeswoman for the California Department of Health Services.
Patti Roberts: Well it’s been a long and winding road. I was a journalism
major at Cal State Northridge. I worked for Los Angeles-area newspapers,
covering news, then the entertainment industry, which was very fun–going to
the Oscars and the Grammy’s and covering entertainment news. At first I made
absolutely no money, but it was fun. And I loved what I was doing so much
that I never even thought about money. I decided to relocate to Sacramento
where I got a job in a public-relations and advertising firm. After that I
went back to news by working at KCRA, then other communications jobs. I tend
to seek out jobs that are very interesting–adrenaline driven, eclectic and
where the action is.
I think I recognized early on that I have a personality that needs constant
change. About every five years, I have to change it up because I get bored.
I eventually got a job at the state, where I now work in public affairs at
the Department of Health Services. I like it because you’re working with the
public on important health issues and you feel like you’re making a
CW: What first attracted you to communications, writing and journalism?
PR: I discovered journalism after a few years of college. I never liked to
study; I liked being out there doing something. I was excited to find a
major where everything was so exciting for me. It involved everything I
love, including writing and communication.
And once you get skills in communication, you can apply it to anything you
are really interested in. Whether your interest is in entertainment or
politics, you can use it where your interests are.
CW: What was your experience like working for the now-infamous FEMA?
PR: I worked five years as a media consultant for FEMA when FEMA was under
James Lee Witt. It’s like being in the reserves–you get called up during
disasters. We used to call the weather channel the employment channel
because you saw where you might be sent. Not only was it fascinating
communications-wise, but you feel like you were really helping people.
CW: I understand you teach a popular PR class at UC Davis Extension. How do
you teach the class to keep students excited about the material?
PR: I’ve taught at UC Davis extension for 14 years, and it’s the class
participants who keep me excited with their enthusiasm. I designed the
class–Strategic Planning in Public Relations–based on what I wished I’d had
when I made the transition from journalism to public relations.
CW: When did you start penning theater reviews for Sacramento News & Review
and how does your work there contrast with your “day job”?
PR: I’ve written for News and Review since the paper began in the early
’90s. It’s fun because I still get to use my writing skills. The funny
thing is that most people have no idea I write theater reviews for News and
Review because no one reads bylines, and it’s not something I do full-time.
I think I’m a real disappointment when I come out for News and Review
because I’m a pretty average looking person. No piercing, no visible
tattoos. I’m quirky, just not by sight. But I love theater and I love
writing, so I get to combine two big interests.
CW: What are some of your favorite local venues to visit for shows?
PR: I have to say Sacramento has wonderful theater. Sometimes when I hear
young actors or actresses say they want to go L.A., I say “stay here!” I’m
always surprised that there aren’t more theater-goers. Some venues I enjoy
include B Street, River Stage, the Sacramento Theatre Company and other
smaller theaters. There really is wonderful theater here, and some very
talented actors and directors in town.
CW: What are some of your other interests?
PR: I love traveling. I was brought up seventh out of eight kids, and our
big family would camp throughout the United States, Europe and Mexico, so
I’ve always had the traveling bug. I think those who succeed in
communications and journalism have a curiosity about what makes people tick,
and that’s what I love about traveling. Two years ago, I went to South
Africa, which was fascinating.