In our new monthly series, Leadership Fresno Alumni Association will catch up with former classmates to see what they are currently doing, hear about their experiences in the class and learn about a few of their favorite Fresno destinations.
Lisa Burger, Class 27
Class Project: Al Radka Community Garden
With a career spanning 15 years in news, Lisa Burger is now the news director KSEE24 and CBS47. After taking jobs in San Diego and Denver, she is back in Fresno and is still using the knowledge and insight she gained during her Leadership Fresno class days and applying it to how she approaches her job.
When asked what brought her back to Fresno after five years, Lisa couldn’t help but gush about her love of Fresno, the proximity to her best friend and a job offer she couldn’t pass up.
As news director, Lisa oversees 60 employees — from reporters and anchors to producers, photographers, and the assignment desk. She oversees everything that goes into the daily newscasts on two different stations.
What’s one part of your job that people don’t understand?
I think there is a misunderstanding about the media and its intentions. We take our responsibility very seriously. The responsibility to tell the truth, without bias, serve the community and be the watchdog for the public. To be the eyes and ears. To tell the good and bad with appropriate balance. Not balance of right or left – but within the newscast. You don’t want to watch and be overwhelmed with sadness. People may not see the deliberation every day and the impartial role we take.
As someone who works in news, did seeing all the things you saw in LF open your eyes even more? Did you gain new perspectives?
Absolutely. It was life-changing. There is a perspective that you need to have in news. It’s hard when you don’t grow up in the community you work in. The context you get within the program was invaluable.
Spending the day at the dairy farm, going through Chinatown, understanding that the new art gallery opening is vital to the historic parts of our town were all important. The history and the background that I gained has opened my eyes and has given me better depth and perspective which improve the stories we tell.
You went through the program and then left to take an opportunity outside of the market. Did you take any of the knowledge you gained in the program and apply it to your new job in a new place?
It’s interesting, I did. It opened my eyes to see the greater community. The program showed me how important a vibrant downtown is to building a healthy and thriving community. Someplace that people feel good about living in.
When I moved to San Diego, I wanted to live in downtown because of what I learned in the program. The first call I made, personally, was to the head of the Downtown San Diego Partnership. I wanted to be a part of the community and the issues because the love started in Leadership Fresno. We are still really good friends to this day.
Do you still see a lot of what you learned about Fresno is still applicable? Has the city changed?
It’s so interesting. There have been big changes in terms of landscape. North Fresno has grown so much. Dave & Busters was a Christmas tree lot when I lived here before. Copper River was nothing except for the golf course. Now there are so many homes!
I was really involved with FLYP [Fresno’s Leading Young Professionals] before I left and we were supporting accepting the TIGER Grant to open Fulton Street. When I came back, one of the first things I did was drive down it, and I cried. It was such a big deal.
The fear of Fulton Mall opening was big. The gentrification of the area and small businesses getting pushed out by higher rents. But you know what, so many of the same businesses are still there. Los Panchos is still there. The dress shop is still there, and the doors are still open. It’s interesting and exciting and makes me hopeful.
The people are still here. Jerry Dyer is still Fresno Police Chief. Lee Brand is the Mayor of Fresno. Nathan Madsig isn’t on the Clovis City Council anymore but on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. They are all still here but in different roles. The leadership hasn’t changed just titles.
FIRE AWAY: Rapid-fire questions where our guest picks their Fresno faves
Place to eat?
I like trying different locally-owned businesses when possible.
My best friend’s backyard or mine.
Place to take an out-of-town guest?
The Brewery District, checking out Chukchansi Park, driving down Fulton Street and ending up in Tower at Sequoia Brewing.
I just wish people in North Fresno would make the choice to see what there is downtown. There are a lot of locally owned businesses to support. Having a great downtown is vital to our community. We, as a community, have to come together to support downtown Fresno. I encourage people to give it a try.
The best event is Ice Cream Zoofari. Ice Cream every ten yards or so and you are supporting the zoo. It’s the best!
Love the coast. Any chance I have to get over there I go. I also like the Madera Wine Trail.