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Why Is NBC L.A. Phasing Out Its Latino Reporters?

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Fri, Aug 5, 2011 at 5:30 PM

click to enlarge Ana Garcia: 6 p.m. golden girl, no more.
  • Ana Garcia: 6 p.m. golden girl, no more.
A cross lettersent to KNBC President and General Manager Craig Robinson by the California Chicano News Media Association yesterday points to a strange trend, given L.A.'s booming Latino population: Five Latino news anchors working for Channel 4 have been demoted in the past year-and-a-half.

It's a mirror image of the Latino exodus of 1994, when five reporters were dropped from the station all at once, and KNBC "was accused of bias against Latino journalists," writes Julio Morán, CCNMA director. While only one of the five is actually gone this time (Pablo Pierera), Morán wants to know why the rest were pulled from prime time:

"Removing Ana Garcia as an anchor on your 6 p.m. newscast was bad enough, but your station has also removed Latino anchors form your midday show (Kim Baldonado) and from weekend evenings (Andy Adler and [Mekahlo Medina])."

(In remembrance of Garcia's glory days, an oldie but a goodie: "Hollywood Party Buses Gone Wild: The Ana Garcia Crackdown.")

Morán says he's worried this might be part of a larger trend, on top of the mass layoffs raiding news networks -- and print papers like the Times -- of their higher-paid veteran talent.

"We had been making gains as a community, but this recession has served as an excuse for a lot of media companies to retreat on diversity," says Morán.

"All of the stations could do a better job in terms of hiring and promotion," he adds. "But the issue here is [KNBC] had people, Latinos, in positions, and then removed them off air."

In response, Morán says NBC's Robinson has told him the re-assignments were not intentional, and reaffirmed his commitment to diversity. (Ironically, as noted by LA Observed, Robinson, who's half-black and half-Chinese, is about to leave his post at KNBC for a job as chief diversity officer for all NBC.)

"Television is a difficult medium because it is so subjective," says Morán. Generally, in the world of print journalism, higher-ups have to proactively issue layoffs, and for specific reasons. "But with a personal-service contract, if they choose not to renew it, i dont know how much recourse there is," he says.

So what's the harm of a more whitewashed 5 p.m./6 p.m. news hour?

"It's just good business," says Morán. "If these stations want people to watch their newscast, they need to put people on there who look like the viewers. ... On-air people serve as role models. Kids think, 'If Laura Diaz can make it, I can make it as well."

Better yet, KNBC -- do like Marvel Comics and find yourself some hard-hitting blacktinos to fill the top spots. No, but for real. Not cool. We want Garcia back.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]

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