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Brown and Jimenez a Rare Pair on Newscasts : Television: KABC and KCOP have the only minority men anchoring on weeknights in Los Angeles. Is it happenstance or are they exceptions to an unwritten rule?

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Marc Brown and Bob Jimenez rank among the elite at local television stations. They are in the first string of news anchors.

But although both are veteran journalists who have risen through the ranks and gained respect among their colleagues and managers, another factor sets the two apart: Brown and Jimenez are the only two minority men anchoring a local newscast on weekday evenings.

Brown, 34, anchors the 6 p.m. news on KABC-TV Channel 7 and is also a reporter for the station’s 11 p.m. newscast. Jimenez, 50, who was previously a senior correspondent and anchor for KCBS-TV Channel 2, anchors the 10 p.m. newscast on KCOP-TV Channel 13.

The recent promotion of Brown and the hiring of Jimenez represent a rarity in local news: two minority males anchoring daily evening newscasts at different stations.

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Female minorities such as Tritia Toyota and Linda Alvarez have long been a staple as local anchors, and one of them, Pat Harvey of KCAL-TV Channel 9, ranks among the highest paid in the market. But minority male anchors most often have been assigned to what one newsman called “the ghetto” of newscasts--the morning, early afternoon or weekend news, which typically draw fewer viewers than the weekday evening programs. They also fill in as temporary substitutes for first-string anchors.

The only Latino male to anchor a daily evening newscast in the last several years was KCBS’ Chris Conangla, who was at the helm of the 5 p.m. news before leaving the station in 1994. The late Ken Jones, an African American, was an evening anchor during the 1970s at KTTV-TV Channel 11.

Both Brown and Jimenez feel their new status may finally open the doors for other minority males to occupy the high-profile anchor positions.

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“I think there is a lot more hope now, given the climate,” said Brown, who had been a weekend anchor at KABC for three years. “It’s about time, and I’m glad I was given the opportunity that I prepared for.”

Added Jimenez: “I think things are changing, although they are not changing fast enough. This city is evolving and the newscasts at these stations should evolve along with it. When the management at these stations have their eyes opened that this is a very diverse city, they will be more agreeable to bring minority males up through the ranks, [to] start nurturing them.”

While employees at several stations contend that the lack of minority male anchors is the result of unwritten policies of racism and exclusion, others say it is due more to an institutional bias--a belief by management that many white viewers would be unwilling to accept a minority male in the main anchor chair. Minority females, this argument goes, are seen as less threatening than male minority anchors.

Station executives insist there is no discrimination against minority males for anchor spots. There simply aren’t that many openings, they say, and the number of people who have the communication skills, charisma and credibility to do the job is extremely small.

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Representatives of the National Hispanic Media Coalition and the Beverly Hills/Hollywood chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People said they felt the promotion of Brown and the hiring of Jimenez represented positive moves for local news.

“Bob Jimenez’s bosses are very bright,” said Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “This is a very good investment and will bring them a Latino audience above and beyond what they already have.”

Executives at the two stations said, however, that race had little or nothing to do with putting Brown and Jimenez into the anchor seats.

“Race did play a part, but it was not the A or B factor,” said KCOP news director Stephen Cohen. “First of all, Bob is an excellent journalist and presenter. After that, it was his availability. Then we thought about the audience.”

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Cheryl Fair, news director at KABC, said Brown’s promotion was an easy call for her: “Mark got this job because he knows Los Angeles and is an excellent reporter and anchor. I know this decision was greeted with a great deal of pride in the African American community, but that was not why he got the job.”

Brown and Jimenez agreed with their bosses’ assessments, saying they believed they were hired on merit.

“This was not a political move or act,” Brown said. “If that’s the way this station was thinking, the time to have done this would have been the uprising in 1992. Channel 7 is a money-making operation. They are not going to do this because of community service. They don’t mess with the bottom line.”

In the past, minority television newsmen in Los Angeles have expressed frustration at what they saw as a reluctance among station executives to put them in the anchor chair on evening newscasts.

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Hosea Sanders, who was a longtime weekend anchor at KCBS, left the station last year to become a weekday morning anchor at ABC affiliate WLS-TV in Chicago amid charges by employees and community leaders that KCBS discriminated against women and minorities, an accusation that the station denied. Sanders at the time did not specifically say whether he felt discrimination was behind his failure to be promoted, but did say, “Generally people who are satisfied with their jobs don’t entertain other offers.”

Veteran newsman Larry Carroll, another African American, ran into roadblocks at KCAL. He had been a weekend anchor there but, when he left in 1993, he said the station was unwilling to make him a weekday anchor. Officials at the station denied that race had anything to do with their decision not to renew Carroll’s contract.

After a stint as a correspondent for NBC News, Carroll is currently at KCBS, where he anchors the weekday noon newscast.

The verdict is still out on whether Brown and Jimenez will be able to attract viewers. Jimenez said the Latino community still is largely unaware that he is at KCOP, but he appreciates the station’s unwillingness to exploit his ethnicity to draw in viewers.

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As for Brown, he said he has gotten thumbs up on the street from blacks and whites who have congratulated him: “It’s great to know that there are people out there rooting for you.”


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