Q & a;/mike1st/mark2nd
Title: News Anchor, KMEX-TV, Channel 34
Born: Sonora, Mexico, 1945
Education: Undergraduate degree in radio and television, University de Sonora
Most Admired People: Father and mother
Hobbies: Golf, designing his personal Web page
Career Turning Point: Moving to the United States
Personal: Married, three children
By JOHN BRINSLEY
Eduardo Quezada delivers the news to more of L.A. than anyone else, as news anchor for Spanish-language KMEX-TV, Channel 34, the flagship station of the Univision Network.
His broadcasts not only draw better ratings than any of L.A.'s English-language stations, but better than KCBS, KNBC and KABC combined. And Quezada has been on the air since joining the station in 1975, making him the longest-serving TV anchorman in L.A. history.
He began his career as a radio announcer in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. At the age of 20, he was the host of a weekly television program introducing local musical talent. Prior to joining KMEX-TV, Quezada was news director and talk show host for KAPI-Radio in Pueblo, Colo.
Quezada was recently recognized by the Radio and Television News Association of Southern California for his special investigative series, "Mercado Macabro," which explored the proliferation of the vital-organ black market in the United States and Latin America. The RTNA also has honored him with its lifetime achievement award for 20 years of broadcast excellence.
Question: How did you get started as a TV journalist?
Answer: I learned to read and write English in Mexico, and then I came as a 17-year-old to Long Beach Polytechnic to take some classes, so I could actually use what I had learned, for about a semester. When I was in Long Beach, I used to listen to a radio station: American Airlines Music 'til Dawn, on KNX, I think. I was very impressed. It was music and news. So when I went back to school in Mexico, I went to radio stations asking for jobs. I went to a radio station in Hermosillo and told them I wanted to be an announcer. They had me put away the records and clean the offices. I practiced in the announcing booth until they finally gave me a job (behind the microphone).
And then I started giving them ideas I had learned in the United States, and they liked them. They gave me a shift from 11 at night to 1:15 in the morning. I played music and news, and they loved it. Then a TV station discovered me, and said, "We want you to be a television voice. We'll train you here." So they took me in, and I started doing news. I had a 15-minute newscast at 11 at night, where they would mail me a telegram with news from Mexico City. A guy on a bicycle would deliver it, and I would have to wait outside of the TV station for him, and rush back in and rewrite all the stories, go into the studio and turn the lights on and arrange the desk, put my nameplate down. I would do everything, and then do the news. I did that for two years.
Q: What made you decide to come to Los Angeles?
A: I went to Mexico City and I couldn't get in anywhere. It was too competitive. So I decided to go to the United States. I came to Los Angeles. There were no openings here, so I had to move around. I parked cars in Marina del Rey, I became a musician also, and I kept coming here (to KMEX) "no openings." When they finally had an opening, I grabbed it, and the rest is history. Nobody is going to get me out of here. My first day of work, they assigned me to do the local crime report, about five minutes. I used to do that when I started, and then did more and more stories.
Q: What was KMEX like then compared with today?
A: None of what we're doing now can compare to what we were doing then. (There were) less resources, almost non-existent. I remember the old teletypes, where you had to change the paper and the color. It was a one-hour broadcast. We had a cameraman with a 16-millimeter camera, who would go out and do the stories with a reporter, and I would stay in the newsroom writing and getting together the newscast. The main stories that were on film, we had to rush to have them developed and then come back to the station to have it edited, spliced together and put the voice in, which was very difficult. Today we have computers, (high-tech) cameras, editing rooms, special effects; we have everything. So it's like night and day.
Q: And now your newscasts are watched by far more L.A. viewers than any other newscasts, including those of the U.S. network affiliates.
A: I remember one time I was introduced at a dinner, and the emcee said, "This guy is watched by more people than Jerry Dunphy and all of the other (English-speaking) anchors put together." And I said, "Really?" But it's true.
Q: How have you managed to remain in the anchor slot for so many years while the anchors of English-language stations are constantly coming and going?
A: I belong. I do my job very well. This is a foreign country, and in a foreign country, in order to be successful, you have to know exactly what you need to do. Maybe also, I realized due to the times that I applied here and there wasn't an opening that once I got hired here, I needed to hold on to what I had. I've seen people leave here because they thought we didn't have many resources, but I never saw it like that. You do (your job) with what you have. Also, in the beginning, there was no other place to go, no other jobs, other than Mexico City, where I went and couldn't get a job. Now there's competition, but I fit in here. My ambition doesn't translate into greed.
Q: Ever get nervous in front of the camera?
A: There's always some nervousness. Every performer will tell you that they get nervous before a performance. But you take the adrenaline and use it in a positive way. The first time I went on radio, I remember my hands dripping like crazy with sweat. When the red light goes on, you're stunned. But you accept it and go on.
Q: What kind of issues do you think English-language news stations should be covering, but don't?
A: Anything that has to do with other countries that may affect a great part of the audience. Just as the Internet is being globalized, I think news should be, too. Even though we're local, we should give more news about what is going on around the world. That's what makes KMEX and Univision one of the best because you want to know about other countries, not just L.A., not just California. People are becoming more sophisticated about what is happening on the other side of the world.
Q: Then what is the difference between the kind of news you broadcast and that of the English-language news stations?
A: About 80 percent of our audience is Mexican, and the rest is South American and maybe even some Europeans who speak Spanish. Since we know that we have more than one kind of audience, the kind of stories we give them might come from Colombia, for example. Something that shows this impact has been our broadcasting of the World Cup since, I think, 1976. I remember I was doing updates about the World Cup, and I would go into a market, and people would recognize me. When I asked them where they were from, they would say, "Oh, I'm from Italy, I'm from Spain, I'm from England." The Europeans watched us because of the World Cup.
Q: What is your take on the efforts to slow immigration or stem bilingual education?
A: There's nothing you can do to stop immigration. It is human nature to discover and look for better horizons, and there's nothing you can really do to stop it. Governments and people establish borders, but to a lot of people, there shouldn't be any borders. People should have the freedom to move around. Governments don't stop you from leaving a country, why should they stop you from coming in? With regard to language, when you go to Europe, you see people speaking two, three, four languages. It improves your brain and your way of thinking. Now, if English is the language of this country, then everybody should speak English, there's no doubt about that. But the more languages you speak, the better.
Q: What about the rising political power among Latinos in Los Angeles?
A: I don't think political power only has to do with your culture and background. We had a councilman in L.A., Art Snyder, who was not Latino, but he represented the Latinos very well. And I think he beat a lot of Latinos in the polls. When you elect someone, it doesn't matter what background he has. I want him to represent my interests and the interests of the people in the area. The Latino growth in representation is only natural because there are more Latinos being educated, and they realize that to bring those things that we need in our neighborhood you must participate and be involved and become candidates. In my opinion, L.A. political decisions in the past were closed, made by a little club "I elect you, you elect me." Now it's more open, which it should be.
Q: What is your typical day like?
A: My shift has changed many times, but now my shift is the 6 and 11 o'clock nightly newscasts. I come in around 3, 3:30, and check the wires on the Internet, go through the updates, to see what we have been promoting all day. Then I check the assignments for the day, for the reporters. I start looking at the script, the rundown, and write a few stories. Sometimes I discuss the content of the newscast with the producers, not that I make decisions about what's being changed, but mostly about the transition from one story to another. I get out of work around 11:40.
Q: What kind of stories do you most enjoy doing?
A: I like live stories, because there's no way to predict what's going to happen. I like it when they say, "We're going to go live," and you just have to describe what you are seeing. That's a challenge.
Q: What attracts you to L.A.?
A: In Mexico I didn't travel much. But now, without ever leaving L.A., I can eat food from Oaxaca, I can eat food from Yucatan, from every state, every region in Mexico. And you can enjoy food and people from so many countries here. Los Angeles is a place where you are traveling by staying in the same place. That's the way I see it. The only bad aspect is the traffic.
Q: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
A: The recognition when we do a great job, and that's almost daily. Even more so today. Twenty years ago, kids didn't watch our channel, because there was nothing to watch. Now, I get a kick out of young kids saying my name in public. It just amazes me, but they must be watching our newscasts, or watching shows where I do an update.
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