Two days after the May sweeps ended, the only Hispanic general manager of an English-language L.A. television station abruptly resigned, raising concern among activists who have been trying for years to raise the profile of Latinos in the local media.
Diana L. Vargas, general manager of KTTV-TV Channel 11, left her post for undisclosed reasons. Station officials declined comment, and the 12-year veteran of the Fox Broadcasting Co.-owned station was on vacation and unavailable for comment last week. Her last day is officially June 30.
"You have a Latino who was in a very visible position, and then all of a sudden she isn't there. The question is why," said Alex Nogales, president of the Los Angeles-based watchdog group, the Hispanic Media Coalition. "Was she incompetent or terminated for other reasons, or tired of the petty politics, or did she just run out of gas?"
Details about Vargas' departure remained sketchy late last week except that she resigned "to pursue other professional interests," according to a statement issued by the station.
"We have a terrific team here at Fox 11 and leaving them has been the most difficult part of my decision, along with not picking up the telephone while watching our newscasts to give immediate feedback (to news producers)," Vargas said in a prepared statement.
Vargas was named vice president and general manager of KTTV in 1997. Before that, she headed the station's sales division.
One local agent for news talent blamed her departure on the poor performance of KTTV and pressure from senior management within the Fox TV stations division for more profits.
"All of Fox's stations make money," the source said. "But the perception in the marketplace is that they should be making more money."
Fox's owned-and-operated stations division, which is known as a hard-driving operation, is headquartered at Channel 11's offices in West L.A., creating a fishbowl effect for local managers.
Fox and other media companies do not break out the profitability of their individual TV stations, but these outlets are generally considered much more profitable than TV networks. KTTV, however, has been falling behind.
A recent survey of ad revenues in the Los Angeles market by accounting giant Ernst & Young reported that KTTV dropped to No. 6 in local ad revenues during the first quarter. Usually, KTTV vies with KTLA-TV Channel 5 for third or fourth place.
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