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Anasa Briggs Finds Hard Work Makes It A Take

May 09, 1986|HILLIARD HARPER | San Diego County Arts Writer

SAN DIEGO — Anasa Briggs may be a broadcast workaholic. Briggs produces, writes, is the host and does the "paper editing" of San Diego's only regular, locally originated television program that deals with blacks' concerns.

It's not unusual for her, the host and namesake of the KPBS-TV (Channel 15) show "Anasa Briggs," to work 12-hour days--taping interviews, editing or doing location shots for the quasi-documentaries she produces a few times each year.

She keeps an ear to the ground, meeting regularly with black leaders to identify issues within the community that could become the subject of programs. Briggs is a sought-after public speaker and emcee who takes part in community meetings, an additional task she feels comes with the territory.

Briggs describes herself as a Type A personality, the kind of person who relentlessly pushes herself to produce. She also possesses an artistic background, which she serves by programming shows on the arts. The format of "Anasa Briggs" varies widely.

Many of her shows are on the arts and use dance, theater or music sequences that have been shot on location. These are mixed with "talking heads" interview shows on more topical segments that touch on subjects such as teen-age pregnancy and the effect of absentee fathers on the black family.

"What I attempt to do is show that we are a diverse people with diverse interests, but we are Americans," Briggs said. "We have a vantage point, and it may be similar . . . to those who aren't black. The only way to let that realization soak in is to have a forum in which it can be dealt with."

Briggs hopes that her shows are helping wipe out stereotypes and myths about blacks.

However, pinpointing the San Diego black audience, which is spread throughout the county and amounts to only 5.5% of the San Diego metropolitan population, is not easy.

"We are spread out," she said. "But there is a sense of community among certain professionals and working-class individuals. What brings the community together are things like education, crime and harassment, economic development."

Briggs deals with those issues on her show, partly through interviews with experts and community leaders. She's done a four-part series on employment, "How to Get a Job and Keep It." She also likes to address community problems by putting together profiles of those whom she perceives as role models.

Examples include innovative elementary school principal Ernest McCray and entrepreneur David Lloyd, who tran scended humble beginnings to form and become president of Bay City Marine, a local ship repair firm.

Briggs prefers to tell success stories about youth when possible and has programmed several shows featuring top high school scholars. But it's not all rah-rah, pompon journalism, either.

In 1983, Briggs delved into teen-age pregnancies with "Babies Making Babies." She also has examined black infant mortality, voter registration, and the low incidence of home ownership in Southeast San Diego as a factor in the area's economic and social problems.

Briggs does not intimidate. No one is likely to mistake her folksy interview style for the hammering and grilling techniques that Mike Wallace is known for on the CBS network show "60 Minutes."

"I really feel that we see so much of the malicious, ignorant kind of madness on the tube that I don't want to foster that," Briggs said. Instead, graciousness prevails on her programs, whether she is moderating a discussion between a black Republican and a white Democrat or interviewing controversial cult deprogrammer Ted Patrick.

"People tell me I'm an easy interview," she said. "I suppose they find me warm and therefore can open up. I have a natural curiosity and interests that are rather eclectic."

Briggs took over and reshaped an existing show at KPBS when Almeta Speaks, the station's first host and producer of a black-oriented program, left the station in 1981. Briggs had served as Speaks' assistant for two years.

Although she since has taken graduate courses in telecommunications, Briggs learned by doing at first. She got a taste for television a few years before going to KPBS by serving as a free-lance host for KGTV's (Channel 10) public affairs programs.

"They wanted someone who could deal with black folks, brown folks, Asians . . . a quick study," she said. Briggs would show up, screen any information a guest had mailed or had brought to the station, go into the studio with a skeleton crew on a break, ask some questions and "get out before the news."

Briggs got the attention of Speaks one day while visiting the set. Speaks had been out of town and was not fully briefed on her guests.

"I gathered information on the guests, outlined it on cards for her, talked to the waiting interviewees, kept them up," Briggs said.

By the end of the day, a grateful Speaks paid Briggs out of her own pocket and eventually helped her get a $4-an-hour job with the station.

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