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Looking Back : A Journalist With Experience Reports on Homelessness

December 31, 1987|DAVID JOHNSTON

Jacki King, the anchorwoman who became homeless after KTTV let her go with two weeks' pay just before Christmas six years ago, will be back on the air this week, but only briefly.

King, 43, who told her story in The Times on Oct. 23, is scheduled to report on homelessness Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday on the syndicated "Hour Magazine" show hosted by Gary Collins.

It is the only paid work as a journalist King has had since her first-person account appeared. She told how she became "penniless and afraid . . . one of society's discards" after years of working as a journalist for The Times, the Associated Press and Channel 11.

A Great Response

Hundreds of readers sent letters.

"Almost to a person, (the writers) indicated 'there but for the grace of God go I,' " King said, adding that she received letters from vice presidents of major corporations and individuals with doctoral degrees who related their own experiences with homelessness.

King said several correspondents offered her a place to stay but she declined. King is still staying with her father in his one-bedroom apartment, but said she is making arrangements to get her own place.

"A few people sent checks," King said. "I appreciated it, but I intend to return them all uncashed. No one will ever have a canceled check with my name on it unless I worked for them."

King added that to support herself "I'm still doing temp work and I've got proposals out for free-lance work, both print and broadcast."

No Deals Yet

Her story prompted a flood of inquiries from producers about making a movie of the week or even a feature film. While talks have been held with a number of producers, no deal has been struck yet, according to Susan Grode, the Century City attorney who now represents King.

King said her reporting for "Hour Magazine" convinced her that "we are on the verge of an epidemic of homelessness, but we can still do something to prevent it." She said she was especially disturbed about incidents of violence, rape, molestation and thievery that some people staying in shelters described to her when she was working on the Hour Magazine assignment.

"I think most people still have the perception of the homeless as drug addicts and the mentally ill," King said. "Many people who wrote to me were surprised this could happen to someone like me."

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