Nancy Valenta, 31, who helped build KNBC Channel 4 into Los Angeles' top TV ratings force, has been named news director of the station.
She is the first woman to be appointed news director of a network TV station in Los Angeles, representatives of KNBC, KABC Channel 7 and KCBS Channel 2 confirmed Friday.
(On the independent station scene, Stephanie Brady was news director at KHJ Channel 9 (now KCAL) until leaving the job last year amid changes by the Walt Disney Co., the new owner.)
"It's women's time in TV to move into management roles," said Valenta, who became executive producer in charge of all KNBC news broadcasts in 1985 at the age of 26.
She worked under former news director Tom Capra, who was named executive producer of NBC's "Today" show in January, and whom she now succeeds at KNBC.
Together with KNBC general manager John Rohrbeck and managing editor Pete Noyes, they developed the station's winning news team, which includes on-air personalities Kelly Lange, Fred Roggin, Fritz Coleman, Jess Marlow, John Beard and Linda Alvarez.
In 1988, Valenta left KNBC to become news director of the NBC-owned station in Miami, WTVJ, from which she was rehired this week.
She said another woman, Sharon Scott, succeeded her in the Miami job.
But the number of women in top TV management jobs is still small at both the network and local station level, and the subject of ongoing criticism.
Even after going to WTVJ, Valenta kept close ties with KNBC. Shortly after joining the Miami station in 1988, she was loaned back to KNBC to help guide its news broadcasts from South Korea during NBC's coverage of the Seoul Summer Olympics.
Widely ridiculed for doing Los Angeles news from Korea, including news and weather reports, the ploy nonetheless was a huge ratings success that helped catapult KNBC to its No. 1 ranking.
"When you do something different, you're always going to run the risk of 'How dare they do this?' " said Valenta. "But in this business, you've got to take risks, and it paid off."
Valenta, long rumored as Capra's successor, returned to Los Angeles on Thursday as KNBC got the news from the February ratings sweeps that its lead was now in jeopardy from the former top-ranked station, KABC.
The other network competitor, KCBS, also showed aggressiveness this week in providing the most vivid coverage of the Upland-centered earthquake, anchored by Jim Lampley and Bree Walker.
And on Monday, KCAL, which has assembled perhaps the biggest TV news staff in Los Angeles, will provide added competition when it launches a nightly, three-hour, prime-time newscast headed by former KABC anchor Jerry Dunphy.
"Miami gave me my stripes," said Valenta. "The news blocks aren't as big as here. But we had half an hour in the morning and at noon, 90 minutes in the evening and 30 minutes at night."
Valenta, who is single and lives in Studio City, received a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. A native of Berwyn, Ill., near Chicago, she formerly held television news positions at stations in Dallas, Oklahoma City and Columbia, Mo.
She first joined KNBC in 1982 as producer of the daily 4 p.m. news broadcasts.