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TV Veteran Joseph Benti Has No Regrets About Changing Channels

January 12, 1991|SUSAN KING

Joseph Benti has never shied away from controversy. He certainly hasn't mellowed over the years.

"I lost my interest and love for TV news in 1979 when I quit Channel 2," Benti says. "Look at the their (local news) sweep series, it's all jockstraps and G-strings. That's what it has become."

After doing commentary for newspapers and radio, Benti returned to the airwaves last year as co-host, with Val Zavala, of KCET's award-winning current affairs series, "By the Year 2000," which airs Fridays at 9 p.m.

Next week's special edition explores "Teen AIDS: Sons and Daughters." This Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on KCET, Benti also moderates a debate among the four Latino candidates for the 1st Supervisorial District.

When the executive producer of "By the Year" first asked him to host the series, he turned down the offer. "I didn't want to be in a newsroom," Benti says. "I don't like the tensions."

But after host Eric Burns left for New York, Benti agreed to take over. It was a wise decision.

"To me, it's interesting and good journalism," he says. "It's the only show of its kind on local TV. I don't think there is anywhere you can get a consistently fine report of an event. You can be proud to do it and not feel you have been degrading yourself, as you often do in local news."

Benti doesn't mince words when asked his opinion of local news shows. "They are awful," he exclaims. "In the old days, you won your spurs in journalism by blazing a trail in news coverage. Most of the people who are running the newsroom have never covered a story on a regular basis."

News directors today, Benti says, "are all experienced in corporate politics of the station. They know who to kiss and who not to kiss to get the job as news director. They know where all the bodies are buried, but the one thing they don't know or don't have in their gut is a news instinct."

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