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KNBC Shows Commitment to Latinos : Television: Station execs promise an emphasis on diversity--but insist executive's leaving was not tied to allegations of bias.

March 14, 1994|GREG BRAXTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Leaders of two Latino journalists organizations said late last week they were pleased with management changes at KNBC-TV Channel 4, which they believe show a commitment to the hiring and promotion of Latinos in the newsroom.

"We're definitely happy, and we think what KNBC is doing will make a change," said Al Reyes, head of the California Chicano News Media Assn., which, with the National Hispanic Media Coalition, had met with network executives to express their concerns about the station's treatment of Latinos.

NBC executives on Friday announced the resignation of KNBC President and General Manager Reed Manville following several months of turmoil at the station, including reports of low staff morale and the departure of five Latino news reporters and anchors who charged that racial bias played a role in their exits.

At a staff meeting to announce the resignation, John H. Rohrbeck, NBC Television Stations President, told newsroom personnel that NBC and its owner, General Electric, were committed to erasing concerns over alleged discrimination and to diversifying the newsroom.

While not specifically addressing the recent charges of discrimination against management, Rohrbeck said there would soon be a Burbank-based executive in charge of overseeing diversity at KNBC and NBC's West Coast operation. This official will work in conjunction with a director of diversity already situated at NBC in New York.

Rohrbeck had met in the last few weeks with Reyes and National Hispanic Media Coalition President Esther Renteria about their concerns over the exodus of Latinos from KNBC since last March.

Many of those who left said they felt that Latino journalists had been consistently treated with disrespect and pushed into the background since Mark Hoffman took over as news director last March, while white male reporters received preferential treatment.

Manville denied the allegations, saying that discrimination had played no role in the departures. But Renteria said that Rohrbeck had been concerned about the charges and told her and Reyes that he would correct the situation.

"He was very concerned, and I'm very pleased that this diversity person is coming in," she said.

Rohrbeck said Friday that Manville's resignation was not connected to the charges of discrimination. But he added that despite rising viewership and sales revenue, there was a "perceived" problem among the newsroom staff of low morale and other problems that called for "a change in leadership."

"These problems had taken on a life of their own," he said. "They could have been overcome in time, but in this business, time is a luxury we don't have. Reed recognized this."

Rohrbeck added, "There was a general morale situation that was wrongly perceived, but it continued and would have continued. It had to be put to bed, and we had to get everyone focusing not on the past but on the future."

Rohrbeck, himself a former general manager of KNBC, will take over the daily operation of the station until a new president and general manager is named. Manville joined the station in 1985 and became president in November, 1991. He could not be reached for comment.

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