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Rights Panel Hears Testimony on TV Newsroom Bias : Probe: Preference goes to white male reporters and stories stereotype minorities, some participants say.

October 22, 1994|GREG BRAXTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre, former KNBC-TV Channel 4 news anchor Carla Aragon and representatives from various advocacy groups are among those who told a civil rights advisory committee that local television newsrooms discriminated against minority employees while perpetuating stereotypes in their news coverage.

The testimony came during a forum held Thursday and Friday in Pasadena by the California Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which is investigating employment issues in the local TV news business. Commission officials said the hearing was the first of several it will hold to explore hiring and promotion opportunities for minorities and women.

The hearings are an outgrowth of an ongoing investigation by the Western regional office of the Civil Rights Commission, which started looking at local television newsrooms after Alatorre and minority employees at several stations--particularly KCBS-TV Channel 2 and KNBC--complained that white male reporters were being given preferential treatment because of their race.

Alatorre told the 17-member committee that since he filed a complaint with the commission last March, "the issue has grown in magnitude. Race and sex discrimination in the Los Angeles television market is an all-encompassing and serious problem."

The councilman also charged local news executives with negative coverage of minority communities, with many stories "distorted by biased and institutional racism."

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Aragon, who worked as a reporter and anchor at KNBC for 10 1/2 years, delivered many of the forum's most gripping moments when she described how her feeling of mistreatment by news officials caused her to quit earlier this year and take a lower-paying anchor position in Albuquerque, N.M.

"It's the kind of thing where Latino reporters are doing a great job but not getting credit for it," Aragon said. "Some sort of monitoring of the practices by these stations needs to be done."

Aragon said she felt that discrimination by KNBC management played a key role in the exit of five Latino reporters and anchors during a period of less than five months covering late last year and early this year. She noted that the executives with whom she and the other Latinos had clashed--news director Mark Hoffman and general manager Reed Manville--have since left the station.

Management from the local television stations will be asked to testify and give their responses to the allegations when the commission schedules a second series of hearings within 60 to 90 days.

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