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Trejos Learns the Language of Criticism

July 16, 1999|LARRY STEWART

Imagine being a woman, born and raised in Colombia, coming to the United States with plans of being a doctor, ending up as a sportscaster on a Spanish-language station for 2 1/2 years and then someone saying, "Hey, want to be a big-time sportscaster on a major English-speaking station in the nation's No. 2 media market?"

How scary would that be?

"It scared the heebie-jeebies out of me," Claudia Trejos said.

A bad case of nerves, plus difficulty with the English language, a heavy accent, a monotone delivery and an uncomfortable setting all have led to, hands down, the worst debut in the history of Los Angeles sports broadcasting.

Trejos came from Channel 22, which has business news by day, Spanish-language programming by night. Trejos replaced the popular Ed Arnold as Channel 5's weekend sportscaster.

"Following Ed, who, by the way, I love, would have been difficult for anyone," Trejos said. "Fred Roggin and even Mother Teresa would be criticized."

Trejos, who sounds more lucid and intelligent off the air, is in a tough spot. And she knows it.

"All I can do is keep being myself, doing the best I can," she said. "I'm better today than I was yesterday. I've got to win people over."

She says the accent is here to stay. "It makes me distinctive," she said.

The accent wouldn't be quite so bad if there hadn't been so many mistakes her first two weekends. Also, while doing Galaxy highlights Sunday she twice referred to the team as "we." "I did that because the Galaxy is our local team," she said.

It was pointed out to her that professional broadcasters are supposed to be objective and do not refer to local teams as "we."

Trejos comes across as a very nice, enthusiastic person, but that hasn't curtailed the criticism. She has been the target of vicious barbs from a number of radio personalities, and one Channel 5 employee says there have been between 500 and 600 complaint calls.

The same employee said that many of her colleagues at the station are extremely upset that Arnold was let go and replaced by someone so lacking in skills.

Trejos isn't to blame. She was presented with an opportunity and, being a fighter, took the challenge.

The station executives who hired her are to blame. They should have told her they were interested, that she should hone her skills in a small market, then come back and give it a go.

Throwing her to the wolves is unfair.

But news director Jeff Wald, the person who ultimately hired her, doesn't see it that way.

"She's only getting criticized from one segment of the population, not the entire community," Wald said. "L.A. is 42% Hispanic, and in that community she is loved."

Well, not totally.

Among the complaint calls and letters we have received was one from Julie Frias Byers of Temple City.

"As one of Latin heritage, it is very insulting to me when I am told by Channel 5 that she is to specifically appeal to Latina females, which is totally disgusting," she said. "That is reverse discrimination at its worst. She cannot read English and can't speak it either."

Wald says that all Trejos needs is a chance. "People need to be more open-minded," he said. "She is very charming and she will develop. If she doesn't, then we'll have to do something."

No question she'll get better. She has nowhere to go but up. "I was also criticized in the beginning at KWHY [Channel 22]. Hispanic males were not accepting of a female sportscaster," Trejos said. "But things improved and I was very comfortable there. I could have stayed, but I chose to get out of my comfort zone. You have to push yourself to see how high you can fly.

"Someday I may look back and say, 'Yeah, I was stiff as a board and sounded like an idiot.' "

A lot of people would agree with that assessment.


While Channel 5 has been under attack, Arnold on Wednesday was honored at a downtown ceremony put together by the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission and its president, Kathy Schloessman.

Among the honors bestowed on Arnold was a proclamation from the L.A. City Council and a commendation from the mayor. Todd Donoho was among those who spoke, welcoming Arnold to "the exclusive club of out-of-work sportscasters."

Randy Roach, a sports producer at Channel 7, said unpopular moves such as the ones that put Donoho and Arnold out of work "are the result of out-of-town consultants."

Tommy Hawkins summed up Arnold's charity work by saying, "If anyone believes in free speech, it is Ed Arnold, who has given thousands of them."


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