End of an era at Univi­sion

Maria Elena Sali­nas, a long­time news an­chor, will leave net­work to start ‘a new chap­ter.’

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By Meg James meg.james@la­times.com Twit­ter: @MegJamesLAT

Univi­sion News an­chor Maria Elena Sali­nas — one of the most rec­og­niz­able and re­spected jour­nal­ists in Span­ish-lan­guage me­dia — is step­ping down.

Sali­nas told view­ers Thurs­day night that she would leave Univi­sion at the end of the year.

Her de­par­ture will mark the end of an era: For more than 30 years, mil­lions of im­mi­grants in the U.S. have faith­fully turned to Sali­nas and co-an­chor Jorge Ramos to learn the news of the day on Univi­sion.

Sali­nas serves as co-an­chor of “Noticiero Univi­sion,” the highly rated evening news broad­cast on the na­tion’s largest Span­ish­language net­work, and as co-host of the news mag­a­zine pro­gram “Aquí y Ahora.”

“I was one of the stu­dents who looked up to her when I was young, watch­ing her on TV,” said Bran­don Be­na­vides, 36, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Assn. of His­panic Jour­nal­ists and the ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of morn­ing show “Good Morn­ing San An­to­nio,” which runs on that city’s ABC af­fil­i­ate sta­tion.

“Grow­ing up, there were very few Latina and Latino jour­nal­ists on TV,” Be­na­vides said. “And both of my grand­moth­ers … would watch her on ‘Noticiero Univi­sion.’ ”

The Los An­ge­les na­tive, the daugh­ter of work­ing­class Mex­i­can im­mi­grants, be­gan her ca­reer in 1981 at the Los An­ge­les sta­tion KMEX-TV Chan­nel 34. Six years later, she be­came the co-an­chor of the na­tional news­cast at a time when few women in TV news were taken se­ri­ously.

When CBS hired Katie Couric to be its evening news an­chor amid much hype in 2006, Sali­nas just smiled po­litely. She had blazed a sim­i­lar trail with much less fan­fare nearly 20 years ear­lier. And Sali­nas has thrived in the role, con­nect­ing with view­ers by de­liv­er­ing the news in a straight­for­ward and rapid-fire style.

She has won many awards, in­clud­ing an Emmy and a Pe­abody Award. She has in­ter­viewed ev­ery U.S. pres­i­dent since Jimmy Carter, with the ex­cep­tion of Don­ald Trump.

It was not clear what trig­gered Sali­nas’ de­ci­sion; but the an­chor, 62, said in a Face­book post that she wanted to start “a new chap­ter in my ca­reer as an in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ist and pro­ducer.”

The com­pany, in a state­ment, said it would an­nounce a new co-an­chor for its flag­ship news pro­gram in the com­ing months.

Sali­nas and co-an­chor Ramos in May ap­peared be­fore ad­ver­tis­ers to de­fend the net­work’s ag­gres­sive re­port­ing on such is­sues as im­mi­gra­tion re­form.

Un­like their English-lan­guage jour­nal­ist coun­ter­parts, Sali­nas and Ramos have long viewed their roles not as dis­pas­sion­ate ob­servers but as ad­vo­cates to pro­vide a strong voice for Univi­sion’s au­di­ence, in­clud­ing its im­mi­grant view­ers who strug­gle to speak English.

Sali­nas drew con­tro­versy — and loud boos — when she dis­cussed Univi­sion’s cov­er­age of Trump, who was then a can­di­date, dur­ing a com­mence­ment ad­dress last year at Cal State Fuller­ton. When she spoke briefly in Span­ish, some in the crowd shouted for her to get off the stage. She later at­trib­uted the dust-up to po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions in the coun­try.

“I am grate­ful for hav­ing had the priv­i­lege to in­form and em­power the Latino com­mu­nity through the work my col­leagues and I do with such pas­sion at Univi­sion ev­ery day,” Sali­nas said in a state­ment Thurs­day night. “I thank our au­di­ence for their trust and loy­alty through the years, and want them to know that as long as I have a voice, I will al­ways use it to speak on their be­half.”

Sali­nas was one of the founders of NAHJ, the jour­nal­ist group, and she es­tab­lished a schol­ar­ship in her name to sup­port young Lati­nos who wanted to pur­sue a ca­reer in news, Be­na­vides said.

The news di­vi­sion, head­quar­tered near Mi­ami, is part of the na­tion’s largest Span­ish-lan­guage me­dia com­pany, Univi­sion Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, which has been tak­ing steps to boost prime-time ratings with edgier shows as the com­pany pre­pares for a pub­lic of­fer­ing of its shares, likely early next year.

But even as Univi­sion’s prime-time lineup strug­gled in the ratings, the evening news­cast held its au­di­ence of about 2 mil­lion view­ers each night, un­der­scor­ing the in­flu­ence and ap­peal of Sali­nas and Ramos.

“She has been a trail­blazer,” Be­na­vides said. “She has touched a lot of peo­ple in the 36 years that she has been on Univi­sion.”

Michael Loccisano Getty Im­ages

NEWS AN­CHOR Maria Elena Sali­nas will leave at the end of the year.

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