Thursday, October 16, 2008

KGST: A crucial source of news and information

The news items were pulled off Noremex Spanish wire, the Associated Press wire, which was initially only available in English, but later had about one-third of its news in Spanish, as well as United Press International (UPI) The news was local, national and international, especially covering the eight county area the station reached. Most news items had to translated into Spanish. News director Stella Romo would also occasionally go out and report on major events in the community at the station’s peak, when she had a second person in the news department. She was also part of a reporting team from the Fresno area that went down to Nicaragua to observe and over the controversial election of Violeta Chamorro in 1990. Another way KGST tried to get the news out was to simulcast a Spanish-language audio track during the evening news on a local English-language station. Romo would watch the television and translate as the newscast took place. KGST was the first station in the nation to try this.

It was uncommon at this time for Spanish-language stations to have their own reporters so even most local news came from the English-language newspaper or the wire. The cartoon above from El Informador poked fun at most radio stations’ “rip-and-read” way of putting together newscasts. Of course, the Informador itself was largely made up of wire reports, punctuated with the editor’s opinion pieces. Gutierrez and Schement were critical of the content of Spanish-language news broadcasts, which they analyzed in a comparison of news broadcasts by an English-language station, KONO, and San Antonio’s long-established KCOR. They found that KONO provided more local news and more information in general on all topics except local crime. The authors identified this as a possible source of an information gap, especially because KONO was one of dozens of media outlets where English-speakers could find information, whereas KCOR’s listeners had only perhaps three other media outlets available to them. Gutierrez and Schement were especially troubled by the lack of information that Spanish-speaking listeners could use directly in their own communities. They wrote that stations were doing the best they could, however, and blamed the shortcomings of the news programs largely on media and market forces that made reporting teams prohibitively expensive.

Besides the news, KGST continues to run a daily commercial-free thirty-minute program called “Entrevistas y Comentarios” that features government officials, police or highway patrol officers and community leaders. Stella Romo has been interviewing the guests for nearly four decades. She says the program is very popular and that listeners would not let KGST cut it; listeners often call or write suggesting guests for the program. Other special programs mentioned in an article from 1976 included “a weekly talk show with a California Highway Patrol officer, with the telephone lines open for questions from listeners; a periodic show with a Fresno Police Department representative; a fifteen-minute program each Saturday from the Fresno State University on the activities of Spanish-speaking students on the campus; and a weekly show by George Rodriguez, liaison officer for the Roosevelt High School.” Many listeners call the station for general information on a wide variety of issues, even if just to find out where they should go for information.

“[Listeners] trust people. They trust their deejays. They trust their host. We become a kind of public assistance…and we try and help the community, educating them, leading them to understand the system, the American way of things,” said former deejay Lupita Lomeli, who went on to host a program on KFTV Channel 21.

This role of Spanish-language media as a liaison between the pueblo and the government is also mentioned in a column Samuel Herrera wrote in his newspaper, El Informador:

El articulo COMO YO LO MIRO es cada ves que sale a luz EL INFORMADOR y siempre nos llegan cartas en attencion de cosas que tal aqui en nuestro hermoso valle nos hace falta, para muchas personas es mas duro hablar con los jefes de la ciudad o del condado de Fresno y lo mas facil es hablar por telefono conmigo, primero para ver si puedo darles la informacion y despues para mencionar con quien hable pues aveses [sic] para mi es facil pero como todo, hay personas no listas para dar informacion. En estos casos tengo que hablar con nuestros amigos del libro solo los llamo cuando tengo que, y casi todo el tiempo dan la contestacion.

(The article AS I SEE IT comes out with each INFORMADOR and we always receive letters calling attention to things that are lacking here in our beautiful valley, for many people it is more difficult to speak with the heads of the city or the county of Fresno and it is easier to speak with me on the phone, first to see if I can give them the information and after that, to mention with whom they might speak, well sometimes for me it’s easy but like everything, there are people not ready to give information. In these cases, I have to speak with our friends of the book, I only call them when I have to and they almost always have an answer.

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