Even a casual viewer of KTLA's "Morning News" knows this
much about co-anchor Giselle Fernandez: she's informed,
attractive and very proud of her Latina and Jewish
Since she joined the breezy, ratings-leading Channel 5
newscast in October to replace founding co-anchor Barbara
Beck, Fernandez -- who helms the 7 and 8 a.m. editions with
Carlos Amezcua -- has felt at home on the multiethnic program.
She has found a place on television where her ethnic beauty
and her dual heritage are actually an asset.
"I just kibitzed naturally," Fernandez told The Journal of
the trial shows that snagged her the job over five other
candidates. "They're very talented, goofy, real," she said of
the other members of the "Morning News" team.
For Fernandez, the program heralds a return to broadcast
news after having left for a few years to create
Latina-empowering Internet ventures and seminars.
"I hadn't done live TV in a while," Fernandez said, but
added that she had no problem getting her news groove
If the high-profile program is a major comeback for
Fernandez, it is perhaps a bigger coup for KTLA. The
Emmy-winning newswoman -- a seasoned veteran at just 40 --
brought with her two decades of on-air experience as an
anchor, host and correspondent. Her career highlights include
work on NBC ("Today," "Nightly News"), CBS ("Face the Nation,"
"CBS Evening News," "48 Hours"), "Access Hollywood," The
History Channel ("This Week in History") and anchoring and
stringing gigs for local news stations in Miami, Chicago and
Santa Barbara. Fernandez has gleaned valuable experience
covering the Gulf and Bosnian wars, the 1993 World Trade
Center and Oklahoma City bombings, and a rare
English-broadcast interview with Fidel Castro. Not that she
ever anticipated any of this.
"You know the old adage, ‘Life is what happens after you've
made your plans,'" Fernandez asked rhetorically. "Nothing has
turned out how I planned."
Fernandez grew up in both Los Angeles and Mexico City. Her
father was a flamenco dancer from Mexico when he met her
mother, an Ashkenazi Jewish Angeleno.
Fernandez, who was born part-Catholic, practices
"I've always felt so at home with Jews," she says. "I felt
comfortable with their commitment to family, food."
A turning point in Fernandez's life came in 1991, during a
month-long assignment in Israel. From her taxi drive from Ben
Gurion Airport, it was Judaism by fire. As Iraqi Scud missiles
rained down on Tel Aviv, Fernandez watched her Yemenite driver
abandon their cab. A citizen gave her a gas mask, and she hid
under a bench during the attack.
The assignment not only won Fernandez an Emmy, it developed
her connection with her Jewish side. Upon her return to the
States, she began studying intensely with Rabbi Howard Bald.
Fernandez found the experience "active and cerebral and
engaging and exciting. It taught me how to think in a
different way. I consider it some of the greatest study I've
undertaken, in the greatest way. It was not just memorizing. I
know more about halachic law than most Orthodox Jewry."
Fernandez, who spent Passover with Moroccan Jews from Spain
reading the haggadah in Hebrew and Ladino, said that she
prizes her Jewish Latino friends of Mexican and Argentine
descent, as well as the good friends she made while in
"I can discuss a tomato with them and it will be
fascinating conversation," Fernandez said. "I feel way at home
culturally with my friends in Tel Aviv."
The laid-back style of "Morning News" may not be for
everyone, but it is original. In the 1950s, before video, when
television still relied on kinescope, KTLA, with Hal Fishman
and Stan Chambers, pioneered serious television news. In 1991,
KTLA pioneered once again with the light-hearted "Morning
News," introducing a ratings-grabbing format that has since
been replicated nationwide.
Producer Rich Goldner observed that the format could only
have emerged from Los Angeles' early 1990s tumult -- the riots,
the Northridge earthquake, the Malibu fires, the floods, the
O.J. Simpson trial. "The anchors had an opportunity to ad-lib
so much," Goldner said.
There are viewers who might find the tone of the broadcast
-- where entertainment fluff is often sandwiched between
sobering, tragic stories -- too glib or flip. Fernandez doesn't
mind the contrast, which she adds reflects life itself.
"It's been a family of characters for 11 years," Fernandez
said. "While it has weekly irreverence and deviations, it also
has a strong commitment to news."
Executive Producer Marcia Brandwynne, who calls the show "a
breakfast club," believes that deeper, analytical coverage
should be reserved for outlets such as The New York Times and
The Jim Lehrer Report. She doesn't make any apologies for the
airy program, especially with capable professionals such as
Fernandez behind the desk.
"It's light at heart," Brandwynne said, "but when it takes
the news turn, she's smart. She asks the right questions. She
brings a great presence to every interview. She does a lot of
Goldner noted that Fernandez comes to KTLA with more than
just an impressive resume.
"We weren't looking for just a news reader," Goldner said
of Fernandez, who is at home doing one-on-ones with Sting or
Kobe Bryant as she is conversing with heads of state.
"She's really raised the bar with that type of breadth of
experience," says KTLA News Director Jeff Wald. "She has been
to most of the places she's talked about, and brings with her
that insider knowledge. She's also brought more male viewers
into the tent. They find her appealing."
So which type of male does Fernandez find most appealing?
The vivacious Latina, who has alluded to her single status on
the air, told The Journal that she is still looking for Mr.
Right. But the majority of guys out there who would love to
wake up next to Fernandez every morning can turn on their
bedroom TV sets -- she will not settle for anything less than
"I want a man who can add to my experience," she said, "and
has a sense of life and adventure, an intellect. Someone who
can spice up my life. I know I can spice up his."
If KTLA's "Morning News" has brought any spice to its
medium, it is news mixed with personality, spontaneity,
honesty, self-deprecating humor and ethnic diversity -- all of
which Fernandez's colleagues say describe the newswoman
"She's an informed anchor, and totally unafraid to be
Jewish on the air," Brandwynne said. "There was a time when it
wasn't such a hot idea to admit that you were Jewish. We've
come to another place."
"I love our history, our perseverance, our individuality
and devotion to family," Fernandez said. "I'm very proud of
the Jewish people and [their] contributions to society and