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Spectrum News 1’s Giselle Fernandez Named Journalist of the Year
Southern California has a lot of stories to tell. And Giselle Fernandez wakes up at 1:30 a.m. each morning to tell them.
The veteran journalist anchors “Your Mornings on Spectrum 1” from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays. From Beverly Hills to Baldwin Hills, Santa Monica to Simi Valley, the show’s reach is hyper-local and hyperrich, in terms of issues, ideas and contrasts. The Spectrum News 1 network — with Fernandez as its headline name — debuted in November 2018. In the short span of a year, her no-nonsense, thorough approach to local news has catapulted Spectrum News 1 into the same league as the big players.
In addition to her morning anchoring duties, Fernandez hosts the weekly series “L. A. Stories with Giselle Fernandez,” airing Mondays at 9 p.m. Each show profiles an individual. Subjects have included actress-choreographer Debbie Allen, L. A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, renowned architect Frank Gehry, developer Rick Caruso and former first violinist Vijay Gupta, now head of Street Symphony. The lineup has also included photographer Dana Gluckstein, who specializes in portraits of indigenous peoples. If there’s a unifying theme of “L.A. Stories,” it’s that its subjects are making a singular imprint on the fabric of Los Angeles.
“Brilliant TV portraits” is how the L.A. Press Club describes “L.A. Stories.” That was but one of the laudatory comments from the organization when it honored Fernandez as “Broadcast Journalist of the Year” at the 12th annual National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards Dec. 12.
Fernandez took home two additional awards that evening for “L.A. Stories,” in the categories of Best Personality Profile and Best Short Documentary or Special Program. They follow the Emmy Award in the informational series category bestowed upon “L.A. Stories” this past summer. It was the first Emmy win for Spectrum News 1.
Accolades and awards are nothing new to Fernandez, however. In her three decades of experience, she’s accumulated countless honors, including five previous Emmys. She’s been a television fixture in local markets from Los Angeles to Miami. On the national stage, she’s served as correspondent, anchor and host at CBS News and NBC. Over the years, Fernandez has reported on the U.S. invasion of Panama, the Bosnian War, the trial of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing conspirators and the Persian Gulf War. So impressed with her reporting skills was Fidel Castro, that the late Cuban president invited her to conduct his first English-language interview in 20 years.
Fernandez’s experience of course, extends beyond hard news and feature interviews. She launched “Access Hollywood” as its lead anchor, a position she held for three years. And she’s even foxtrotted with aplomb as a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.”
Clearly adept at reinventing herself, few are surprised that Fernandez has managed to reinvent local news in Los Angeles. But the path was anything but smooth. In fact, prior to joining Spectrum, she was off the air for 15 years.
“I was told in my late forties that it would be rough to return to TV. I had very powerful TV executives tell me the best was behind me,” said Fernandez.
Undaunted, she turned to special projects, such as launching a production company and writing a children’s book. She also focused on philanthropic endeavors, particularly those serving underserved communities.
She never lost hope that she’d return to television broadcasting, however. So, when Spectrum Communications contacted her about launching Spectrum News 1 in the L.A. market, she jumped at the chance.
“When I went in to meet with them, they told me they wanted to cover all of L.A., not just the mainstream. They wanted to have people on the air who looked like the community. They wanted to showcase the diversity of L.A.,” said Fernandez.
Those words struck a chord with Fernandez, who describes herself as a “Latina activist.”
Born in Mexico to an American-Jewish mother and Spanish father, she spent various parts of her youth living in East L.A., Hollywood, Northridge and Westlake Village. She credits her diverse heritage and background with shaping her into the person she is today.
She is also convinced that Spectrum’s timing was perfect. Launching a platform for comprehensive coverage of local news is more important than ever in this era of polarizing national news.
“I had always wanted to have my own interview show and I didn’t get that at the network. To have that now in my late fifties is incredible,” said Fernandez. “I love framing the human experience. I’m working for an organization that saw my value in an industry that is not kind to women as they age. I feel excited, humbled and privileged,” she added.
She is also paying it forward, lending support to others taking up the local news mantle. The Courier is one such beneficiary. Fernandez serves as an informal advisor to the paper’s new owners. And, she performed admirably as mistress of ceremonies for the Courier’s recent launch party to showcase the paper’s redesign and reimagined glossy magazine.
“There have been a lot of highs and lows and a lot of times when I thought I would never be back. Good, bad or ugly, storytelling is an art. I want to cultivate it as long as I live,” said Fernandez.