Telemundo co-founder Frank Cruz, pioneer Latino journalist celebrity

www.latimes.com
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Frank Cruz always told other people's stories. Now, he tells all in his memoir about his days as a reporter, Telemundo co-founder and everything in between.
Chicano history professor. TV news reporter. Anchor. Network executive. Public broadcasting leader. Co-founder of one of the nation's first Latino-owned life insurance companies. And co-creator of the second-largest Spanish-language TV network in the country — Telemundo.

On a recent Friday afternoon inside his Laguna Niguel home, Frank Cruz, now 80, looked back at his extensive life — from his boyhood in Tucson's Barrio Hollywood, to his post-Air Force days at East Los Angeles College, to the succession of achievements he details in his memoir "Straight Out of Barrio Hollywood: The Adventures of Telemundo Co-founder Frank H. Cruz," co-authored by Rita Joiner Soza.

Over his long career, Cruz has infiltrated spaces where few Latinos had stepped foot before — namely, media spaces that ignored the diverse and growing Latino population in Los Angeles. But this wasn't his plan as a boy back in Tucson. As he puts it, Cruz likes to say he got into journalism "totally by accident."

The year was 1971. Cruz was chair and professor for Cal State Long Beach's Chicano Studies department, when he received a call out of the blue from KABC-TV news director Bill Fyffe offering him a job.

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"He asked me: 'Are you interested in news?' And I said, 'Sir, I'm not a journalist. I'm a historian,'" Cruz recalled. But Fyffe, known for popularizing the Eyewitness News format, was persuasive. He told Cruz he wanted him to do "the very same thing you did on that Chicano series." He was talking about "Chicano I & II," a groundbreaking, 20-part series on Chicano heritage that Cruz and other Latino professors had created for KNBC-TV. Fyffe had taken a look at the growing Latino audience in Southern California and decided he needed a reporter from the community to cover the issues important to those viewers.

"It was tempting to me because Watergate was running rampant and you could do a lot with television in those days, and I kept saying to myself: '120 students a semester at…
Dorany Pineda
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