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For L.A.'s best TV news, better switch to Español

May 12, 2008 |  3:17 pm

If you're an Angeleno looking for "splashy," "soft," celebrity-driven television news, just tune in to one of the local English-language network affiliates. But if you're looking for serious, well-reported television journalism -- albeit with a sometimes partisan, pro-undocumented-immigrant edge -- you'd be better off clicking on to L.A.'s Spanish-language TV newscasts on Univision's flagship KMEX or Telemundo affiliate KVEA.

That's what former L.A. Times reporter Joe Mathews, now an Irvine senior fellow at the New America Foundation, argues in this provocative reported commentary in Sunday's Washington Post.

Mathews came to his conclusions after comparing nightly broadcasts of English-language L.A. television news (featuring weather stories and celebrity puff pieces, he reports) with Spanish-language newscasts that regularly emphasize "government, politics, immigration, labor, economics, healthcare." 

Matthews offers particular praise for KVEA's Rubén Luengas (pictured), host of the 11 p.m. news program "En Contexto," which Mathews calls "by far the most substantive newscast in Los Angeles in any language."  KveaHe also notes that KMEX's 6 p.m. program "has ranked either first or second for years among newscasts in the market in any language; its 11 p.m. newscast leads the ratings among nearly every adult demographic. KVEA lags behind, but its audience is increasing."

Here's the money quote from Mathews' commentary, referring to the Spanish-language stations' partisan attitude on illegal-immigration issues: "The upside of the advocacy approach is serious reporting and newscasts with broader perspectives. Viewers are engaged more as citizens than consumers."

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In Mathews' view, it's better for a TV station to take a stand on serious issues of interest to its viewers -- in whatever language -- than to serve up noncommital stories about pets, celebrities and the latest weather developments.

Any other L.A. TV news connoisseurs care to comment?

-- Reed Johnson in Mexico City