Television journalism in Puerto Rico was born along with television in 1954 as a public service. The first news report transmitted in Puerto Rico reported on an amphibious military exercise held in Vieques. The newspaper EI Mundo reported on the event on March 31, 1954, under the headline “First televised news on the island.”
The military exercise occurred in the morning and was transmitted at 6 p.m. that same day by Telemundo. The presentation was made possible by a joint effort between WKAQ-Telemundo and the Army Information Office, according to the published news report. The exclusive report was presented by announcer Evelio Otero, who came from Cuba in 1948 to work at WKAQ-Radio. That same year, WAPA unveiled its 15-minute news show, El Observador, produced by Viguie Films. Later, the station took over production of the show itself and called it Noticiero Texaco.
Ten years later, after the founding of WIPR, the public television station produced the news show “La última hora,” which was broadcast at 6 p.m. The first broadcast was rehearsed. The two male anchors came from the written press and radio. They also reported from the field.
In 1964, the Telemundo news show, which had originally been five minutes long, was expanded to an hour and became “Sala de Noticias,” or “Newsroom,” and viewers could see the room where the news was prepared. In 1975, Channel 11 added a woman anchor. In general, the news in that era came from the written press and the news agencies.
With the arrival of William “Bill” Pérez at WAPA TV in 1978, the reporters began to write their own news, instead of merely reading about the events. He also eliminated the reporters’ opinions and prohibited them from appearing in commercials. Pérez incorporated Luz Nereida Vélez as an anchor and librarian Linda Hernández as the video archivist so the material could be used for future reports. He also established the use of the “cut away,” in which the reporter appears on camera while listening to the subject of the news story.
In 1980, the first investigative reports were done by WAPA TV. The station also expanded its news show to an hour. The show also introduced the use of “voice over,” in which the reporting is recorded over images, and the use of multiple cameras. These changes influenced the evolution of other news shows.
The arrival of videotape brought big changes to the production process, because it accelerated the editing process. Previously, the camera operator had to arrive at the station around 2:30 to be able to develop the roll of film to have it ready for editing in the afternoon. Images and sound were recorded separately. Once the roll was developed, an editor matched the sound to the film.
International coverage, at that time, was practically non-existent. In late 1979, live international events began to be integrated into the news shows. To accomplish this, a technician had to go to the Hotel Excelsior, which had an antenna used for that purpose. However, the launch of CNN in Spanish coincided with the arrival of Pérez at WAPA and international news could be transmitted the same day for the first time.
In the 1980s, journalism became more professional and women journalists were incorporated into the media. Competition also began between Telemundo and WAPA for first place in the ratings. “Las Noticias,” the Channel 11 news show, was advised by Lorimar Telepictures, owner of the broadcaster and 20 stations in the United States and Canada. The program adopted a new focus on the community, emphasizing how the news affected the public.
The first woman to direct a television news show was Carmen Jovet, known as “the newswoman.” She was in charge of the Channel 11 news show. She was also the first woman anchor to cover events traditionally covered by men, such as riots and strikes. Women in journalism typically covered cultural stories or the weather report and it would be seen as offensive to send a woman to cover a riot. Jovet’s reports led to the investigation of the Cerro Maravilla case.
In the 1990s, news shows experienced many changes. In general, the programs multiplied in number and there was an increase in the size of the audience.
Magdalys Rodríguez, journalist for El Nuevo Día.
(Adapted for the PROE from the article “Despierta el gigante televisivo,” published in Dos siglos de periodismo puertorriqueño by the Puerto Rico Association of Journalists-ASPPRO, 2002.)
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 12, 2014.
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