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Thursday, November 01, 2018

Jerry Vazquez on the rise of Telemundo Houston

KTMD News Director Jerry Vazquez: "Do not try and invent the wheel again, but go back to the basics of TV news reporting."

Ubaldo Martinez Lead Sports Anchor/Alejandro Mendoza and Crystal Ayala anchors/Meteorologist Carlos Robles  and in the back VP of news Jerry Vazquez

A few years ago, Telemundo Houston KTMD was in need of a re-build. The station was hubbing news out of Dallas, with some local reporters.

When Comcast bought the station's parent company, NBCUniversal, resources started coming the Houston TV station's way.

Now, KTMD has climbed the Nielsen ratings chart to the top.

The rise of Houston Spanish-language TV

Part of that re-build came with the hire of news director Jerry Vazquez from abc13 KTRK back in 2014.

Vazquez has worked his way up through Texas TV stations such as KGNS Laredo, KVDA San Antonio, KMOL (now WOAI) San Antonio and KMID Midland.

I asked Vazquez about his journey over the last four years.

Mike McGuff: What was it like moving from English-language news to Spanish-language?

Jerry Vazquez: Not much of a difference, except strategy and what we cover. English Language News may focus on a certain topic that may not be relevant to Spanish language viewers. [For example] education, immigration, retirement, health care, social security, Medicare, etc. I think what sets us aside from the rest, is the amount of community events we participate in, our community involvement with our school initiatives program, plus our EN La Prepa involvement.

MM: You had been in news management for a long time before becoming a news director again, did you have ideas that you were itching to try once you got in the driver's seat again?

JV: Having been a news director before, and moving back into the role, of course of you have your own ideas of how a department should run. I always tell my staff I didn’t create news or how a news department should run, but after 32 years in the business, having done every job in the newsroom, you kind of pick best practices from the leaders you learned from and avoid the ones you know didn’t work for a former boss. Do not try and invent the wheel again, but go back to the basics of TV news reporting. It’s the fundamentals that made a lot of stations number one.

MM: What have been the challenges of helping to build a station's news department?

JV: Patience is huge and having a boss Like Tony Canales (Telemundo Houston KTMD President & General Manager) who shares the same vision as well as the company support. The challenges were there, but having the support from a great company Like Comcast-NBCUniversal that not only provided the resources and investments needed, but the support and patience to allow you to rebuild the product and the brand. Recruiting the right people for the right jobs, rebuilding systems and changing the culture from within and making sure that your news staff buys into your philosophy of reporting news.

JV: Part of hiring the right people was providing them with the training and leadership they needed. I am not a micro-manager. Everyone I hired was hired because of the experience they bring to the table. You have to let them do their job. My job as a manager to my team is to coach and help them take it to the next level. NBCUniversal believes that if you hire the best people and treat them well, you will succeed which we have demonstrated at Telemundo Houston day after day. I, along with all our managers at KTMD, install and support a culture of collaboration and inclusion. When you have the right team in place together you can accomplish anything. In my opinion we have assembled a team of the best producers, anchors, reporters, photographers and assignments desk! We recently updated our tagline to “Trabajando Para Ti” or “Working for you.” Day in and day out, the entire news team, marketing team, sales teams and management come together to work hard ensure that we follow and embrace the NBCU creed which is to produce, create and deliver content so compelling it informs, entertains, and helps shape the world via integrity, creativity, fostering a teamwork culture, and encouraging a pioneer spirit while encouraging staff to have an ownership mentality.

MM: Did the rise to the top of the ratings even surprise you?

JV: Yes and no. Hispanic TV in the past had been underrated and under served and not taken seriously in the field or by civic leaders. This has changed since when I first worked for Telemundo in the early 90’s. We had to wait for soundbites in Spanish until after the English station got everything they needed. Today the press conferences are held in English and Spanish Giving us us the same opportunity to run them live.

During my career in TV, I learned that it takes a team of dedicated professionals who all support the brand and news philosophy to make it work, then you need to make sure that other departments in the station are running alongside you with the same vision and mission. Tony [Canales] has done that. The rise to the top, as you call it, started when Tony, who came on board two years prior to my arrival, started hiring managers that supported a winning attitude. For example, one of Tony’s first hires was our Marketing Director JC Perez, one of the best and finest in the field. I learned from my first news director job in West Texas that the news director and marketing director need to be joined at the hip daily. Then you add to to this formula a very supportive GM, and bingo you will see results. There is no doubt or question that each department in this station is in sync with the vision and mission. The results speak for themselves!

MM: What do your former colleagues say about the ratings your are getting?

JV: I have great friends (former colleagues) that I still talk to and have lunch or dinner often, many are still there, others have moved on. Every time I visit with them, either in person or by phone, they have nothing but kind words and great praise about our success and the great team we have build. They are not surprised because our product is about story telling, content driven and providing the viewers what they want to see.

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