|PATRICE KING BROWN
On Jan. 28, local news anchor Patrice King Brown will leave KDKA-TV after more than three decades with the station. With her, Brown will take the station’s daily African-American presence, leaving a void many worry will not be filled.
“I’d like to be closer to my family. There are a lot of things that I can’t do with three news casts a day,” Brown said. “I’m hoping to not go away completely and still do some projects here. I’m not looking at it as retirement.”
Brown plans to move to California where a majority of her family lives.
Brown, 56, began her career with KDKA in 1978 as co-host of the talk variety show “Pittsburgh 2 Day.” The Pittsburgh native, who grew up in Sheradan, was one of the first African-American women in the country to hold 6 and 11 p.m. anchor slots and she now also does the 4 p.m. slot.
“There is nobody here at this moment, but it is my hope that they look at African-American candidates because it is really important to the city,” Brown said. “They’re between a rock and a hard place because they’re probably going to be looking for someone younger than me, maybe someone who’s just starting out and that can be challenging.”
Depending on who is chosen to replace Brown, her departure could signal another defeat for those who champion for diversity in broadcast news.
“Basically I think Pittsburgh is a racist city,” said radio personality Bev Smith. “I think instead of setting a trend, they follow the trends of outside the city. If they do choose an African-American to replace her I will be very surprised.”
As Pittsburgh’s first African-American consumer affairs investigative reporter for WPXI-TV, Smith has spent 40 years in television and radio. During that time she has seen African-Americans struggle in the industry and stations show preference for younger female anchors.
“Everything is trending toward a younger generation,” Smith said. “Here in this city we had a tradition of identifying with our TV personalities. I hope KDKA will continue the tradition of showing identifiable faces.”
Smith and several others said they believe King Brown’s position should be filled from within the station.
“We haven’t begun searching,” said Chris Pike, KDKA general manager. “In the short term, we’re going to fill in with people who are on the staff. We definitely plan on hiring another anchor and exactly what combination will end up in different roles is yet to be determined. Brenda Waters anchors our Saturday morning newscast and diversity is certainly something we will be looking at going forward.”
Specifically, outsiders named Lynne Hayes Freeland, a general assignment reporter and producer/host of “The Lynne Hayes-Freeland Show,” a weekly half-hour show that focuses on local African-American issues, and Waters as the most logical replacements.
“It’s my hope that KDKA will recognize there will be a void. They certainly have talent within,” said Chris Moore, a talk show host with KDKA, WQED and WPXI. “It will certainly leave a void of African-American talent and every other station has an African-American anchor. It’s important for our young people to see an African-American.”
The issues of race representation and female anchors being passed over for their younger counterparts have always been at the root of broadcast media. For women especially, the inequity is yet another hurdle in the race to the top.
“I didn’t know your anchor personally, but it still is amazing it’s such a small club. Every city seems to have a person of color who may not necessarily be African-American, said Shelia Banks, president of Nagrom Productions. “I hope her leaving is not going to leave a void. Not only do you have a fabulous woman of color, but you have someone who’s been there 30 years.”
Banks, who has done news reporting and anchoring in Boston, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., said “seasoned” women have a hard time staying at the top in the industry.
“I understand there are some fabulous women there to replace her, but I doubt that’s going to happen because it’s not so much the color thing now but age,” Banks said. “Your experience is not valued unless you’re a Barbara Walters or Diana Sawyer and I don’t want to say it, but is that a race thing?”
Throughout her career Brown received many awards including the Bill Burns Award for Outstanding Journalistic Achievement in 2007 from the Rooney Foundation; The Richard Caliguiri Award for Best Ambassador for Pittsburgh in 1999; Vector’s Women of the Year in Communications in 2002; Jr. Achievement Distinguished Alumni in 2006; and Lifetime Achievement in Broadcasting by the Pittsburgh Press Club in 2003.