Journalist Ray Suarez On Quitting Public Television: 'They Didn't Have Much Of A Plan For Me'

We are sad to see distinguished journalist Ray Suarez leave PBS' "NewsHour."  The following is the public conversation around his departure.  The bottom line is that PBS needs more Latino voices in front and behind the camera, and they have lost an exceptional journalist who has a deep understanding of the Latino community and contemporary American issues.  PBS has recently broadcast "The Latino Americans" as well as "The Graduates," both series that have employed many NALIP members. This is a great start but more needs to happen.

Article from Fox New Latino by Lucia Suarez

Many fans of renowned Latino journalist Ray Suarez were shocked to hear about his resignation from PBS' "NewsHour" after more than a decade as a senior correspondent two weeks ago.

While the Public Broadcasting Service has not elaborated on the reasons for his departure, Suarez spoke candidly with Fox News Latino about what led to his decision to leave his longtime post. He said it was the right "time to go – that was a choice that I made."

"I felt like I didn't have much of a future with the broadcast," Suarez said Monday morning. "(They) didn't have much of a plan for me."

He said his resignation came because his contributions to the "NewsHour" were heavily minimized. Suarez (no relation to the writer) said he just "didn't see 2014 and 2015 were going to be better" for him than the last couple of years.

The 56-year-old, who joined the "NewsHour" in 1999, said over the last couple of years his contributions to the broadcast were passed over and marginalized many times. He said decisions made recently by the company and new constrictions also played a part in his resignation — it just made it difficult to stay, he said.

"When you look at the prospects realistically, I was there 14 years," Suarez said. "The responsibility, the high responsibility … had all been gradually taken away."

He said his profile on the broadcasting network was in such decline that people on social media were asking what he was doing after the "NewsHour."

An example, he said, was during the most recent presidential election where his coverage of the Latino vote was minimal, unlike during the 2004 elections where he co-moderated a bilingual debate with Univision.

"That was great fun," Suarez said recalling the debate. "It anticipated where things were going to be going. People were not talking about the Latino vote then – it was a glimpse into the crystal ball."

According to several reports, the show's executive producer, Linda Winslow, told staff in a memo that Suarez was leaving to "pursue other ventures."

"At the 'NewsHour' Ray has been a member of the Senior Correspondent team that has helped us cover an enormous array of topics and story developments over the years," Winslow wrote in the memo. "My inbox is filled with rave reviews of his performances written by delighted station executives around the PBS universe."

The news came out just days after "NewsHours" founders Jim Lehrer and Robin MacNeil announced they intended to transfer ownership of the program to producing partner WETA in Arlington, Va.

Suarez said although he is leaving the company, he is very proud of the work he accomplished during his tenure and holds no ill will towards anyone.

"I am not some bitter guy. It was just time to go," he said, adding that his departure was amicable between both parties. "I left on good terms."

He continued: "I love the people there. I think it's important to have a strong news broadcast on public television. I was definitely doing important work. … I am not sitting here regretting all that time, not at all."

But Suarez just didn't see it getting any better.

"I don't want this to sound like sour grapes," he said. "People come and go."

For his next move, the New York City-born-Puerto Rican said he has been fielding several offers that include going into academia and writing a book on the 2016 elections. He said he couldn't go into specifics about his plans because contractual agreements are still being discussed, but that he would be going back to television broadcasting.

"I still have one more high-demand, high-stress job in me," he said.


PBS responses to the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP)

Linda Winslow, Executive Producer, PBS NewsHour:

I was as disappointed as you were to learn -- two weeks ago -- that Ray Suarez had decided to leave the NewsHour, after 14 years. I am sorry to say he has been a very important and frequent contributor to the program, fuddy duddy and irrelevant as it may be. In fact, the only time he's been absent for more than a few days was when he was on vacation, on assignment, or on his recent book tour( that may have been when you noticed his absence since he was touring for much of September.) Otherwise Ray has been the ultimate hard-working journalist; if you launch a google search on our website, you will find that he has appeared on as many programs --if not more-- than his colleagues.
 
His last day was Friday. As he told me when he gave two weeks notice and subsequently told our audience , he left to write a book and expects to be able to announce shortly what else he'll be doing.
 
Under the circumstances, I find the rest of your note incomprehensible. For one thing, it demeans Ray and his journalistic credentials. He was NOT our very own Hispanic journalist. We hired him -- and valued his work -- because he is one of very best journalists in the country; a rare combination of interviewer and story- teller who brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to each assignment. His are big shoes to fill and we will take the time required to do so carefully.
 
I appreciate your taking the time to send me your thoughts on this matter.
 
 
Anne D, Bell, Public Relations Manager, PBS NewsHour:

Since he joined The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer in 1999, Ray Suarez has been an integral part of the PBS NewsHour team.  As a Senior Correspondent, he has covered a wide array of national topics: including education, immigration, religion, energy and housing.  He was assigned to lead the NewsHour's global health coverage and he has made significant contributions to CPB's American Graduate Project.  In early September 2013, Suarez was named Chief National Correspondent, reflecting his important and frequent contributions to the program.  
 
The PBS NewsHour was saddened by his decision to leave.  Executive Producer Linda Winslow described Ray as "one of the very best journalists in the country, a rare combination of interviewer and story-teller who brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to each assignment."
 
Thank you for taking the time to write and share your concerns.


Vivian En Su Casa La Conocen, PBS Audience Services:

Thank you for contacting PBS regarding your concerns.
 
For nearly fifteen years, Mr. Suarez was a highly respected member of the public media system, PBS and NEWSHOUR. PBS greatly admires his talent, journalistic integrity and constant pursuit of excellence. We are very sorry to lose him and his stellar work and we hope to work with him on future projects.
 
The decision to depart from the NEWSHOUR staff was entirely Mr. Suarez's. He was recently named Chief National Correspondent on the series and his contributions to the newscast will be deeply missed. We wish him the best of luck in his new ventures.
 
We were very proud to air LATINO AMERICANS, which was an important collaboration with Latino Public Broadcasting. The landmark series by Adriana Bosch is the first major television documentary series to chronicle the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos. Mr. Suarez wrote the companion book for the series and was a dedicated champion of the documentary and the education initiative that accompanies it.
 
LATINO AMERICANS joins many other PBS projects that feature the talents of Latinos, both on-the-air and behind the camera. For example, on October 28 PBS premiered Bernardo Ruiz's "The Graduates/Los Graduados" on INDEPENDENT LENS. This two-part film examines the many roots of the Latino dropout crisis through the eyes of six inspiring young students who are part of an ongoing effort to increase graduation rates for a growing Latino population. The film can be streamed for free at pbs.org. The second episode will debut on November 4.
 
At PBS, we understand that a cornerstone of our mission is to serve our entire nation, and that we have an obligation to continually build the diversity of our schedule and staff. Our goal is to offer outstanding content that reflects and celebrates America and feels inclusive to all viewers.
 
We appreciate your interest in our work and hope you will continue to watch and enjoy programming on your local PBS station.


Responses from the Latino community

Arturo Madrid, Trinity University:
I learned a few minutes ago about the departure of Ray Suarez from PBS. I had also noticed his absence from the News Hour, which has become a fuddy-duddy and increasingly irrelevant news program in the last few years. I am sorely disappointed in PBS, which I have supported over the years via my local stations in Minneapolis, D.C., Southern California, and most recently, San Antonio, TX. We seem not to exist as far as you are concerned.
 
Have you no sense of the demographic realities of the U.S.? In a televised symposium the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education sponsored some three years ago and which was aired nationally, former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, who served as the MC, asked the participants what they would say to the American public if they had the opportunity to do so. Mine was as follows:
 
"We are your neighbors; we are your fellow workers; we are members of your churches; we already are, or soon will be, your in-laws; and we are your future. We will tend to your elders and take care of your children; we will put bread on your table and contribute to your social security. Have some respect for us."
 
We are PBS's future as well, if you attend to us.
 

Fidel "Butch" Montoya, H. S. Power & Light Ministries:
As a Latino faith initiative and alliance, we are extremely outraged by the treatment by PBS toward one of the best news anchors and reporters on television and cable today. In your memo to the staff, you insinuated that Ray Suarez was "leaving to pursue other ventures." We cannot accept your attempt to make this move as simply a professional moving on to another challenge and opportunity.
 
Ray Suarez has indicated that slowly his work has been minimized and as a member of the Senior Correspondent team for the NewsHour, he was not treated with the respect and professionalism warranted a news anchor with impeccable credentials and history of outstanding work. In your memo, you clearly stated that Suarez was well respected within the "PBS universe." "My inbox is filled with rave reviews of his performances written by delighted station executives around the PBS universe."
 
Yet, Suarez in spite of those rave reviews of his performances, knew "the responsibility, the high responsibility...had gradually been taken away."
 
Let there be no doubt that as faith leaders in the Latino universe, we too were delighted that Suarez was considered a very valued representative of his community on the NewsHour. It is simply a disgrace to pan across the television and cable spectrum and not see any Latino anchors on any national television news and information programs. Suarez was able to be that role model for 14 years to aspiring Latino young people seeking a career in television news.
 
Perhaps far more importantly, a trait you are unable to understand, or as the Executive Producer chose to ignore, is the fact that Suarez was able to bring an understanding of the issues and concerns facing the Latino community. Suarez as an objective and unbiased anchor, was able to relate to many of the injustices of an industry which fails to value diversity in thought and appearance. It is unfortunate that unless one is able to fit the "standardized role", it is very easy to point out to staff that Suarez is merely "leaving to pursue other ventures."
 
In fact, Suarez has made it clear that the PBS NewsHour was slowly pushing him out. As a former Vice President/News Director of one of the top news stations in the country, I understand far too well the treacherous and deceptive attempts by those in upper management to discredit and attribute professional liabilities to employees who in the minds of management should "leave to pursue other ventures."  
 
It is disgraceful and outrageous that management of television news programs which continue to use the public's airwaves and resources, cannot find the accountability necessary to ensure that fairness, justice, and diversity are valued characteristics sought after in the news industry. All clearly defined characteristics displayed in the work and professionalism of Ray Suarez.
 
Extremely disappointed.
 

Marilyn Aguirre-Molina, EdD, MS, CUNY School of Public Health (Lehman):
I was dismayed that Ray Suarez was given no alternative but to leave PBS after 14 years, and as the ONLY high profile Latino on your entire network. One can only ask, are Latinos such an irrelevant population in your skewed eyes that there is no need for someone like Mr. Suarez to cover those issues? I thought women in corporate decision making positions had more sense than their white male counter parts.
 
It seems that, as Latinos, we receive one insult after another from your network - I adamantly regret that I ever supported your corporation! - and throwing us crumbs of a special here and there does not exempt you from more consistent programming and reporting. But what will you do now after pushing Suarez out?! This is as we call in Spanish, el colmo!!!!
 
By the way, haven't you kept up with the Census? Latinos are not only the largest so-called minority group in the United States, but are projected to grow to the point of having a great presence and leverage in the US. Since I will not be around at that time, I will do all I to encourage Latinos with authority and resources to bring an end to the kind of leadership you represent , as assure new leadership and staff are not only respectful of Latinos but also represented on staff. 


Frank D. Gómez, Veteran Latino activist and a founder of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ):.
In the early eighties, I was on the board of directors of WETA, a PBS flagship station and the home of the NewsHour. At that time, a Hispanic friend produced a documentary about Salvadorans in the Washington, DC area. Salvadorans represented an important demographic shift in the nation's capital, a precursor to the rapid growth in the Latino population. The documentary spoke to their sacrifices, struggles, hard work and daily contributions to the comforts of others.
 
As a board member, I arranged for WETA producers to view the video, but they rejected it. Shame! That same lack of vision - and courage - plagues PBS and the NewsHour today. Ray Suárez is a treasure. PBS sees neither its value nor the 55 million Hispanics to whom PBS should appeal. After resigning from the board, I resolved not to contribute to PBS until its employees and its programming reflected the community of which I am a part. I am still waiting!
 

Edgar Moncaleano:
PBS, as all the networks, did not in a benevolent act include "Latinos" in their business in front and behind the camera. It was the selfless labor of the organization: THE NATINAL LATINO MEDIA COALITION, grouping south and north, across east to west that legally brought the networks to task, pushing them to give us the few slots we have today.
 
Unless Latinos organize and fight back we'll see less of Latino faces in positions of authority and prestige 'in front and behind the cameras. Latinos across the USA and the World fight back. Do it for "the children of tomorrow." The past won't stop us, but why wait? Make your voice heard now at PBS and WNET channel 13 New York. Support Ray Suarez. Not because he is of Latino origin but because he is a great journalist and paid his dues to be there.
 

Dr. Gilbert Sanchez, Retired Academic Administrator:
As a long-time supporter of PBS stations wherever we have lived, due to my positions as a senior academic administrator, e.g., Washington, D.C., NYC, Boston, San Jose, Los Angeles, Portland, etc., I was truly sorry to hear of Ray Suarez leaving the NewsHour.  We always looked forward to his insights on his segments in which he was involved.  His passion for reporting came through in the form of his sense of humor, respect for the topic and/or the individual involved.  

I met Ray at a meeting in which we spoke with him about issues important to the Latino community and how NewsHour might bring them to the general public.  His dedication to the values of PBS and his commitment to working with the other members of the "team" was very positive.  It is too bad he was not considered for the extended weekend version of the NewsHour as he, in my opinion, could have continued making a great contribution.  

The NewsHour has shown in the past that it was willing to be a beacon of enlightenment in having a representative on-camera team of the diversity of our country.  With Ray no longer there I just don't see how you will fill that void.  I am, to say the least, disappointed in this action, i.e., "his resignation".  I encourage you to seek a solution to this problem of being and of continuing to be open and unbiased as to who reports the news on your program [The NewsHour] which many of us have supported for years.  

The NewsHour needs to reach out to the fastest growing community, e.g., Latinos, for their viewership as well as for their monetary support.  We can't allow NewsHour NOT to be part of the journalistic landscape.  You have much to offer.   


Perla de Leon, FOTOGRAFICA productions:
I read with great sadness about the resignation of Ray Suarez. For years I've been wishing someone would address PBS and their lack of diversity not only in reporters but more importantly in news stories. I have no stats to back this up but as a long time viewer, who didn't have cable TV for many years, PBS was a staple on my home. Thinking back to the thousandths of hours of dramatic programming, documentaries and news programs I've watched, it felt as though the Middle East took up 80% of all news programs, with English dramas and middle America documentaries and independent films filling the rest of their schedule.
 
As a public station that resides in a city that is practically 25% Latino, where are the reports and programs about Latinos, Latin and Central Americans and African Americans? If your organization has any stats on any of this I would be more than happy to spread the word to my fellow artists and filmmakers, many of whom had previously protested individual programs such as Ken Burns multimillion dollar documentary series that routinely exclude minority contributions.
 

Prof. Sherrie Baver, The City College of New York:
As a longtime devotee of PBS and The Newshour, I wanted to register my profound surprise and disappointment that Ray Suarez is leaving the program (not entirely by choice). Not only is Ray Suarez a first-rate journalist, but it is also a time in America when the growing Latino population needs much more coverage rather than less.