Ed Fernandez, former boss at Telemundu, the NBC-owned Hispanic television station in Chicago, is promising a game change and to dig deeper into stories that are otherwise ignored in the larger community.
Fernandez who took over WXYZ-Channel 7 in April as general manager/vice president, told the Michigan Chronicle that the media has an important role to play in not only exposing ills but also helping building lives and inspiring hope.
Fernandez, who is of Cuban descent and the first ethnic minority to head a major network in Southeast Michigan, said he took the job to make a real difference.
“My hope is that people will say we as a leadership team came up with a plan that made a big difference in how all of us throughout the region live, work and play and, more importantly, that we improved the lives of people,” Fernandez said. “While I knew that WXYZ has had a tremendous impact upon Detroit over the years, I underestimated how people feel about the station.”
How people feel about the station depends on who is interviewed in the community, but Fernandez plans to make a signature statement by making the station more engaged with all communities.
Given his track record of successfully running stations around the country, Fernandez said he took the job to come back home to Michigan and be closer to people that mean so much to him.
Fernandez has already brought in news veteran, Tim Dye, as the news director, a man he’s worked with before and has enormous respect for because of the professional integrity he brings to the job.
Investigative journalism has been a WXYZ cornerstone. The station recently brought in investigative journalist, Scott Lewis, from retirement to join its investigative arm.
Is that a harbinger for the future?
“It has long been an important for WXYZ to provide great investigative reporting that makes a difference. I’m blessed to work for a company like Scripps who believes and values quality investigative journalism and provides the resources necessary to do it right,” Fernandez said. “With the addition of Scott to a great team of reporters, producers and photographers in our already established Special Projects Unit, we undoubtedly have the best team in town to be the leaders in this area.”
Has transitioning from Telemundo to WXYZ been difficult?
“In some respects, no, as I have always made sure the station’s I’ve led are committed to the community and serving our viewers,” Fernandez said. “In some respects, yes, in that I now have an opportunity to serve an area that I am very passionate about.”
The media, he said, cannot abdicate its responsibility of informing the public at a time when Southeast Michigan is beset with so many problems.
“We have likely the most important role in that we can persuade people to take action, to believe, to make a difference,” Fernandez said. “We have the ability and the platforms to change philosophies and attitudes about ourselves.”
The debut of “Detroit 1-8-7,” the ABC TV series, has energized a lot of interest in the community, but it also provides an edge for WXYZ.
“I see it as a source of pride and an opportunity to change perception,” Fernandez said. “People will get a chance to see Detroit in a different light each week and that can make a difference, not only here but across the entire country.”
Chuck Stokes, WXYZ editorial director and host of the Sunday morning talk show “Spotlight,” said bringing in Fernandez to lead the station at this time couldn’t be more timely.
“Ed Fernandez is an extremely talented and energetic media executive. Working with him is exciting. He is personable, energetic, and visionary. He’s a great addition to Detroit’s media leadership. He loves the city and he is passionate about getting personally involved with this community,” Stokes said. “He’s meeting with various community leaders and he’s determined to make WXYZ the best multimedia company for Michigan. He’s going to be visible, accessible and responsible.”
Among other things, Stokes said Fernandez comes to this region with a fresh set of eyes and he wants to do his part in helping Southeast Michigan reach its full potential.