Autumn is a favorite time of year for Laurie Singer, along with many sports fans. The major sports menu for October alone includes college and NFL professional football, Major League Baseball playoffs and the World Series, plus the start of the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association.
Singer, a San Diego native, has followed the sports calendar her entire life. More than 50 years ago, Singer, now 71, became San Diego’s first female sportscaster when she took the weekend sports anchor chair at KFMB-TV, Channel 8. She was one of only three women sportscasters in the country at the time (the other two were Jeannie Morris at WBBM TV in Chicago and Jane Chastain at WTVJ in Miami).
Today, the sight of women working in TV sports is fairly common. But, that wasn’t the case when Singer began her precedent-setting, pioneering career in San Diego in the 1970’s.
“Growing up in North Park, my parents were big-time sports fans and they encouraged both me and my sister to play sports and learn everything about sports,” Singer told the Times of San Diego. “When I was a little girl, my dad taught me how to keep score watching the Padres when they played in the Pacific Coast League at Westgate Park. “
Before becoming a National League team in 1969, the Padres were a minor league team in the PCL. From 1958 to 1969, Padres home games were played at Westgate Park, a small stadium located on Friars Road in the northeast corner of what is now the Fashion Valley retail mall.
“I saw my first hockey game in 1966 when the San Diego Gulls came to town,” said Singer. “How ironic that I ended-up covering hockey so many years later.”
In 1969, Channel 8 KFMB-TV sports director Lyle Bond was talking to a neighbor of the Singer family. Bond mentioned he was looking for an assistant. According to Singer, “That neighbor was a longtime friend who told Lyle he knew just the right person for the job. But, there was only one problem. He was a she.
“Lyle interviewed me and nine men for the job. Back then, sports journalism was strictly a man’s domain. Lyle took a chance on me and for that I’ll always be grateful. I’ve been fortunate in my career to help change that perspective. I’m proud to have helped pave the way for other qualified women.”
Has it been easy? “Well, not always,” Singer said.
Singer learned the producing side of TV sports for about three years before Jerry Gross (who followed Lyle Bond as Channel 8 sports director) approached her with the idea of going on-camera. Gross and Channel 8 programming director Tom Kenny arranged for some practice sessions in the studio, Singer remembers.
“And the rest, as they say, is history,” she said. “The team at Channel 8 wasn’t afraid to take a chance on a groundbreaking move and I’ll always remember that. They helped shape a career that has spanned over 40 years in television sports and news.”
Early in her history-making career, Singer faced some interesting challenges covering San Diego sports teams.
Her first road trip with the San Diego Padres in the 1970’s included not only a seat on the team plane but also a trip to Shea Stadium in New York. Singer walked into the press box with Phil Collier, a highly respected and nationally recognized bylined baseball writer with The San Diego Union newspaper. Collier also was serving on the board of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (in 1990, the BBWAA honored Collier with inclusion in the writer’s wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame).
“When I walked into the press box at Shea, the look on the faces of the New York writers and reporters was not exactly friendly,” Singer recalled. “Luckily I was standing with my old friend Phil Collier. Phil stood up for me. He made it clear that I belonged in the press box, even though I was told I couldn’t eat in the press dining room and there was no seat for me in the writers’ or TV box on the press level.
“Phil wouldn’t step back. He demanded they make a spot for me and they did. However, never having a woman in the press box, when I got up to use the restroom, there was no ladies room. So, the Mets posted a security guard in front of the men’s room entrance when I was inside.”
In 1975, while working for both KFMB and CBS Sports, Singer became the first female television sportscaster to cover the World Series. It was during the Cincinnati Reds’ famous “Big Red Machine” era with Sparky Anderson as manager.
The Reds beat the Boston Red Sox, four games to three, in the 1975 World Series. In 1976, the Reds beat the New York Yankees in a four-game sweep to repeat as champions.
As Singer tells the story: “At the ’75 Series, I got full-access credentials just like everyone else. But, when I got to the ballpark for the first game, I was told I did not have access to the locker room for post-game interviews. No women allowed. I appealed to the Commissioner’s office and MLB arranged for me to use a room under the ballpark where I conducted my interviews after the game. They even assigned two runners to bring me the ballplayers I needed to interview to this separate room. It really made my job easy, not pushing through other reporters in the locker room.”
For the 1976 World Series, Singer said the situation was different.
“The next year, I still got credentials, but no access to the locker room before or after the game. I convinced a Cincinnati policeman guarding the entrance to the Reds locker room to take a note into Sparky before the game, saying I needed an interview. Sparky came to the door and said he would meet me in the dugout because I wasn’t getting in (the locker room).
“But MLB made it clear that I was on my own for post-game interviews. I was standing on the sidelines pregame and I must have looked very perplexed because Johnny Bench walked over to me and asked, `What’s going on?’ I explained I had no access to post-game interviews. He motioned for Pete Rose to join us and explained the situation. Pete said ‘What are we going to do?’ Johnny said, ‘We’re gonna help her out.’
“Two of the best players on the planet were my helpers that night. Not only did they give me post-game interviews, but they went to both locker rooms to pull out players I needed for my post-game story. Truly something I will always remember.”
In 1979, Singer left KFMB-TV and was hired by CBS Network and moved to New York. She spent the next three decades at the network level covering major sporting events and headline news stories for both CBS News and NBC News. She also produced “The American Story with Bob Dotson” segments on NBC’s “Today” show.
In 2010, she left network television news to start her own production company. Living today in Potomac, MD, she has focused much of her time producing video projects for the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
Her videos have included: “Chemo School,” a guide designed to help cancer patients entering chemotherapy treatment; “Walking on Eggshells,” a caregivers video series; “C-Answers,” a video series intended to introduce the experts of the Kimmel Cancer Center to the patient population. Her work has culminated in a collection of National Emmys, Edward R. Murrow and Telly awards.
Singer’s video work in cancer care has been inspired by her late husband, Leroy Sievers, former executive producer of ABC News’ “Nightline,” when Ted Koppel anchored the broadcast. Sievers, a gregarious man with a booming, infectious laugh, passed away from colon cancer in 2008. He was 53. Sievers was an award-winning television producer who reported from nearly every major war and area of conflict and major disaster in his nearly three decades in the business.
“Leroy was larger than life. We had a quite a journey together,” said Singer. “You always knew when Leroy was in the room, his presence was unmistakable.”
Prior to his passing, Sievers produced dozens of podcasts about his journey with cancer for National Public Radio. He also wrote a daily blog called “My Cancer” that created a cult following from around the world. Over the two-and-a-half years that Sievers wrote the candid daily account of living with cancer, more than 36,000 people responded. Many cancer patients, their caregivers and medical workers wrote daily, saying the site was the first thing they turned to every morning.
“There was one young man whose father had cancer,” Singer said. “One day, he asked his dad how he was feeling, and the father responded, ‘I don’t know yet. Go read Leroy and he’ll tell you how I’m feeling.’
“Leroy and I shared so much in common, covering different stories, but with the same principles. He was my wall and with that kind of support, the career was that much sweeter.”
LA’s KTWV Waves Hello To Liz Hernandez for Mornings
Liz Hernandez, a popular Los Angeles-based, Mexican-American radio and TV personality, has been named morning host for LA’s KTWV-FM 94.7 The Wave. She debuts as host of the 6 a.m.-to-noon shift on Oct. 3.
She succeeds Pat Prescott who left KTWV in August after 22 years with the rhythmic adult-contemporary station that’s owned by Audacy, based in Philadelphia. Nielsen has ranked KTWV as one of L.A.’s top 10 radio stations.
Hernandez has worked the past 15 years in TV entertainment news as a correspondent for MTV News, E! News and Access Hollywood. Previously, she spent a decade (2001-2011) as co-host of the top-rated, nationally syndicated morning show, “Big Boy’s Neighborhood, on KPWR-FM Power 106 (her on-air name was “Luscious Liz”). She also co-hosted morning at KBIG-FM 104.3 My-FM.
A Southern California native, Hernandez has been recognized by the National Hispanic Media Coalition for excellence in radio broadcasting. An Audacy statement said Hernandez has continued to connect with her community in recent years as founder and creator of “Wordaful,” a video and live-event series that explores the power of storytelling and how we communicate with others and ourselves.
“Liz’s familiarity and history with Southern California make her a perfect fit to take the reins of The Wave’s morning drive,” said Jeff Federman, regional president, Audacy Southern California. “We’re certain she will deliver a fresh, dynamic morning show that resonates with the Wave’s community.”
“This truly is a homecoming to my first love, radio, and what better way than with a morning show at The Wave,” said Hernandez. “I am incredibly proud to be a Latina in this space and to represent my culture and community, and grateful for the opportunity to be a voice for the beautiful people of Los Angeles. I am excited to bring my energy and years of experience and to continue to celebrate this amazing city.”
Prescott joined KTWV as a morning host in 2001 from the former smooth-jazz “CD 101.9” WQCD New York, where she also hosted mornings. Prescott co-hosted at KTWV with smooth-jazz musician Dave Koz. After Koz left, Prescott was paired with Brian McKnight.
Petco Digital Officer Expands Role
San Diego-based Petco, operator of more than 1,500 pet care centers, has announced that Darren MacDonald, the company’s chief digital and innovation officer, has an expanded role as chief customer officer.
MacDonald, with more than 20 years of global digital strategy and business development experience, will lead customer-focused teams, including the e-commerce digital team and the Petco app, as well as marketing, membership, loyalty, enterprise analytics-data science and customer service.
He joined Petco in 2019 after managing Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce business where he oversaw merchandising, planning, supply chain, marketing, business development, site experience, finance, human resources, product and engineering teams. He also launched two new business lines within Walmart’s digital entertainment division, and developed and launched three new private label brands. MacDonald is based at Petco’s National Support Center in San Diego.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California Berkeley and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of California Los Angeles.
IABC San Diego Hosts Mixer to Recognize Membership Month
The International Association of Business Communicators San Diego chapter will host a networking mixer from 5:30 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 11 at True Food Kitchen’s outdoor patio, 4303 La Jolla Village Dr., San Diego. Admission is $20 for members, $25 for non-members. Entry fee includes one drink ticket and appetizers. A raffle drawing for IABC swag will be held. At the mixer that will honor IABC membership month, IABC San Diego board members and new members will be introduced.