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Rivera, Geraldo (1943—)

Rivera, Geraldo (1943—)

In 1987, Geraldo Rivera became the first Hispanic to host a nationally syndicated talk show, Geraldo. In both his personal life and his career in the media, Rivera has experienced roller coaster-like highs and lows. After growing up in the mean streets of New York City, Rivera went on to receive some of the most distinguished awards for broadcast journalism, only to suffer a tarnished reputation for pandering to the masses as an exponent of Trash TV.

Geraldo Miguel Rivera, journalist and television personality, was born to a Puerto Rican father and a Jewish-American mother in New York City. Rivera studied at the University of Arizona and the Brooklyn Law School, but received his a law degree from the prestigious University of Pennsylvania Law School and a degree in journalism from the equally prestigious Columbia University. As such, he was one of the best-prepared and most intellectual of the broadcast and investigative journalists of his generation.

Rivera began his journalistic career as a reporter for WABC-TV in New York in 1970, and later served as a reporter, producer, and host for various television news and entertainment shows. In 1971 Rivera became the first Hispanic to win the New York State Associated Press Broadcaster Association Award, for his investigative series "Drug Crisis in East Harlem." He also became the first Hispanic to be named Broadcaster of the Year in 1972 and 1974. Rivera went on to become one of the nation's most celebrated and respected investigative television journalists, writing and producing various award-winning documentaries. Over the course of his early career, Rivera also won a Peabody Award and ten Emmys for distinguished broadcast journalism.

In the late 1990s, Rivera was one of the most visible and successful Hispanics in media and entertainment. He hosted a nightly news commentary show for CNBC and produced and starred in NBC broadcast specials. Over the last decade of his career, however, Rivera gained the reputation of being a sensationalist and an exponent of the phenomenon dubbed by critics as "Trash TV." Unfortunately, he is too well remembered for an NBC special in which he was to break into one of Al Capone's long lost treasure vaults on live television, which turned out to be empty. The show will always be remembered as one of TV's greatest fiascoes. He also memorably hosted a sensationalistic Trash TV talk show, one of many that proliferated throughout the 1990s, called Geraldo. Since that time, Rivera has exhibited a more serious and sober approach to his coverage and discussions of national topics, such as the O.J. Simpson case and race relations, the Rodney King incident, the Los Angeles riots, and the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. This work has redeemed him somewhat among critics as a serious journalist.

—Nicolás Kanellos

Further Reading:

Kanellos, Nicolás. Hispanic American Almanac, 2nd edition. Detroit, Gale, 1997.

Tardiff, Joseph T., and L. Mpho Mabunda, editors. Dictionary of Hispanic Biography. Detroit, Gale, 1996.

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