'Woman of Influence' Giselle Fernandez Sets the Tone in City of Angels

Giselle Fernandez of Spectrum News 1
(Image credit: Giselle Fernandez)

Giselle Fernandez, set to be honored as the 2023 Woman of Influence at Wonder Women of Los Angeles on June 20, anchors Your Morning on Spectrum News 1 in Los Angeles, and hosts L.A. Stories with Giselle Fernandez

Before her time at Spectrum News 1, Fernandez worked at both CBS News and NBC News, including anchoring the Sunday NBC Nightly News

Fernandez has sat with Fidel Castro, President Clinton and President George H.W. Bush, among other global luminaries, in her career. She also produced the documentary Our Story, which addressed healthcare issues for children of low-income Hispanic families. She competed in the second season of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.

Ahead of the Multichannel News Wonder Women awards at the Sofitel Hotel in Beverly Hills, Fernandez spoke about her career highlights, mentors and how she unwinds after a hectic day. 

An edited transcript follows.

MCN: What are you most proud of these days?

Giselle Fernandez: We made it through the pandemic. We made it through really trying times in newsrooms across the country where you have volatile politics, a pandemic, school closures, and mass shootings almost every other day. There have been so many assaults on our democracy, on our society, on our humanity. I'm really proud we were able to keep our eye on storytelling. 

MCN: What’s a recent story you did that you’re particularly proud of?

GF: I went to Guatemala to cover the root causes of migration. With the global migration crisis across the country here at home, thousands deluging on our southern border and weaponized politics around the human crisis, Spectrum sent me to Guatemala to cover [VP] Kamala Harris going there [and] to look at the root causes. That was a great example of how we take on a global national story but really localize it. 

Giselle Fernandez of Spectrum News 1

Giselle Fernandez of Spectrum News 1  (Image credit: Spectrum News 1)

MCN Tell me about your documentary, Our Story

GF: That was so long ago, but it's something where, when I die, it will be one of the things I'm most proud of. I used to sit on the board of Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and I was on the air at KTLA at the time. A little boy who had cancer recognized me. His name was Dusty, and he was 11, and wanted to meet me. We ended up shooting him for months as he grappled with his illness, and his family grappled with access to healthcare. 

I don't know if it was a twist of fate or it was my destiny, but my then-husband's entire family came to the hospital with his 16-month-old grandson. I was like, what are you doing here? They wheeled his grandson into the room with Dusty. He was diagnosed with liver cancer at 16 months old. I covered both of them and started to cover all the other children on the floor.

MCN: Have you had a mentor in your career?

GF: Many. In terms of a literary mentor there's a woman named Oriana Fallaci, who was a speak-truth-to-power Italian journalist. My mom has been a mentor. She followed her passion and didn't let anybody define her. She was born in New York to a progressive Jewish family and decided she did not like the debutante, concrete jungle, society world. She heard flamenco and mariachi music, and decided that her soul was a Latina. And she ended up going to Mexico, taking a flamenco dancing class with someone like 40 years older than she was, a very famous flamenco dancer. They married and I was born, a Mexican Jewish girl. 

NEW YORK - JANUARY 1: Giselle Fernandez of CBS News. Image dated 1993. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Giselle Fernandez, at CBS News, 1993. (Image credit: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

MCN: Do you mentor aspiring journalists?

GF: Absolutely. [News director] Jeff Wald gave me my start in television at KTLA when I was in my 20s. He teaches a class at UCLA, and always asks me to be the final speaker to his graduate students. I'm proud to go every year. 

I also mentor the smart young women and men at Spectrum–especially women because we're so very challenged, never thinking we're good enough. 

MCN: Tell me about your L.A. Stories program.

GF: I love my L.A. Stories program! We're an Instagram, TikTok, soundbite society. No one wants long form, and the only one really left is 60 Minutes. I said, yeah, I know, but I really want to do it. And Spectrum said, then do it. 

I've had the time of my life. I think it's the best work of my career. It gives me an opportunity to delve into the minds and hearts of change makers, thought leaders, innovators, celebrities and just people making an impact in their communities.

MCN: How do you unwind from the stress of your job?

GF: I drink a lot of tequila [laughs]. I'm a huge animal lover. We hike a lot. I'm a big runner. I love nature. My daughter and I love art. We travel and we love music. I just saw Bruno Mars. I'm a huge Bruno Mars fan and his concert was to die for!

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.