Torres to Lead Kaitz

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The Walter Kaitz Foundation, which has been foundering for years, has now brought on board a politician, of all things-Art Torres, the well-known Hispanic head of the California Democratic Party-to be its new leader.

This is truly an interesting development, and it could be a step in the right direction in terms of the cable industry's admirable and ongoing effort to embrace minorities into the workplace

We at Multichannel News, listening to all of our constituents, have in recent years been very critical of the Kaitz organization in its role to bring minorities into the workplace.

Frankly, we took that stance because people were very ticked off. Being the community paper we are, we had to take a stand, and we did.

Since then, we have dissected that organization's efforts. We told you where the money was actually going since 1998. It sat collecting interest while people paid lip service and no one grappled with the problem.

But today, I'm proud to say that the foundation has mobilized itself.

Let's face the facts. In the past, this organization was all about a lot of white, powerful, good-old boys, schmoozing and wheeling and dealing at a fund-raising gala to the tune of $10,000 per table, which brought several million dollars to the cause. People were honored, sometimes for no obvious reason except that they could provide the entertainment for a glitzy night.

To this day, the whispering never stops about why someone gets the honor. Fine, but let's forget about that for now and talk about what's actually happening.

In the past, for whatever reasons, Kaitz only managed to place 30, at best, minority "fellows" into the industry, despite the multimillion-dollar war chest raised from that annual dinner. And many of those fellows have since left cable for a myriad of reasons.

Admirably, since then, other industry organizations have kicked in to grapple with the problem. In addition to Multichannel News, they had prodding from the NAACP, which gave the industry a lukewarm report card on its minority hiring practices.

But do give a lot of credit to the National Association of Minorities In Cable, the Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association and the National Cable Television Association for circling the wagons here. Apparently, they have been very busy, and they have persuaded Torres to lead the way.

I have not met the man, and I won't until today (Sept. 18), but I am already impressed. I'm telling tales out of school here, but why not? This new Kaitz leader strikes me as being very different and awesomely proactive already. I never saw this in the past.

Having been at this gig for 10 years, I can't tell you how hard it was to even get past presidents of Kaitz to write a forum piece in anticipation of "Diversity Week." We begged and extended deadlines, but they could never get their act together.

Not this go-round. Torres, as you will see from the adjacent page, wanted the opportunity to spell out his talking points, and they are different. We like what we're hearing so far.

But he just didn't do it just here. The Wall Street Journal ran a piece on him last week-something unheard of in terms of ink on former Kaitz efforts. I cannot remember the venerable Wall Street Journal ever writing about the Kaitz Foundation's efforts. And this is the difference-this man is already making it happen.

We view this as very positive as Torres widens the circle of interest about a very real social ailment. But don't be remiss: He can't do it alone. We wrote about this last in February, when USA Networks chieftain Barry Diller gave the Kaitz Foundation a $6 million infusion to recruit minorities from outside of the business to new-media jobs both in cable and broadcast.

So remember, when you're fearful of breaking a crown on the overcooked chicken at this week's Kaitz dinner, that one person, Torres, no matter how strong his credentials and passions are, cannot do it alone.

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