PUM catches up with Patrice King Brown- Former KDKA-TV News Anchor who is currently living the good life in Southern California
King reflects on her career, thoughts about interracial marriage, her current projects and watching the news with a critical eye
After reigning as one of Pittsburgh’s most adored television news anchors for more than three decades, PUM caught up with Patrice King Brown who tells us more about what life is like for her after retiring from KDKA-TV January 28, 2011. In our one on one interview, Ms. Brown also shares her thoughts about the news business, especially now that she has time to watch a newscast with a critical eye.
She grew up in the Sheraden section of Pittsburgh, and had been a fixture on local television, beginning with "Pittsburgh 2 Day" in 1978. In 1989, she became morning news anchor at the station. In 2006, Ms. Brown became engaged to Paul Nemiroff, a surgeon and former KDKA-TV medical reporter who came to Pittsburgh from Los Angeles. The pair married and now lives in Southern California, which is home to Ms. Brown's mother and other family members.
After her departure from KDKA-TV many of her fans still believe there is a huge void in the television market without her daily presence on the evening news because they had come to love and respect her friendly-face always poised to share the news of the day.
PUM: When ever your name is mentioned here in Pittsburgh Patrice often people say to me that they still miss you as a broadcaster, what can you tell your fans about how you are doing since your retirement in January 2011.
PKB-Oh my gosh, first of all that is so kind of all those people who were so much a part of my life for so many years and frankly I miss them as well, but life is wonderful it’s completed different. We are spending most of our time in southern California now; my husband does a lot of lecturing so occasionally I get hired to MC their medical meetings or whatever he is doing - we have a wonderful trip to Spain coming up because his company wants him to do some work in Spain, and you know that’s one that I had to go to, it’s just a completely different world. Pittsburgh was so wonderful to me, every time I fly into Pittsburgh, no matter what the weather –you know, southern California people are so-‘oh the weather is so fabulous, it’s so beautiful,’ yes it is, but when I come home, it’s like, I’m home. When I come back to Pittsburgh this is home for me where friends and family and great memories really are.
PUM: It terms of the news business what do you miss most?
PKB: (Laughing) well I’ll tell you the truth, there are some things about certain stories or stories that break and you just kind of get that itch and you feel like I know that I can do this and I can do that, actually I would be watching other newscasts in other cities and thinking why aren't they doing x-y-z, you know because I worked 33 years on that –you know that’s a long, long time, in fact I did it longer than I didn't do it. I do miss sometimes that adrenaline rush, and also the feel of knowing that I am giving people the information that we really think that they need to have or something that would impact their lives, in some way they need to know that there is a danger out there or that there is something new and protecting out there or what is happening with their budget or their health care, those sorts of things every once in a while I miss. But the time and the grind of getting something in by x and having to be there for very -very long days-I don’t miss those that much. I do miss the crew to; I miss my TV brothers and sisters that was a very important part of the job because we were really a very important part of the team.
PUM: Stepping outside the business and now watching television news, what is your perspective of news?
PKB: I don’t think any of us watch it like any normal person; I look at it frankly unfairly with a very critical eye. I think what we have done over the years in the Pittsburgh market, at KDKA-TV and other stations there as well was really solid good work and now particularly I guess in southern California, and I don’t mean to sound negative, it seems that there’s so much more fluff, they have their crime reports, but they do so many things that it’s a lighter newscast, it’s not so much about news it’s a lot about looks it’s a lot about beauty and people are beautiful, but it’s like OK yeah I got that-let’s get to the meat of it, so I watch it a little more critically than anybody else does out here does. (PUM: So you think it’s a little more celebrity driven?) Absolutely, from early morning to late night its very much celebrity driven and I’m not sure that-that is always the best, I’m not sure that’s the information everyone needs. I remember years ago Dan Rather saying when we start covering celebrities as news its somewhat of a slippery sloop, well, they slid all the way out here.
PUM: You are one of the first African-American women in the country to hold 6 and 11 p.m. anchor slots. As an African American female working in the television business, you often see and hear about the lack of African American women working in the industry or its reported that they are frequently losing their jobs more readily, for instance, CNN recently announced they are getting rid of Soledad O’Brien, from your vantage point what do you think is happening to Black women working in the television industry?
PKB: I think for the longest time, African American journalists, I think that our contribution is incredible, and important, I think we all bring too whatever we report the sum total of our lives experiences, and our lives experiences are different from those of other ethnicities and other races, and so I think it is a very important piece, I started to notice, I guess a few years ago , there seemed to be a swing, and it’s not that you want somebody only because they are African American, you want them because they are skilled, you want them because they present the right information and they can do that, but this is an extra bonus, to give perspectives to life all around-there seems to be a push back to the 50’s, that we have more women on the air than I've ever seen before, and in the 50’s we didn't obviously have that, but as far as different ethnicities and African American women in particular, not necessarily, I think that’s a swing backwards in my opinion. I think that there is several things that may contribute to that, I know that college expenses are ridiculous, so that limits sometimes the people to learn the skills and there is still in television, as in many other industries a network of people who kind of connect, so if we don’t reach down and pull somebody back up who might not have an opportunity, that opportunity is absolutely lost already.
PUM: When you reflect on spending all the time in the business-thirty some years, what are some of your thoughts now that you have some time to reflect on your career?
PKB: What I would like to think, and I’m not sure that we don’t all look back –depending on the day, what you look back and see, I like to look back and think about the many young people we worked with throughout the years who are now in different locations and are presenting news and are teaching and are writing and are continuing to help people have a voice, and there are many young people who came through KDKA’s newsrooms, as interns and reporters who didn't stay in Pittsburgh for whatever reason, but I would like to think that often we had good honest solid conversations about what they could expect from the industry what it was like, what the challenges that they faced socially were still part of the industry itself. Years ago when I was growing up they always had that phrase that you had to be, as an Africa American you had to work twice as hard to get half as far, I don’t know if that is still exactly the case but there still is a ton of hard work involved in making sure that we have a presence and a voice and I would like to think that I have made a contribution and I hope at times that I was a good role model for young people if they thought about this industry about communications about broadcasting about news and about talk, that they could say that she did make a difference. I was so excited, I get this note from so many different channels, you know the actress Tamera Tunie, she grew up in Pittsburgh, she sent a note through all sorts of people, I was presented an award when I frankly won a lifetime Emmy in broadcast, and she said I remember growing up watching a woman by the name of Patrice King Brown and she said if she can do that I can do that, and I have sent a note back –that made me feel fabulous, that her presences as strong as she is as an actress in “Law and Order’” and when she was on the soaps, and in the movie “Flight” with Denzel, and so many different things, she might not have done that if she didn't see a face that looked like hers.
PUM: And what a beautiful face you have Patrice, how does being beautiful translate there in sunny California for you where there is so much emphasis placed on looks?
PKB: You know probably if I were younger I would be exhausted by it as well, but at this point in my life you know I have a son in his 30’s and a daughter in her late 20’s –you know my mom lives out here, and I do see my family often, both my brothers are out here, my son and my mom.
PUM: There are statistics that indicate that a large number of African American women won't ever marry because of the lack of available black men. You went on to marry a successful white man, what about that experience. Are those dating options something you would recommend to other single black women to cast a wider net regardless of color?
PKB: I don’t know that it’s a recommendation I think it’s more an occurrence, your right there was an open mind, I had come out of a very long term marriage to an African American man, It wasn't that in marrying my husband that I was looking for someone who wasn't. As my mother put it, she said sometimes God just put these people in your path and for whatever reason you don’t know why and you have to be surprised sometimes and sometimes they come in a different package. When my relationship came along I wasn't looking to be in a relationship, he’s pretty amazing but we started out as truly friends, just really friends and over a period of a year it began to change and I struggled with the race issue and I would think about it and was it something I wanted to do, was it an example I wanted to set and it’s not that there’s a problem it’s just I wasn't sure if I was completely comfortable with it. It was something that I really -really weighed and then you get to the point of do I do things because I want other people to think something or do I want to do things that may work for me because I could be happy here. After coming out of a long term and difficult time it was like you know what I can do this, although we dated for about six years before we got married, it was not a quick turn about.
PUM: So where are you now in your life? Are you satisfied? Are you moving toward some new goals and projects?
PKB: Well right now I am ruminating many projects, because I worked for so long on a specific schedule, it’s very difficult for me, even though we travel a lot and a lot of the work I’m doing, I’m doing some voice work out here, and some other things to, there was an adrenaline that I did have to deal with for many - many years and that kind of lacks, and you relax and you enjoy it but then there are days you say I really ought to be doing more, I know that I can do more. So I’m looking at connecting with my Sorority out here for projects, for the AKA’s there are always good charitable projects, also getting to know people on the west coast, but I am also enjoying spending time with my family, like yesterday I spent the afternoon with my mother we were up at my brothers place at Manhattan beach and that was just a very lovely day and if I were working full time I wouldn't be able to do that. I’m not looking for a full time project at all, but part time things and occasional things kind of to keep my hands in because it’s really hard to give everything up all at one time but life is good, it’s really, I have so many blessings, and I really didn't know that it could be quite like this….
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