John White: The Dean of Coachella Valley Broadcast Journalists.

By | August 14, 2013 at 4:30 pm | No comments | Columns, Feature Stories, Public Personalities

By Judith Salkin

Of course that title might not play too well when White hits the golf course with friends like Patrick Evans, Kris Long and Gino LaMont. All the anchors love to joke around, including via text message while they’re on their individual nightly newscasts.
Unlike major markets where choice on-air positions often breed stiff competition, here in the valley there is more camaraderie between the anchors.
For valley residents who have watched him from his earliest days as the host of a weekly cable public affairs show to his current position as co-anchor with Karen Divine on KESQ’s 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts, White has become one of the Coachella Valley’s most trusted newscasters.
His original path wasn’t news, though, he said recently from the KESQ studios in Thousand Palms.
White, 46, grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois where he earned his bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. It wasn’t until his junior year that he finally declared his major and at the time was more interested in sports than news. “I wanted to do play-by-play and field reporting,” he said.
White met Cynthia, his future wife, who was from California in school. Since she wanted to return to her home state, White drove to the Coachella Valley with her, then flew home to Illinois to pack up his car and head back to the desert.
“I came out here to follow my dream,” he said of the trip back to a place where there was no job waiting for him. “We both figured it would be easier to find a job in a smaller market. It’s something that’s a lot easier to do where you’re 24 and don’t have any responsibilities yet.”
His first valley broadcast job started in 1991 on the old KNWZ-AM.
“When I came here none of the (television) stations were doing weekend or early morning news shows,” he recalled. “You took what you could find.”
Within a year White had picked up a second gig with the local cable company doing a weekly half-hour public affairs wrap-up show on weekends.
He started at KESQ in 1995 and stayed until 1997 as a reporter. At the time, “The studios were still in a tiny building in Cathedral City,” he said.
In ’97, White moved to Harrisburg, Penn., to work at WHP-TV. White’s daughter, Jacqueline was born while he worked in Harrisburg, but White wanted to return to the Coachella Valley.
In 2000, White was asked to take over the evening anchor chair at KESQ.
In that position White has interviewed former governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pete Wilson, President Gerald Ford and other newsmakers and reported on stories including Sept. 11 Attacks, the Valley’s Growth Boom, expansion of Indian gaming, the Salton Sea, 1992 Landers Earthquake, the Power Crisis and O.J. Simpson Verdict, and the Colorado wildfires in 2012.
The recent cohabitation of the KESQ and CBS Local 2 teams in one building has given both news teams a combined power when it comes to covering big stories in the valley, as on the recent Mountain and Silver fires when both sets of anchors shared the same broadcasts.
“We all have our own personalities,” White said. The hope, he added, was that by combining the news casts the viewers would get a more comprehensive view of what was happening. “Hopefully the viewers appreciated it.”
A good poker player and avid golfer, living in the Coachella Valley means combining his favorite game with charities he supports.
“I get to associate my favorite game with worthy associations,” he said. Two of White’s favorites are the Humana Challenge Golf Tournament and Patrick Warburton Golf for Kids Celebrity Golf Tournament.
Between the world class golf, restaurants and concerts, combined with the valley’s small town feel, White seems content.
“We have it all,” he said. “A wonderful quality of life and if you want to go to a major league ball game or the beach for the day, it’s only a couple of hours away.”

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