When people think about Univision in Monterey County, one person immediately comes to mind. From delivering the news and sports to managing the newsroom, Fidel M. Soto has left an indelible mark on thousands of viewers.
Like many Monterey County residents, Soto is originally from Michoacan, Mexico. He came to the area following the American dream, but realized it wasn’t that easy. “The work in the field it’s very hard,” he says in Spanish. He toiled in the fields for five years, then got a job in Spanish-language radio while studying at the Center for Employment Training in Salinas. He got into news by chance. “Nobody wanted to do news,” he says.
The job paid $2.35 an hour in 1979 – minimum wage. Soto jumped from radio to TV in the late ’70s, when Spanish language television in the U.S. was booming. Making the transition wasn’t easy. “You need to look at the camera, write concisely, make a news story the shortest and comprehensible.”
He started his TV career in Modesto at Channel 19 in 1983. Five years later, he return to Monterey County and remained at Central Coast Univision 67 (now Univision Costa Central) for 30 years.
Soto continues to host on Radio Bilingue, reporting on local sports in Destellos Deportivos. He also has two Zoom programs, one covering sports (Deportes con Fidel M. Soto) and one on news and politics (A Quema Ropa).
Weekly: You have a middle initial. What does it stand for?
Soto: When I was in radio, I used Fidel Soto. It sounded really dry, so I chose to use the M from my second last name from Mexico, which is Mendez. It was a tremendous success. It differentiates me from the one who harvests lettuce.
Many people remember you as a sportscaster. How did that start?
There were not enough people [in the newsroom], so I had to be the news anchor and sportscaster. The reason they hired me here was that they had no one who knew about sports.
I thought you retired, but you now have two Zoom programs.
A friend who has a Zoom program invited me. They liked what I did. I started to connect to their program regularly. I was asked, “Why don’t you do a sports program?” Then I noticed I had Wednesday available, so I started A Quema Ropa, a program to talk about other themes except sports.
Why is Chivas your favorite soccer team?
Because it’s a unique model in the world. There is only one team that has “material” players – 100-percent Mexican. In Spain, there is a team that has something similar, El Atlético de Bilbao, which has only Vasco [Basque] players. But in no way does it compare to El Guadalajara in Mexico. It’s second in championships. America is first with 13 titles, followed by El Guadalajara with 12.
Although El Guadalajara is no longer the successful team it once was, they keep this idiosyncrasy. El Guadalajara bought a team that was called Chivas USA and they wanted to replicate the Mexican model, but it can’t be done here, because it’s discrimination.
Who are your favorite soccer players?
At the international level? at Chivas level? At Mexico’s level? Chicharito Hernandez. His story is very interesting. He is one the greatest models from Mexico. He has a lot of charisma – everyone is always talking about him. He is my player. He won’t go to the World Cup, by the way. He was frozen out by the national team, despite the fact that he is historically the goal scorer. No one has scored as many as he has.
What’s the state of television news?
Newscasts are in a great predicament because they keep traditional times. Each year, viewership is going down and young people aren’t very engaged.
How can that change?
The only advantage that local newscasts have is the local content. It can’t be reproduced at the national or international level. That’s the secret. If they keep supporting that, then local newscasts will sustain.
Do you think there is a need for more coverage of news in Spanish in Monterey County?
There is always more need for local coverage. But there have always been financial issues. We are at a big disadvantage. How much do politicians spend on Channel 8 for example, for coverage? Millions of dollars. And at Channel 67? Thousands of dollars.