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Maria Elena Salinas leaving Univision's nightly newscast

AP

Univision News anchor Maria Elena Salinas — one of the most recognizable and respected journalists in Spanish-language media — is stepping down.

Univision announced in a tweet Thursday night that the longtime evening news anchor will leave Univision at the end of the year. Salinas’ departure will mark the end of an era: For more than 30 years, millions of immigrants in the U.S. have faithfully turned to Salinas and co-anchor Jorge Ramos to learn the news of the day on Univision.

Salinas has won many awards, including an Emmy and a Peabody Award. She has interviewed every U.S. president since Jimmy Carter, with the exception of President Donald Trump.

Salinas serves as co-anchor of “Noticiero Univision,” the highly rated evening news broadcast on the nation’s largest Spanish language network, and as co-host of the news magazine program “Aqui y Ahora.”

“I was one of the students who looked up to her when I was young, watching her on TV,” said Brandon Benavides, 36, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists organization and the executive producer of “Good Morning San Antonio” morning show, which runs on that city’s ABC affiliate station.

“Growing up, there were very few Latina and Latino journalists on TV,” Benavides said. “And both of my grandmothers — on my mother’s side, and my father’s side — would watch her on ‘Noticiero Univision.’ After the telenovelas, my grandmothers would watch the news.”

The Los Angeles native, the daughter of working-class Mexican immigrants, began her career in 1981 in her hometown. Six years later, she became the co-anchor of the national newscast at a time when few women in TV news were taken seriously.

When CBS hired Katie Couric to be its evening news anchor amid much hype in 2006, Salinas just smiled politely. She had blazed a similar trail with much less fanfare nearly 20 years earlier. And Salinas has thrived in the role, connecting with viewers by delivering the news in a straightforward and rapid-fire style.

A representative of Univision was not immediately available for comment. The company, in a statement, said it would announce a new co-anchor for its flagship news program in the coming months.

Salinas and co-anchor Ramos in May appeared before advertisers to defend the network’s aggressive reporting on such issues as immigration reform. Unlike their English-language journalist counterparts, Salinas and Ramos have long viewed their roles not as dispassionate observers but as advocates to provide a voice for Univision’s audience, including its immigrant viewers who struggle to speak English.

Salinas drew controversy — and loud boos — when she discussed Univision’s coverage of Trump, who was then a candidate, during a commencement address last year at Cal State Fullerton. When she spoke briefly in Spanish, some in the crowd shouted for her to get off the stage. She later attributed the dust-up to political divisions in the country.

“I am grateful for having had the privilege to inform and empower the Latino community through the work my colleagues and I do with such passion at Univision every day,” Salinas said in a statement Thursday night. “I thank our audience for their trust and loyalty through the years, and want them to know that as long as I have a voice, I will always use it to speak on their behalf.”

The news division, headquartered in Doral, is part of the nation’s largest Spanish-language media company, Univision Communications, which has been taking steps to boost prime-time ratings with edgier shows.

But even as its prime-time lineup struggled in the ratings, the evening newscast held its audiences of about 2 million viewers each night, underscoring the influence and appeal of Salinas and Ramos.

“She has been a trailblazer,” Benavides said. “She has touched a lot of people in the 36 years that she has been on Univision.”

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