Experience through expertise

Lauren Ciallella

By Lauren Ciallella
City Times

Kathi Diamant, known for her work on KPBS’ “San Diego Treasures” and as the anchor/producer of KPBS on-air fundraising, spoke to Spike Sorrentino’s Performance for Television class on Nov. 16.

City students gained first hand perspective in the field, not only from the open forum where Diamant answered a multitude of questions, but also through eight-minute one-on-one interviews with each student. Explaining her background and work experience helped draw a map for students wanting to venture down the same career path.

Diamant’s globetrotting childhood through Paris, Germany and S. Korea, along with theatrical parents made her transition into the spotlight natural.

Eventually landing in North Carolina for her husband’s work, she put her acting dreams on hold. There were no theaters in town, only three television studios. Since the New York stage was not an option at the time she figured, “Until I go, I’ll try my hand at broadcasting.”

Ending up as producer and host of “North Carolina Today” was only the beginning of her television success. Diamant would later move to “Good Morning California” and eventually to “Sun Up San Diego,” which won her an Emmy in 1985 for “Outstanding Performer.”

Forced to do news broadcasting in North Carolina, she realized, “I read the news and smiled a lot, but I never particularly enjoyed it.”

There was little opportunity for features coverage, but Diamant gained useful experience through editing briefs minutes before air-time. Although news casting wasn’t her goal, she learned reporting strategies while paying her dues. Timeliness and the ability to think on her feet were “a lot like adlib or improv theater.”

The pressure for catching quick corrections before air time while “making it your own” was a necessity and she strongly urged students to “practice, practice, practice.”

With her rise on “Sun Up San Diego” and now more recently “San Diego Treasures,” highlighting arts and leisure, Diamant finally is working in her medium.

“Professionally, I am what I do,” said Diamant.

When “Sun Up San Diego” ended in 1990, Diamant delved into other arenas, including her time with KPBS and also The Kafka Project, which she works on with students at SDSU.

The Kafka Project was born in 1997 through Diamant, who at the age of 19 had a professor tell her that her last name was the same as Frances Kafka’s mistress. Intrigued by the mistress, Dora Diamant, who had reportedly given Kafka the happiest years of his life and burned his last works, Kathi Diamant became engrossed in the history behind it.

Through travel, fact checking and painstaking research, Diamant wrote a screenplay, which evolved into a novel. A book proposal for this nonfiction biography, “Kafka’s Last Love” was finally received after several rejections.

“It was a numbers game,” Diamant told students. “It’s a matter of not letting anyone tell you no. If you have a good product, you can get it on the air.”

Persistence and drive were tangible themes in her success and seen through her passion for the book that has now been translated into several languages around the world (in China next year).

An easy environment for questions, the Performance for Television class gave students an opportunity for insight and direction from a sage viewpoint. The ability to receive feedback from an expert in the television field, as well as many other fields (she is also a professor at SDSU), gives hands on knowledge that remains useful long after City College.

Author, on-air anchor, producer and teacher, Diamant revealed through her interaction with students that passion, dedication and personal interest are some of the most important attributes in success. She said, “What I like to do – Every 10 years or so, surprising myself with things I never thought I’d do.”

In closing, Diamant invited students to, “Do it. Start now, make a list. Take the first step, then the second step and things get done. As long as you’re asking questions, you’ll get answers.”