A controversial pioneer, Geraldo Rivera is best known for his shocking talk shows and his sensational style of television journalism. He has also been a highly regarded investigative reporter, however, and he has won numerous industry awards for his work.
Rivera was born in New York City to a Puerto Rican father and a Jewish mother. He was conflicted over his mixed ethnic back¬ ground and changed his name briefly to Jerry Rivers to avoid discrimination. He eventually came to accept and embrace both of his her¬ itages and reclaimed his given name.
After high school, Rivera joined the mer¬ chant marines. He earned his bachelors degree from the University ofArizona in 1965 and his law degree from the Brooklyn Law School in 1969. He then became a practicing attorney in New York City. He worked as a poverty lawyer and became the spokesman for a radical Puerto Rican movement, the Young Lords.
His work for the group caught the attention ofWABC-TV, a local television station seeking to recruit minority broadcasters. He was hired to work as a newscaster and quickly established himself as an aggressive investigative reporter.
Riveras breakthrough story, “Drug Crisis in East Harlem,” earned him the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association Award in 1971. In 1972, he profiled the deplorable conditions at the Willowbrook State School for the Mentally Retarded on Staten Island.
The story earned him a job as host of the national program Good Night, America. Later, he also went to work as a reporter for Good Morning, America. In 1978, he became a special correspondent for the ABC news magazine 20120. He held that job for seven years and continued to build his reputation as a sensa¬ tionalist journalist.
In 1985, Rivera’s much-anticipated pro¬ gram, “The Opening of A1 Capone’s Vault,” was a major disappointment when the opened vault revealed nothing more than old glass bot¬ tles, In 1987, he debuted his own show, Geraldo, which transformed the previously tame daytime talk show format by featuring shocking guests and controversial topics.
On an episode about teenage white supremacists, a brawl broke out, and Rivera suffered a broken nose in the scuffle.Rivera has had a troubled personal life. His first two marriages ended in divorce. He has been ridiculed for being self-indulgent and insincere about his love for his Latino heritage.
Rivera has also won the respect of his peers, however, by receiving numerous awards.These awards include seven Emmy Awards, three Broadcaster of the Year Awards, and a Peabody Award.In 1994, he debuted an issues-oriented news program, Rivera Live, on CNBC. In late 2001, Rivera left the program to resume his career as a news reporter.