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FSN REPORTER SOTO ALWAYS ON THE GO.

Byline: TOM HOFFARTH The Media

Late last August, on the same night the annual Los Angeles Emmy Awards were being presented by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in North Hollywood, USC was opening its 2004 football season across the country against Virginia Tech in Landover, Md.

Lindsay Soto had a choice: Stay home and attend the ceremonies - she was nominated in three different categories - or take the assignment covering the top-ranked Trojans.

``It was the first game of the year and I'd been looking forward to it all summer,'' she said. ``If I was going to cover the team all year, it was necessary to be there and be consistent.''

Greg Dowling, the news director for Fox Sports Net's ``Southern California Sports Report'' and Soto's boss, told her he could send another reporter to that game, ``but that just shows she's more focused on what she has to do than on awards.''

Even more so, after she won the Emmy for best sports reporting, it took a few weeks before Soto even had the time to pick it up from his Dowling's office.

For Soto, a 28-year-old USC broadcasting school graduate from Orange County who has been in her second stint with FSN since being hired full- time in January 2003, work continues to be a series of choices, from the anchor desk to editing bay to practice field, depending on the day of the week and sport in season.

Her schedule earlier this week was fairly typical: Report from UCLA basketball coach Ben Howland's press conference Tuesday; report from Tiger Woods' news conference at Riviera Country Club on Wednesday, then hustle over to interview Luc Robitaille at his Beverly Hills home on the NHL season's cancellation (all three of those pieces aired Wednesday night); finish a feature story on Fred Claire and the ball he owns that was used for the last out of the 1988 World Series (to air tonight); and host FSN's ``High School Spotlight'' show Thursday.

Then, tonight, Saturday and Sunday comes a curveball - for the first time, Soto co-anchors the 10 p.m. ``SCSR'' from the Staples Center studio.

``I really love reporting out in the field most, and when I'm away from it, I feel like I'm getting out of touch and might start asking stupid questions,'' Soto said. ``I haven't felt I've been missing out on anything by not being an anchor, but this will be my first time on the set. We'll see how it goes. It's a totally new challenge out of my comfort zone.''

Said Dowling: ``It's just the next step in her very rapid development. Ironically in today's age, a lot of talent want to anchor more and get into the studio because they think it's less grunt work, but she's never come to us and asked to get behind the desk because she really enjoys being out at the events.

``I think she knows that, for her career, anchoring a couple of times a week will pay off. Based on her other work in the studio, I think she'll do very well.''

Multitasking is just part of the makeup for Soto, who, it should be noted, was named as both the reporter and producer for her Emmy win in outstanding sports reporting (the other four candidates were reporters with different producers included in the nomination).

Ever since she became an intern at FSN while at USC in the late '90s and did all the behind-the-scenes tasks - production assistant, stage manager, lugging a camera around and editing video tape - she made her ascension that much more credible. She takes her job more seriously than getting more camera face time.

The impulse might be to cut corners, but Soto's path - which included leaving to work in smaller TV markets such as Yakima, Wash., and Santa Barbara - is as much knowing about what goes into making a story work as it is giving her an edge that she'll use to making the entire broadcast better.

``I know what a producer will need from a story by having done it myself,'' said Soto, who calls herself a bit of a perfectionist.

``It just adds to a depth of knowledge that can only help the complete broadcast. In the beginning, that might have thrown me off because I tried to overthink everything, but finally I got past that and I think it makes a smooth transition in all areas.''

The exposure she gained doing so much of USC's football coverage has only helped. From reporting regularly on the team to hosting the school's weekly magazine show to anchoring special events such as Heisman Trophy shows and bowl specials over the past few seasons, she is constantly striving to be a few steps ahead on the pursuit of fresh information.

``It probably helped with credibility covering the same team like USC, which had this added national exposure,'' Soto said.

``If you become the face they see each day, it can't help but raise your profile. But USC fans know so much about their team that the challenge is finding new information daily. I hate to just rehash what's in the morning newspapers.

``It's the same as when I cover the Lakers, or any other high-profile team. When they start to know you and see you've invested time and you're not just going to let them get away with the PR answers to questions, you can cut through a lot of the B.S. and get what you need.''

While she enjoys the rewards of doing high school sports and developing a niche, Soto has decided her next challenge will be trying to do more sideline reporting. She has done some on FSN's live high school football coverage, and even a USC road game for 1540-AM. Come this fall, there could be an opening on FSN's Pacific-10 Conference weekly package.

``The great thing about working at Fox is getting to do so many different things in so many capacities,'' Soto said. ``It's the ideal job in that sense.''

The fear someone such as her boss Dowling has, aside from losing her to another network, is trying to throw too many things her way at once.

``Someone this talented, we could easily overwork her and if we're putting too much on her plate we want to slow down,'' Dowling said.

``But by the same token, she's ready to do it. Someone who works this hard and is that knowledgeable is a combination you want in all areas of your broadcast.''

Especially if you don't mind picking up a few Emmys along the way.

SPORTS TV ANCHORS/REPORTERS/HOSTS/STUDIO ANALYSTS

TOP 10

1. Jim Hill

KCBS Channel 2

Station management almost has to force him take vacations because he's on so much, including the weekend expanded ``Sports Central'' shows. As contract renewal talks begin with the station, and as KCBS and KCAL become more intertwined (with the latter becoming the station of the Dodgers in 2006), the King of the Hill's workload will only increase. Probably to his liking.

Last year: 1.

2. John Ireland

KCAL Channel 9

Equally tireless, well connected, willing to go the extra yard on any assignment, his daily work on radio keeps him in tune with what the fans want to know about.

Last year: 2.

3. Bill Macdonald

Fox Sports Net

His passion is more play-by-play, but the ageless wonder makes interviewing athletes after games and hosting pregame shows look so easy that anyone assumes they could do it just as well. Simply put, they can't.

Last year: Mysteriously left unranked.

4. Curt Sandoval

KABC Channel 7

Could easily be the No. 1 guy at any other channel, in or out of L.A.,, what sets him apart is his constant desire to find the inspiring stories to go after.

Last year: 3.

5. Lindsay Soto

Fox Sports Net

With Hannah Storm and Diane Sawyer as role models, it's no surprise you'll never get her to compromise herself (i.e., wear a bikini to do a story on beach volleyball) for the sake of getting attention. ``You have to have substance to have staying power and you won't last long in any market if your credibility is shot,'' she said. ``They all know at Fox how I feel about that. I'm too self conscious anyway. That's my own insecurity. I'd be mortified to have to do something like that.'' Her husband would probably have something to say about that, too.

Last year: Honorable mention.

6. Fred Roggin

KNBC Channel 4

His bio on the station's Web site notes that in 1990, he was voted ``Best Sportscaster'' in the Los Angeles Daily News ``Dream Team'' reader's poll. So, what happened in the 15 polls since then?

Last year: 4.

7. Petros Papadakis

Fox Sports Net

It's where he started before his radio career took off, and the go-to USC analyst during the fall and, more recently, the offseason shakeups. He remains one of the most refreshing personalities among all the FSN talent.

Last year: Honorable mention.

8. Patrick O'Neal

Fox Sports Net

Considering he's the son of actor Ryan O'Neal (whose real first name is Patrick) and actress Leigh Taylor-Young, half-brother of former actress Tatum O'Neal, has two daughters with actress Rebecca DeMornay, and even did some thespian work himself (rent ``Die Hard 2''), sportscasting might not be a paper moon, but it isn't such a risky business.

Last year: Unranked.

9. Steve Hartman

KCBS Channel 2 and KCAL Channel 9

Despite the commercial endorsements, can you really tell if his hairline has been receding?

Last year: 7.

10. Barry LeBrock

Fox Sports Net

His spread in Men's Fitness magazine last September included this: ``(He) didn't even notice at first that he was packing on the pounds ... (until) one of his nieces made a fat joke at his expense.'' So he dropped about 25 pounds and no one confuses him anymore with Michael Eaves.

Last year: 9.

Honorable mention: Mario Solis and Bill Seward, KNBC Channel 4; Sean Farham and Matt Stevens, Fox Sports Net; John Hartung, KABC Channel 7.

BOTTOM 5

1. Damon Andrews

KTLA Channel 5

We're trying to cut him some slack, since he's new to the market, but until he learns about the fine line between clever and cornball, all he does is waste the two minutes allotted between Hal Fishman's rambling rants and the rerun of ``Friends.'' Got so bad they even added a drum riff to his final attempt at a joke the other night. For this, they gave up on Tony Hernandez?

Last year: Not ranked.

2. Jack Haley

Fox Sports Net

If Dennis Rodman can make a comeback in the ABA, there's outside hope that Captain Jack can refocus and make a comeback as a media member. No question about his hard work and ability to land interviews with Lakers players, but outside of that, how can anyone take him seriously when he keeps referring to his playing days?

Last year: 1, bottom five.

3. Rob Fukuzaki

KABC Channel 7

His cameo in the flick ``Coach Carter'' could mark a career highlight in field reporting. That might be the first time he's gotten out of the studio to report since they lowered the price on the Chris Berman Burger on the ESPN Zone menu.

Last year: 4, bottom five.

4. Alan Massengale

KCAL Channel 9

Your cover is blown. They've devoted a full 15 minutes to you a night, which guys at other channels would kill for, and all we get is a loosey- goosey highlights held together with random quips and feigned smirks. Forgive us if we've come to expect more.

Last year: 5, top 10.

5. Rick Garcia

KTTV Channel 11

Sorry, but his continued association with Lauren Sanchez on the other channel has thrown his sportscasting career under the bust.

Last year: 8, top 10.

Horrible mention: Michael Eaves, Fox Sports Net (anchor jive talk aside, he's making progress as an aggressive reporter at news conferences); Carolyn Hughes, Fox Sports Net (The lateral move from blonde to mousy brown may be an improvement, but it would be better if she could suppress the giggling during interviews and other cutesy commentary); Jennifer Gould, KTTV Channel 11 (Maybe there's a way she can muscle her way onto the ``Good Day L.A.'' set and take out Steve Edwards' obnoxious co-hosts); James Worthy, KCAL Channel 9 (Respected the heck out of him as a player, but as a broadcaster, he could be called ``The Mailman'' for his prep work on Lakers telecasts).

CAPTION(S):

photo, box

Photo:

(color) Fox Sports Net's Lindsay Soto won a local Emmy for her reporting last year.

John Lazar/Staff Photographer

Box:

SPORTS TV ANCHORS/REPORTERS/HOSTS/STUDIO ANALYSTS (see text)
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 18, 2005
Words:2124
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