Looking down from great heights

 By Erik Squire
 Staff Writer

With a view of the explosive sunset and the streams of red and white lights, an office with a window never seemed so nice. What makes the sights even more special is when the office flies about 100 feet above the Southern California coastline.

Jorge Jarrin, traffic reporter for KABC radio since 1985, earns a living flying among some of Los Angeles’ most beautiful sunsets.

But Jarrin had to pay his dues before he reached such heights. A 1979 Seaver College graduate, Jarrin received a B.A. in theater arts. From there, he would not have been able to predict he would be flying a newscopter over Los Angeles each day.

“(Graduating from Pepperdine) I had no idea what I was going to do,” Jarrin said.

“Becoming a newscaster was a dream of mine at that time.”

Jarrin worked as an NBC page for two years after graduating from Pepperdine, giving hour-long tours.

“Keeping people entertained for an hour is great training,” Jarrin said. “It gave me an opportunity to think on my feet.”

He also worked backstage for shows on NBC such as “The Johnny Carson Show.”

Jarrin got married just before becoming the Public Relations manager for the Coliseum in Los Angeles. There he dealt first-hand with the 1984 Olympics held at the Coliseum. He also took part in a radio/television sports talk show for KABC.

Jarrin is the son of Jamie Jarrin a radio sportscaster who has broadcast for the Dodgers in Spanish for more than 40 years.

One day a KABC executive was listening to Jarrin the younger Jarrin on the radio on his way to a Dodger game, liked the way he sounded and went looking for him at the stadium.

“He wanted to know how I felt about flying and doing the traffic report,” Jarrin said.

Never having flown before, Jarrin was skeptical about entering the field. But his feelings quickly changed.

Two weeks later, after KABC held several auditions for the position, Jarrin was selected and sent to a Houston partner station. As training, he flew in the back seat of a chopper for two weeks.

“I came back (after the training) and they had a plane waiting for me,” Jarrin said.

The rest is history. Jarrin’s traffic report has been a constant part of KABC’s morning show in a city where change usually is the only constant thing.

“I’ve had a lot of fun, I’ve become a part of the morning show, participating in all aspects,” Jarrin said. “It’s loose and carefree in the morning.”

A typical day for Jarrin goes something like this: He wakes up at 4 a.m., heads to the airport and is on the air as early as 5:15 a.m. For the first 45 minutes or so, Jarrin reports mainly Cal Trans closures. His morning news ends around 10 a.m. each morning and he is due back in the chopper later in the day for his late afternoon 4-6 p.m. traffic news segments.

“People used to joke a lot how I had a 17-hour work week with 10-hour lunch breaks,” Jarrin said.

But that didn’t hold true for Jarrin very long. He is a partner in the RLR/Jarrin advertising agency, a company that Jarrin devotes much of his extra time to.

“It’s grown to do advertising and marketing for Verizon from Texas and all the states west of it, the L.A. Zoo in both English and Spanish and the Fox Sports Americas Network, among others,” Jarrin said. “It’s an up-and-coming ad agency and my job is to open doors and get our new business.”

In the process, more doors have opened up for Jarrin. Each week, he broadcasts a game of the week for DIRECTV, as well as filling in a couple nights a month for KTLA sports. He also has had a trial run at a 1-3 p.m. ESPN radio show that could become permanent.

Jarrin also finds time to be a part of the Latin Business Association, the Oscar De La Hoya Foundation and the Pepperdine University Latino Advisory Council.

Since Jarrin’s father was a Spanish-language broadcaster, his commitment in this area of service runs deep.

In working with the Alta Med Health Foundation, Jarrin organizes and hosts the annual “Jorge Jarrin Golf Classic,” where proceeds go toward health care for more than 30,000 needy families throughout Southern California.

After both stints in the air and his time spent at RLR/Jarrin and his other businesses ventures, he arrives home for the night long after those gorgeous sunsets.

“It’s definitely a long day,” Jarrin said. “I’ve been getting up at four in the morning for all these years, but you never get used to it.

“I make it home for dinner about 95 percent of the time. I’ll eat dinner, catch Sports Center, and I’m usually done and asleep by 9:30, sometimes before my kids.”

And when the situation asks for more, Jarrin’s schedule can be even more brutal. “During the Malibu fires, I worked 12-hour days,” he said.

But Jarrin’s job in the sky is the most meaningful. “The purpose of my profession is to inform and to provide them with the most accurate and up-to-date information,” Jarrin said. “It’s important for me to provide the information in an accurate and timely manner. If I can minimize blatancy and make you chuckle a little, it helps. But unfortunately, I have nothing but bad news to report.”

Occasionally, horrific events cast a dark shadow as high as Jarrin’s chopper. “(One of the most horrifying things I’ve seen is) Murder victims lying on their back looking straight up (to me in the chopper),” Jarrin said.

The choppers themselves can sometimes present problems. “Out of 17 years, we’ve had five different occasions (with the chopper), four of which we did a precautionary landing,” Jarrin said. “One time I had an engine failure right after we took off.

“It lurched to the left, lights and sirens went off and we landed around Roscoe and the I-405 freeway in a vacant field. We had to come down pretty hard, but we were able to walk away.”

In the long-run, Jarrin enjoys the benefits of his job. “(One of the joys of my job is) flying around 100 feet above the water, watching dolphins jump out and whales migrate,” he said.

Jarrin’s love for such sights can be traced to his days here at Pepperdine. “When I was at Pepperdine living in dorm 11, I’d walk out and look at the ocean,” Jarrin said. “It always looked slightly different each day.

“Every day, getting up in the air, it’s a little different. Physically, it’s so beautiful. It’s so bright and gold in one direction and so bright and red in another.”

Jarrin’s advice for college graduates and others entering into the job market?

“I wouldn’t have been around for the last 17 years if I hadn’t been prepared to handle myself,” Jarrin said.

Jarrin says graduates should be open to the wide array of possibilities.

“Look for every opportunity and don’t be afraid to try any particular aspect,” Jarrin said. “Don’t be afraid to fail. Every failure brings you one step closer to success.”

And Jarrin has been rewarded for his own great success. In 1993, the Associated Press awarded four top awards to Jorge and KABC for reporting the Los Angeles riots following the LAPD/Rodney King trial.

The Associated Press also awarded Jarrin for his live coverage of a Highway Patrol pursuit and hostage situation.

The City of Los Angeles honored Jorge with a “Outstanding Contributions as an Excellent and Accomplished Broadcaster” award. Even as Jarrin’s awards and experiences live as a testament to his own advice, there is one dream he says he still has yet to accomplish.

“I want to be in a position to pick up where my dad left off doing the Dodger broadcasting in Spanish.”