On The Record: José Griñan, Longtime Reporter


Pictured here is José Griñan, longtime news anchor for Fox 26.

Lauren Washington, Reporter

For Fox 26’s longtime morning news anchor José Griñan, conducting an interview is a simple task; however, he generally asks questions rather than answering them. During his 24 years as a reporter for the station, Griñan has covered many major events that have affected the Houston area. Undoubtedly, Griñan is an important asset to the Houston area because of his humble personality, eloquent speaking skills, and dedication to serving the community. 

Griñan’s house was two-stories tall and lined with pristine white bricks. Thick metal poles supported palm trees that started to wither every winter, an odd centerpiece on the well-maintained lawn. ‘Vote Hillary’ signs littered the corners of the yard, in addition to signs endorsing a local judge. Potted plants surrounded the front door, displaying flowers of various shades.

Although his fans are accustomed to seeing him in a suit and tie, Griñan answered the door in casual clothing; he wore a stained t-shirt, loose-fitting shorts, and faded loafers. Away from expensive cameras and elaborate lighting, his skin appeared darker and wrinkled with age. His eyes possessed a certain wisdom that comes from witnessing scenes of triumph and tragedy. Griñan was in the middle of a phone conversation, but paused to usher us into the house.

“Give me one second.” He motioned to what I assumed was the living room. “You can sit down, make yourself comfortable.”

Griñan sauntered down the hallway and turned the corner, rambling about ratings and tomorrow’s coverage. The walls of the front hallway displayed a mixture of family photos and intricate paintings bordered with ornate frames. Much of the art strewn across the walls was African and painted in bold, vibrant colors that popped against the cream-colored walls. In the living room, I took a seat next to my father–who had accompanied me–on the worn leather couch and looked around. Aloe plants and biblical wall decor hung near a cabinet full of boat replicas. A Native American dream catcher was suspended next to the television, surrounded by more artwork. Griñan walked into the living room and turned to us, smiling cordially.

I rose from my seat and extended my hand for a handshake, even though we’d met before through my father (who used to work at the station). Having so little experience with him, I was puzzled when Griñan waved my hand away, even more so when he pulled me into a tight embrace.

“I know you, girl,” he said in an affectionate manner. “No need to reintroduce yourself.”

My first inquiry was about Griñan’s upbringing. Being Black and Cuban in the South in a time when racial tensions were rampant, it was only logical that Griñan would have interesting experiences to discuss.

Griñan grinned and raised an eyebrow, resting his hand against his cheek. “Where do you want me to start? From the crib? A little later on?”

Any answer would suffice, I assured him. He paused for a minute, looking into the distance thoughtfully.

“I grew up in Tampa, Florida,” Griñan began with a start. “I lived in a predominately Black-Cuban neighborhood, called Ybor,” he paused to spell it for me. “It was a vibrant community, but very self-contained. We had our own hospital, named after a woman named Clara Frye. She was a famous Black midwife who delivered babies on sofas, kitchen tables, anything really. I have asthma, so I would often have to go to the hospital in the middle of the night.” It wasn’t surprising that Griñan knew so much about unsung Black historical figures. Boasting memberships in multiple associations for people of color, Griñan is well-versed in the history of his people. “Because our community was so independent, we really didn’t know there was discrimination until we left the neighborhood. That was when you realized you were in the South.”

Griñan’s huge labrador walked up to me and sat down, wagging its tail lazily against the wooden floor. I delicately scratched the top of his head, and Griñan offhandedly remarked that he was a shelter dog. After getting the attention he wanted, the dog rose and disappeared into the kitchen.

For many reporters, years of schooling, fancy degrees, and coveted internships precede their debut on the small screen. For Griñan, becoming a news reporter wasn’t something he had envisioned for himself; his start as a news anchor happened by chance.

“My first job in broadcasting was at a station in El Paso, where I was a photographer. One day, an anchor didn’t show up at work,” he glanced at the television and shrugged. “But the job still had to be done. A producer walked up and asked me if I’d stand-in for the reporter who failed to show.”

He looked at my father and laughed. “I didn’t go to school to be a news anchor, didn’t have any formal training,” Griñan continued.  “All I had at that point was a high school diploma. The only reason I’m here is because someone skipped work one day.”

He leaned over the coffee table and picked up something I failed to notice beforehand; a cigarette box with a lighter beside it. He lit the cigarette and raised it to his mouth nonchalantly.

Outside of the broadcasting realm, Griñan is known for the extensive amount of community service under his belt. When he isn’t covering debates or chasing hurricanes, Griñan is an active member of literacy groups, research foundations, and organizations devoted to helping veterans with disabilities.

“I think community work is very important for someone who is a journalist,” Griñan said. “It helps you keep in touch with people in the community. If I was Donald Trump, I’d just cut you a check and say, ‘Here, spend this how you’d like.’” He blew a puff of smoke into the air. “But I’m no Donald Trump, ain’t got no Donald Trump money. That’s why I volunteer in programs like Keep Houston Clean and The Houston READ Commission. The community is the reason I have my job, so I feel like it’s necessary to give back.”

As the interview drew to a close, Griñan finished his cigarette and stood to give me another hug. Afterward, he stretched his arms and shooed his labrador away from the coffee table. “I can see you in broadcast,” he said with a knowing smile. “You’re a little shy for television, but I could see you as a producer. Minus the power-trip.” He laughed loudly, his booming voice echoing throughout the spacious living room.

Griñan waved from the front porch as my father started the car. He lowered his hands after a minute and pulled a light green watering can from behind a chipped flower pot. With a spring in his step, Griñan walked towards the tall iron gates that obscured his backyard from our view. Slowly, he opened the gate to reveal an array of flower beds and young trees. I watched as of one of Houston’s most revered reporters tended to his growing plants, soaking up the afternoon sun.