On January 14, 1992, KCET's longtime signature evening news and public affairs program, "Life & Times," made its debut.
The show originated from an increase in local programming funding and a grant from the James Irvine Foundation to spur KCET's mission statement of presenting "thought-provoking, multicultural programming of the highest standards consistent with fairness and accuracy." KCET Station Manager Steve Kulczycki conceived of having the station air a half-hour weeknight news and public affairs program that reflected the energy and diversity of Southern California, and become a place for opinions, ideas, personal experiences, and multicultural perspectives, which are normally overlooked in TV news. His vision was to use the television medium to bridge gaps. With Jim Kennedy as the program's executive producer, "Life & Times" was born.
The program covered issues ranging from politics, education, the environment, demographics, transportation, science, culture, and art. Profiles, documentary features, and interviews were presented with elected officials, community leaders, academics, educators, artists, activists, and celebrities.
Special programs and editions of "Life & Times" aired during events such as the 1992 L.A. Riots, the 1992 presidential election, the 1993 Los Angeles mayoral race and the 1994 gubernatorial election.
Initially, "Life & Times" presented a varying format throughout the course of the week. The Monday show would present various issues and topics of the day, with the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday airings being comprised of documentaries. The Friday edition would be an in-studio, round-table discussion featuring a wrap-up of the previous week's news and events. The program made several format changes throughout its history, as well as several hosting changes. The first co-hosts in 1992 comprised of L.A. Times reporter Patt Morrison, Law professor and radio host Hugh Hewitt, and policy expert John Ochoa, who was later replaced just months later by writer Ruben Martinez. In Fall 1993, political aide and advisor Kerman Maddox joined as the program's fourth host. In late 1994, Martinez left the program, and was replaced by George Ramos, and later Monica Lozano. The Monday night airing was also distributed to public TV stations statewide, which lasted for two years, when the format of the program was changed into a news magazine format in 1996.
In January 1998, the program's format changed yet again, with live, nightly editions hosted by Yolanda Nava. In 1999, local news veteran Warren Olney and KCET's Val Zavala each became occasional hosts for the program. In January 2001, Zavala and another local news veteran, Jess Marlow, become the new co-hosts of "Life & Times," which runs until 2003, when the program switches to a field-based format. The program made its last airing in December of 2007.
Over the course of its 16 seasons on the air, the program garnered over 25 local Emmy awards, numerous Golden Mike awards, and several other commendations and accolades.
In addition to the James Irvine Foundation, the program, over its 16-year span, was underwritten through gifts and grants from The Whittier Foundation, Jim & Anne Rothenberg, QueensCare, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, Boeing, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, GTE, and the Wellington Management Company.