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WFAA8's Izaguirre shouldn't have to renounce her tough-to-pronounce surname

You don't have to roll any Rs to say Bark.

It's a pretty guttural surname, and is spoken just the way it looks. In other words, it's not "Bear-r-r-r-r-rk," as Craig Ferguson would say, and in fact once did.

WFAA8 Daybreak co-anchor Cynthia Izaguirre can't say as much. Since joining the station in January of last year, she's been pronouncing her surname with an R roll that many of us just can't pull off. That includes a majority of her colleagues at WFAA8.

"It is a Spanish last name. My parents are from Ecuador, and it's always been a hard name to pronounce," Izaguirre says in a WFAA8 videoblog that went up on Feb. 6th and was noted yesterday on D Magazine's FrontBurner blog.

Because of continued viewer resistance, Izaguirre says she's decided to pronounce her surname in what essentially is the Anglo way. But you can see and feel her frustration when she says, "What I'm trying to do . . . is not say it the way it should be said so that you can understand it. Many of you have said, 'Say it the American way.' Well, there is no American way to say Izaguirre. I'm a proud American with a Spanish last name."

Izaguirre first addressed her surname on her very first Daybreak show -- Jan. 4, 2008.

"It's easy," she told then co-anchor Justin Farmer, who's now at WSB-TV in Atlanta. "Just break it down phonetically. EE-SAH-GEE-REH. O.K. . . . maybe not so easy!"

In my review of her first day, I wrote in part, "It's not easy being Izaguirre in an early morning world of easily rendered Ryans, Fergusons, Fields, Hendersons, Allens and Sams.

Other than Daybreak weathercaster Greg Fields, those are the surnames of some of Izaguirre's early morning competitors. And in the early morning ratings race, only CBS11's duo of Scott Sams and Ginger Allen currently ranks behind Daybreak, which on most days finishes third behind Fox4 and NBC5.

There are some serious dollars at stake in the early mornings, which still have an audience growth curve compared to other dayparts. Many of these viewers also are gainfully employed and within the 25-to-54-year-old advertiser target demographic for news programming. So anything that might be a viewer turnoff is taken very seriously, especially in a dreadful economy.

Still, it's a shame it's come to this. I can speak from experience that it's not always fun having an easily targeted last name, even if no one has any problem pronouncing it.

Izaguirre, in her blog, noted that she stopped rolling the Rs in her family name as a middle schooler because some of her classmates didn't get it. But her father reproached her for mispronouncing Izaguirre. So she went back to saying it the correct way, "un-Americanized" or not.

"But now I do want to pronounce it in a way that all of you understand it," she says. "So I hope it works."

Maybe it has nothing to do with pronunciation. Maybe Izaguirre herself isn't registering with viewers after being touted on billboards, buses and on-air promotions as a Dallas-raised kid proclaiming, "I'm from here and I'm for here."

Her rotating Daybreak co-anchors also might have more than a little to do with the program's increasingly problematic ratings. Since Farmer's departure in early August, Izaguirre has been joined by Brad Hawkins (who left WFAA8 in late December to take a PR position with Southwest Airlines) and Jeff Brady (who's leaving in early March to start his own PR firm).

Both Hawkins and Brady were plucked from in-house and viewed as interim replacements. Seeking stability, WFAA8 recently hired Chris Flanagan from Des Moines, Iowa, to co-anchor Daybreak with Izaguirre. He'll likely be in the saddle by early March.

Meanwhile, Izaguirre apparently will be yielding to pressure from some quarters to do things "the American way." Were I her, I'd instead tell viewers, "I hope you'll understand that the way I pronounce my name isn't an affectation or a gimmick. It's the name I was born with, and my father has always told me to pronounce it correctly and with pride. And so I honor him by doing so. It's as simple as that."

Once upon a time we lived in a country where Roberto Clemente had to become "Bob" Clemente on baseball cards and in newspaper accounts because that was the so-called American way of doing things.

In 2009 -- and in a D-FW viewing area with a heavy Hispanic population -- Cynthia Izaguirre shouldn't have to Americanize her surname to placate anybody. That includes viewers sending her emails or ruinous "focus groups" that already have taken too many media companies down self-destructive paths.

I've always wished I could roll my Rs, because frankly it sounds pretty cool. So I'll probably never be able to pronounce Izaguirre properly. That doesn't mean that she shouldn't.