Bay Area’s Versatile Television Anchor Raj Mathai Honored by American India Foundation
- The Kerala-born 12-time Emmy award winner is also the first Indian sportscaster in the United States.
CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Fareed Zakaria and MSNBC’s Ali Velshi are household names in America, in that order. They are the most famous Indian American journalists in the country. But in the San Francisco Bay Area, their name recognition may not match that of Raj Mathai, the weeknight news anchor for NBC Bay Area.
Last week, the 12-time Emmy award winner was honored by the American India Foundation at a gala in San Francisco. Mathai anchors the nightly news and is among the Bay Area’s most well-known journalists.
Kerala-born Mathai moved with his family to Palo Alto when he was 7 years old. After attending Los Altos High School, he graduated (by the skin of his teeth, he would say) from San Diego State University with a degree in journalism and political science.
According to a Wikipedia entry, Mathai comes from a family of journalists and writers including his father T.J. Mathew who ran magazines in India in the 1970s and his uncle T. J. S. George who founded the Asiaweek magazine.
Mathai joined the NBC affiliate station in San Francisco in 1998 as Sports Director and became the primary news anchor in 2011. During his tenure at KNTV, Mathai covered some of the Bay Area’s most significant news stories, including the Loma Prieta earthquake, the Oakland Hills firestorm, and the dot-com boom and subsequent bust.
Mathai began his journalism career in the early 1990s as a sports reporter in Fresno, California. Even today in his nightly broadcasts as an anchor, Mathai’s interest and expertise in sports come through in his exuberance while discussing his favorite beat.
He is fond of recalling how he became enamored by sports journalism when he watched Monday Night Football on television soon after he moved to the U.S. as a child “And I remember just being mesmerized, not necessarily by the game, but by the announcements,” he told SF Gate last year, adding, “And from that moment, I just worked every day.”
Mathai grew up to become the first Indian sportscaster on American television who went on to cover six Olympic Games in Tokyo, London, Vancouver, Turin, Athens and Salt Lake City.
But sports and games are not all that Mathai did over a two-decade-long career. He broke many stories and covered major events, including the 2019 Gilroy mass shooting, the 2017 Inauguration of Donald Trump, the 2017 Las Vegas massacre and the 2016 San Bernardino shootings. He led KNTV’s coverage of the 2013 Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco International Airport. He interviewed a host of illustrious personalities, including Colin Powell, Kamala Harris, and Gavin Newsom.
51-year-old Mathai is married to Sonia Ahuja Mathai and they have two children.
When Michelle Robertson of SF Gate asked “one last question: What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?”
“I’m really boring,” he joked.
Not on television, Raj, not on television.