Sunday, October 12, 2014

Why KTVU Still Matters In Spite Of An 'Obsession'; Sunday Column

 Several of you have written me asking why I write so much about KTVU. One e-mailer in particular struck a nerve: "You're obsessed."

We'll, not really, actually just passionate maybe. And there's nothing wrong with that because I can remember the days when Channel 2 meant something here and beyond.

I remember when KTVU News was a hallmark operation with a dedicated staff of great reporters, anchors, news people, producers, writers, news directors; a staff of professionals with both local and national admiration. A true legacy TV operation across the board. So yeah, what you may refer to as an obsession I only say I'm paying close attention to and don't regret doing so.


Of course it's been many years since the decline of KTVU. More and more reporters have retired, anchors too. KTVU was one of those stations that possessed very little turnover and much  of its luster was the fact so many people stayed on and delivered such an immensely quality news product.

God, think of the days of Dennis Richmond, Rita Williams, Lloyd LaCuesta, Randy Shandobil; news directors like the great Fred Zehnder and Andrew Finlayson. There's some obsession.

I know the business has changed. I see it and view it everyday. I didn't just wake up and begin lamenting how much the present day model is so chock full of dreck and mismanagement and how so thoroughly awful once-great TV stations have turned into mush. I get it.

I also know that there's still a very dedicated staff over there in Oakland. Even as Fox Network takes over and all staff is understandably nervous and full of anxiety over inevitable changes and makeover, there existstoday a heady desire to churn out quality news content.

I have been overly critical of the KTVU News operation. I have delivered my share of hits and insults; granted, most of it, KTVU has provided ample ammunition, (Asiana, frequent graphics mistakes, etc); this is a shame too because by and large, even with all its mess-ups, Channel 2 is still tops in the market in my book.

Frank Somerville and Julie Haener remain on their game. Ken Wayne is top-notch and delivers a solid punch. Bill Martin and Sal Castaneda are proven veterans. Mark Ibanez is going strong after 34 years. KTVU still has game.

Where it hasn't had game of late has been its incredibly horrid news directors. Lee Rosenthal, The Boy Wonder, is gone, finally, thankfully. Special Ed is in the rear-view mirror, thank God. I don't know much about the new woman from Washington DC but she can't be any worse than her predecessor. Unfortunately, from what I've heard about the new GM, Brian Kelley, from Boston, is not good but I'll hold judgment for now. Time will tell. Tom Raponi, who I liked at first and was respected by most of the staff, never recovered from Asiana and took the bullet for Rosenthal. They're now gone. Good riddance.

KTVU will never be like the old KTVU --but it doesn't have to be like TV's version of WKRP in Cincinnati either.


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20 comments:

  1. I don't think you've been "overly critical." They deserve all of the criticism they get. Asiana, Giants "ALDS" graphic, constant gibberish tweets, American Idol embarrassment, etc.

    They used to be great and now they are a shell of what they were, at best. They deserve the lack of good will pointed in their direction and they did it to themselves. Screw KTVU for letting it happen.

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  2. In the end it doesn't matter. The days of having 6 or 7 different local channels with 3 newscasts each per night are over. No one needs all of that news, especially considering alot of the current generation coming up gets their news from Twitter, Facebook and other internet outlets.

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    1. Leonard HofstadterOctober 12, 2014 at 2:03 PM

      > The days of having 6 or 7 different local channels with 3 newscasts each
      > per night are over.

      When were there ever such days? Six or seven different channels? Twenty-one different newscasts per night? As Sheldon Cooper would say, in what alternate universe???

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    2. "especially considering alot of the current generation coming up gets their news from Twitter, Facebook and other internet outlets."

      Must be of VDLC and Night Beat.

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    3. @2:03 lets see. KTVU 2, KRON 4, CBS 5, ABC 7, KNTV 11, Telemundo, not to mention quite a few different Asian bay area news channels. I'm sure I'm forgetting a few. Each station runs a 5pm or6pm and 11pm, some all 3. So yea, his math adds up. Yours doesn't.

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    4. @2:43 I'm late 30's and I can't tell you the last time I turned on a local newscast. I know quite a few others that are the same way. I am one of the minority that still reads a newspaper tho.

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    5. And 5:49, don't forget kqed channel 9, channel 20, channel 36, sometimes channel 44, so that's more than 6 or 7, and those are all English stations.

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    6. > KTVU 2, KRON 4, CBS 5, ABC 7, KNTV 11, Telemundo, not to mention quite a few different Asian bay area news channels.

      They're all still going. If you're going to count Telemundo and the Asian channels with zero budget and the public access community TV station (I wasn't) then things haven't changed. They were on then and they're on now. So my math is fine, thanks.

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    7. 12:39 even if you only count 2, 4, 5, 7 and 11....each runs at least 2, some 3 newscasts each per night. Let's assume 2....that's 10 newscasts. With 3, that's 15. All run a morning show and a couple run noontime-ish newscasts. All in all, well over 20 newscasts a day just from those 5.....all reporting the same stuff. Just admit you're wrong and move on.

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    8. @10:37 if you count the replays on 36, 20 and 44 you're easily on 30+ newscast airings per night...not even counting the national shows.

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  3. The change began when Cox corporate got involved in the day to day running of KTVU. Kevin O'Brien worked hard to protect "his people" from the suits in Atlanta. But when he failed to get the corporate job and his competitor for that position forced him out, things began to go into the dumper. It took time, but it was entirely predictable, given the flash and trash news product the Cox folks seemed to like.For example, a few years ago they came in and forced something called "Active process" on KTVU's news folks (and on news people corporation wide). That's why you see KTVU reporters holding up pieces of paper, showing you what's behind them in a live host, or anchors constantly telling you "As we first told you yesterday). They seemed to love insulting the intelligence of the audience..KTVU's outstanding news product was built on respecting the intelligence of the audience and rewarding smart people for tuning in. That changed severely over the past decade.There is now no reward for intelligent people to watch Channel Two News.

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    1. anon at 4:01pm..a very knowledgeable post, with good perspective. I feel a few more items are germane to add to the reason KTVU has degenerated into what it is now. The Cox bean counters assumed bottom line was all, never taking into account that the content of the content is what ultimately drives the bottom line. Now, with nothing but horrible newscasts, KTVU burns through "account executives" like dirty laundry, and selling ad time on television these days is akin to selling yellow page space about 20 years ago. The gutting of the production and engineering staff is overlooked in blogs like this, since these people are never seen, but when they are gone, quality control is nonexistent, and yet everyone wonders why things have gone to pot.

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  4. A followup on your remarks about the Bloomberg Radio Network a few days back. This version of 960 am is capable of presenting some good discussions about world events. However, much of the time I turn to it, I am greeted by one British voice speaking to another British voice, and then about some arcane, abstraction of the financial world. I usually don't stay tuned in, feeling the discussion is most likely not relative to my existence. There is great potential for good shows though, so long as they don't take the easy, sleazy way out and stack the schedule with too many Miracle Vitamin 'Doctors' .

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  5. I find much of Bloomberg's content to be a dizzying parade of voices, short self-contained McStories, tinny sounders, and self-aggrandizing promos. Whether on 960 or as heard on KGO, Bloomberg Radio seems to be predicated on the idea that we all have the attention span of a gnat.

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  6. Just curious, is what is being written about KTVU in this thread any different than what has been happening to the other local TV news operations? Or is this just a KTVU thing?

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  7. Don't expect a massive layoff or some abrupt change overnight. This will play out probably over the next 6-12 months. Familiar faces will go away. Graphics will change. Even the style of news might change. It is not cost effective to go in and dump people with contracts. You'd have to pay them severance. In FOX's ideal world, people will lay themselves off. Contracts will be allowed to expire and those who get to renegotiate should be prepared to take less. KTVU hasn't been KTVU in probably 5 years. And it's not coming back. The days of companies investing in TV are over. Everything is now incredibly bottom line driven. They'll milk the staff as much as they can because that's the best way to increase the profit margin. Ratings would help too but the easy way is to make people do more with a lot less.

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  8. I caught the ch2 weekend morning news. I think Claudine Wong does a great impersonation of the National Weather Service guy giving high tide and surf warnings on short wave radio.
    Its drone,monotone, and blink only rarely.
    She needs to load up on the Prozac.

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  9. Could someone PLEASE give Gasia M a valium. She practically levitates out of her seat with excitement while reading the prompter. Horrible habit and annoying as the devil. Makes her sound like an excitable teenager. Julie H is so much more professional.

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  10. Thanks for your continuous critiques on the local stations Rich. They deserve the wrath that you dish out on a regular basis. So many frauds and neophytes that should never get a sniff on the local airwaves, but they are hired because the media has not only been consolidated and 'dumbed down,' but these merciless owners of the mega-companies feel no obligation to serve the public. A lot of the 'younger demographic' that is so coveted by the consultants no longer listens to the radio or watches much TV, so when consultants and programmers talk about how we're
    "going after the young demographic," they are really tilting at windmills, because the 'young demographic' has become irrelevant.

    'young demographic' has become irrelevant.

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  11. Andrew Finlayson was a joke and started the decline. He was the worst hire O'Brien ever made. He lived off the success of the pros that were still there.

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