Local Stations Gear Up for GOP Convention

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Despite prevailing wisdom that says George Bush’s nomination is a done deal and the Republican Convention will go off without mystery, drama or much comic relief, nearly all of the local TV stations in town are sending news troops to New Orleans next week.

While the three major networks are downsizing their staffs in anticipation of a convention that some expect will be less TV-worthy than last month’s Democratic gathering in Atlanta, only one local station, KCBS-TV Channel 2, is cutting back on its traveling crew by sending one less reporter.

Still, KCBS plans to send 10 people to New Orleans, including political reporter Warren Olney and commentator Bill Stout, to provide live news reports on all of the station’s newscasts.


“We don’t think the story is as big as the Democrats’,” said KCBS spokeswoman Andi Sporkin, defending the station’s plans to make do with one less reporter on the convention floor. “There is not as much going on within the party. There is no Jesse Jackson counterpart.”

But the Republicans can boast major speeches by President Reagan and their presidential nominee, and KABC-TV news director Terry Crofoot said cutting back on his convention staff to save money does not make good news sense. Channel 7 will send reporters Marc Coogan and John North as well as conservative commentator Bruce Herschensohn to cover the convention. The station had sent liberal commentators John Tunney and Bill Press to reflect on the Democrats in Atlanta.

“California is the pivotal state in the November election,” Crofoot said, “and it is important to cover our state delegation. The networks do a good job covering the big picture, but they don’t do much on the Southern California delegation. So we will concentrate on the issues and people relevant to Southern California.”

KNBC-TV Channel 4, which will be transporting nearly its entire news team to Korea for the Olympics next month, will again send only one reporter, Linda Douglas, to the convention.

Local independent stations apparently have not been deterred by the low ratings for the network coverage of the Democratic convention last month. In fact, Stephanie Brady, news director for KHJ-TV Channel 9, which will send reporter Jim Murphy to New Orleans, said the fact that the public may have less interest in what one rival news director called the “Republican coronation” could work to the advantage of the independents.

“Fewer people will watch the extended coverage of the convention on the networks and more people will tune in to us for capsulized reports on the 8 and 9 p.m. news,” Brady said.


KTLA Channel 5 is sending veteran reporter Stan Chambers to New Orleans to cover the Republicans for the station’s 10 p.m. newscast.

While KTTV Channel 11 will not be sending any of its own reporters to the convention, the station will broadcast reports prepared by a pool of reporters for all seven Fox-owned stations. Staffed by reporters from the Fox stations in New York, Washington and Chicago, Fox will again make use of its network-style sky booth and communications system.

Spanish-speaking viewers will be able to see key convention addresses as well as each day’s highlights every night at 10 on KMEX Channel 34. The station also will send two producer-reporters, Jaime Garcia and Roy Bloom, to follow the California delegation and to cover topics of interest to the Latino community for the station’s regular 6 p.m. newscast. These reports also will air on Spanish-language stations in San Francisco and Fresno.

Spanish-language station KVEA-TV Channel 52 will send a large contingent to New Orleans and, with anchor Enrique Gratas in the convention hall, will broadcast both its 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts half from New Orleans and half from its studio in Glendale. “We will offer a localized version of what’s happening, especially with the Spanish-speaking caucus,” said KVEA news director Bob Navarro, who joined the station from KNBC earlier this month with hopes of expanding the station’s news coverage for millions of Latinos in Southern California.

“We are hoping to make our convention coverage a linchpin of things to come. It may not be a sexy enough dog-and-pony show for some of the other stations,” he said, “but for us it’s crucial. The Hispanic community is little enough looked after as it is. We have to find out where we stand in this election.”