I have this recurring nightmare. Through a haze, I see a television news set, a bizarre mixture of all the local news sets. The desks are made of a bland combination of Formica and fake wood, colored in middle-of-the-road earth tones, with a muted blue and beige background, creating an extremely neutral impression. To top if off, the set is covered with dozens of plants, plants everywhere, huge ferns and poinsettias.
Through the bushes, I see KFMB-TV (Channel 8) anchorman Stan Miller and KNSD-TV (Channel 39) anchorwoman Denise Yamada. They are earnestly discussing the relative merits of missile deployment in the Middle East.
Yamada giggles and Miller shakes his head and wittily says, “Ain’t that something,” right before the dream cuts to a commentator, who appears very upset. It is KGTV (Channel 10) weekend weatherman Roland Steadham, except he’s not doing the weather. With the look of an angry Highway Patrolman, he’s KGTV’s (Channel 10) new “Perspective” commentator. This is weird. Remember it’s a nightmare.
Another quick cut and we’re back at the set, where Channel 39 crime reporter Paul Bloom, who dreams of one day being Sally Jessy Raphael, is doing the weather. He jumps up and runs through a door. “Quick, follow me,” he says over his shoulder to the camera. Pointing to the sky, he says, “The rain started up there. It was wet and hard and John Q. Public found himself with a life and death decision . . .
Usually, this is when I wake up screaming.
Maybe the nightmare is simply an occupational hazard. Fortunately, there is a flip side. I also have a dream about a great local newscast, a combination of the best elements of all the local news departments.
This is my dream news team:
Anchor: Channel 39’s Marty Levin. He is the only local anchor who actually seems capable of sitting around a desk and spontaneously discussing the news events of the day. He’s definitely a no frills guy. Is it really necessary to have more than one anchor?
Sports Guy: Channel 39’s Jim Laslavic. He’s always been a genuine, down-to-Earth sort, but as his confidence has grown, so has his wit and style. At the same time, he understands that he is no Henny Youngman and he sticks to reporting sports.
Weather Personality: Channel 8’s Larry Mendte, he’s no Captain Mike, but he’s always good in front of the camera. What, maybe you were thinking it would be Bob Dale?
Reporters: Channel 10’s Mark Matthews and Marti Emerald; Channel 8’s Mitch Duncan; and Channel 39’s Susan Farrell. None of the local reporters really stand out as aggressive news hounds, but Matthews did a top notch special last year on the drug cartel, and if I was doing something wrong, I don’t think I would want Emerald showing up on my doorstep. Duncan is simply solid, and appears to be the antithesis of glitzy. Farrell is not the most beloved reporter at her station, but she has been in town forever and knows a lot of people, especially at all the high society parties she attends, and that type of reporter is always good to have around.
Of course, we all know dreams don’t come true. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t bright spots. And in the spirit of Christmas, let’s send out a few gifts, in the form of awards for meritorious service to television news:
Best Newscast: Channel 8’s 4:30 p.m. edition. An informal blend of national and local news, it often does a better, more coherent job of summarizing the news than the longer, more traditional newscasts. The interviews do a better job of adding insights and analysis than the packaged features of the other newscasts. Its relaxed setting gives the show an edge, a true feeling that the viewer doesn’t know what is coming next, especially when the jacketless Hal Clement goes mobile, walking through the newsroom. With a little more news and sports, it would be a groundbreaking format, if the station had the guts to use it as its main 5 p.m. newscast.
Most Improved: Channel 8’s Hank Bauer. Of course, he couldn’t go anywhere but up. But he has improved tremendously.
Best Wardrobe: Channel 10’s Kimberly Hunt. An appropriate category, since Professional Television Journalists are rated on their appearance as much as anything else. Consultants get paid big bucks to teach them to dress like Hunt. Her closet must be the size of an airplane hanger. She appears to have a new outfit for every day of the year. She usually looks as if she just stepped away from a posh cocktail party for a few minutes to read the news.
Most Alive Reporter: Channel 10’s Jack White. Yes, he’s live, always live. He deserves credit for being able to keep a straight face through some incredibly inane live reports.
Best Newcomer: Channel 39’s Monica Gayle. She is a big league news reader. There is no doubt she has bright future. If Channel 39 doesn’t put her to use, some other station certainly will.
Best Gestures: Channel 51’s Connie Colla. Precise to the point of being almost militaristic, her broad, open-palmed delivery of the weather reports are the stuff of high school drill teams.
Best Hairdo: Channel 10’s Larry Sacknoff. With the look of a black “Star Wars” helmet, it is perpetually youthful and extremely practical. It never changes. It never moves. And it appears able to withstand a small scale nuclear attack.
Best Commentator: Channel 10 General Manager Ed Quinn. He never fails to crack me up. When he gets into a lather of rhetoric it is something to behold. He loves the catchy sound bites. Sift through the sensationalism, though, and his editorials, representing the Channel 10 editorial board, are the most aggressive commentaries on the air.
Best Performer: Channel 8’s Ted Leitner. He certainly has his quirks, but his ability to improvise, to make witty dialogue without the aid of a Teleprompter, is unparalleled in the local market.
That’s it. Congratulations to all the winners.