Four decades later, Huntington Beach’s Matt Liffreing still gets the story
If there is an important event in Huntington Beach, Matt Liffreing will be there to get video.
Getting the shot is important to Liffreing, though he’s also comfortable in front of the camera.
Liffreing, now 59, has been working in video services his entire adult life. This year is an anniversary, marking his 40th year as an on-camera host, producer and videographer/editor.
“He’s just a well-known, well-regarded famous guy,” Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem Mike Posey, who has known Liffreing for more than 15 years, said with a laugh.
It all started for Liffreing after he graduated from Marina High in 1981 and began attending Golden West College. He was studying theater and performing in a comedy club called Soapbox Saturday Night.
Cable television was in its infancy, but Liffreing asked the local company if they wanted to come out and videotape the event.
Liffreing had previously produced and served as co-emcee for a marathon variety show at Marina High. Television production piqued his interest.
“The cable company said, ‘Hey, would you like to come on board with us?’” he said.
In June 1982, Liffreing started working for Dickinson Pacific Cablesystems, which later became Rogers Cablesystems, for a weekly program called “Local Cable Update.”
William Reed, then the public information officer for Huntington Beach, saw Liffreing on television. Two years later, in 1984, he invited him to start interviewing City Council candidates.
Liffreing, who is contracted with the city, has continued doing that for nearly four decades. He also became known over the years for his election night coverage.
“I think TV, back then, was a motivator for people to run for public office,” he said. “Back then, it was a huge impact on everyone who had basic cable TV. That was a lot of people. I know, because I got stopped everywhere I went in town. Especially when the other programs I did started to hit, that was a big deal. There was no internet, no social media per se.”
“Local Cable Update” ran for more than a decade. Liffreing also started producing his own shows, like “Made In Huntington Beach,” which emerged in the late 1990s and showcased the city’s light industrial base for the first time.
Another show, “Surf City Highlights,” is in its 14th year highlighting community, nonprofit organization and government events. The show started in 2008, during the run-up to the city’s centennial anniversary the following year.
Liffreing was often seen on HBTV-3, which was produced in recent years by Public Cable Television Authority until Huntington Beach opted out of the PCTA in 2019.
“He’s probably the hardest-working, most passionate person that I know when it comes to doing what he loves to do,” Huntington Beach community relations officer Julie Toledo said. “I honestly do not know when the guy sleeps because he’s at every event, then he goes home, and he has to edit and put it all together. Then it’s on to the next event. He’s such a great guy. Everybody loves him in town, and he loves Huntington Beach.”
When COVID-19 hit two years ago, Liffreing kept working, breaking news on the first 22 weeks of the pandemic on his own platform as well as the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce social media.
“I just followed the small businessperson, and I broke a lot of stories,” said Liffreing, who also produces the video series “HB Business News” on behalf of the chamber. “That’s what kind of saved my soul through this whole COVID thing.”
Denise Di Novi, a film and television producer from Laguna Beach, appeared as a guest speaker at the Laguna Beach Business Club meeting Thursday.
Liffreing said highlights for him over the years have been covering the city’s centennial, as well as the Special Olympics World Summer Games in 2015.
Another annual highlight is coming up in just a couple of weeks. Liffreing has been the announcer for the city’s famous Fourth of July Parade since the age of 19 and has been in the parade itself twice, including as the Bill Gallienne Award recipient in 2010.
“I’m throwing out a trial balloon right now to see if the city would like me and my team to do the whole parade, on a tape-delay or one-day delay,” he said. “If not, I’ll take my helm at announcing the parade like I’ve done every year.”
City Councilwoman Kim Carr, who served as mayor last year, knows that she will see Liffreing at the Fourth of July Parade. But that’s not nearly the only thing.
“I probably see Matt more than I see my husband,” Carr said. “It’s always great to see him because you have a friend at every event that you go to. I think he really does embody Huntington Beach. He gets this community like very few people do. I’m grateful that he’s committed countless hours to documenting everything in Huntington Beach.”
Liffreing is also proud of his children, both graduates of the Huntington Beach High Academy of Performing Arts program. Ilyse is a journalist and Jared is a Cal Arts Film and Animation graduate, and both are based in New York.
Liffreing said his daughter has recently begun prompting him to look back at four decades in the business.
“I’m looking at old tape of Local Cable Update and how bad I was,” he said with a smile. “I’ve only really been my own editor for the past 15 or 16 years. I like to interview, I like to talk to people.”
Liffreing is a local celebrity who is going to keep getting the shot. He signed a contract extension with the city on Tuesday, he said.
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