“Well, one way of looking at it is that it shows the depth at which local TV news exists,” responds Dan Rosenheim, news director at KRON. Tracey Watkowski, assistant news director at KGO, says the news director at Channel 7 at the time of the California Primary is no longer with the station. She could not defend his decisions, she explains. She adds, however, that “weather gets a certain amount of time and sports gets a certain amount of time unless you have breaking news. It takes a certain amount of time to give a complete weather report.”
Daniel Webster, news director at KPIX, is on vacation. But veteran political reporter and anchor Hank Plante responds to Channel 5’s low rating this way: “They love politics here (in the KPIX newsroom). I’m questioning how you did your research. I don’t think adding up the number of seconds that we give it (politics) tells you anything at all.”
“We cover politics like a blanket,” Plante claims. “We’ve done live interviews in the newscast with all the candidates. Live, in the 6:30 show! I don’t think anyone else has done that.” Plante contends that Los Angeles stations ignore politics, but not the four biggest San Francisco stations.
Andrew Finlayson, news director at KTVU, questioned the assumption that political reporting before an election should be the top priority. “We would argue that we are not in the business of ‘empowering the political process’ and that ethically we are instead charged with reporting the most important issues of the day. In our mind, the issues of the period in question may have required time on other matters.”
Finlayson and Rosenheim both chafe at comparing television newscasts to newspapers. The two media are so different, they argue, that it’s “apples vs. oranges.”
Representatives of the San Jose Mercury and the San Francisco Chronicle could not be reached for comment.