Newscast Gone Bad

Ktvunews

[11/17/06 update: It’s official–Leslie Griffith is gone for good from KTVU.]

[9/29/06 update: The Case of the Missing Anchor]

[10/8/06 update: The San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier and Ross weighed in on Leslie Griffith’s absence. KTVU’s general manager said she’s on leave at least until October 27; a week or so earlier, he was saying he expected her back on October 9.]

I grew up in the Chicago area with the now-shocking notion that local TV news could be more than a weak, ill-informed entertainment. But not to rely too much on my memory of how solid those newscasts were or weren’t — of course, everything was better in the ’60s — there’s not much debate that most TV news has devolved into puffs of insubstantiality dressed up to look like they mean something. If these shows — both the locals and much of the stuff you see on network and cable — had to make their living on the actual knowledge they convey, they’d be out of business. But pictures are compelling. We need our weather, sports and advertising and the personalities who present it all. So the shows chug on. 

Here in the Bay Area, the last bastion of news for news’ sake was KTVU, Channel 2. Going back to their unaffiliated, pre-Fox days, the station had a 60-minute newscast it put on at 10 p.m., an hour ahead of its competitors and their 30-minute happy-talk shows. Channel 2 managed to use the 60 minutes well. Stories ran longer and there were more of them. “The 10 O’Clock News” developed a cast of reporters and anchors that actually seemed, well, “reliable” and “trustworthy.” It developed a reputation of seriousness and substance.

But nothing’s forever. Under cost pressure, Channel 2 long ago started cutting back. It started emphasizing easy, cheap stories like traffic accidents, fires, and the latest shootings. Much of the old cast is still there, though many members look tired. One significant change was the departure in 1998 of the longtime co-anchor Elaine Corral, who quit at the end of the broadcast one night without letting anyone know what she was doing. We were watching that night; it was TV to remember. It was also a loss to the show’s chemistry — she and the other anchor, Dennis Richmond, always looked like a good fit — but it also could have been an example of someone getting out at the right time.

Leslie Griffith, a reporter and weekend anchor best known for her wild mane of blonde hair and somewhat goofy on-air manner, replaced Corral. She seemed like a lightweight next to Richmond, who conveys something you might even think of as gravitas if you forget he’s presenting the local news. And no warmth has ever developed between Richmond and Griffith. Richmond is slow but precise; Griffith is someone who once looked like she was having fun on camera but decided or was told she needed to look serious when she became the show’s co-star.

The problem is, she can’t pull it off, and sometimes her performance is ridiculous: She stumbles on the scripts, she smiles when there’s no reason to smile, she hmmms portentously. Last night — we watched right after wallowing in an hour of “Prison Break” — she was nearly helpless from the very top of the show when she and Richmond were alternating reading the live teasers:

“As floodwaters recede in New Orleans … residents are first to return to home … and … but they’re told … not just yet.”

In the first part of the show, she had another couple muffs that sounded much worse than they read:

“Here in the Bay Area paramedics … the death toll from Katrina has reached 973 across the entire Gulf Coast region. It stands at 636 [on-screen graphic read 736] in Louisiana.”

And:

“Police are looking for the reason … or the reasons responsible … the persons responsible … for a brazen daylight shooting.”

Her style when she starts to get lost is to grind on mechanically, like a garbage disposal taking on an avocado pit. Richmond’s typical reaction, displayed last night, is visible annoyance or disgust.

Everyone in the news-reading business has bad days. There’s a mistake in the script or the production rundown, the TelePrompTer has a problem, or they just get lost. But Leslie does so badly so often that she seems permanently lost. It’s hard to understand from the outside why she’s permitted to keep going.

38 Replies to “Newscast Gone Bad”

  1. I just hope she’s a first-class bi**ch. That way, I won’t feel bad about agreeing with you that she needs to be sent packing to a market far, far away. If she’s a sweetheart, heck, maybe she can stay on at KTVU and do a Sunday morning public-affairs show or something, just to keep her in Brite-Smile treatments and stuff.

  2. In Chicago, we have WLS-TV’s Cheryl Burton. In 2003, during some pile-on Cub playoff wrapup, the outside-of-Wrigley-Field Kathy Brock (whose brain functions)threw it back to Cheryl in the studio with the challenging, “Cheryl? Any thoughts?” She didn’t know there was going to be a test and somewhere Ted Baxter’s Ghost beamed proudly.

  3. I like Lydell’s reference to Ted Baxter.
    Our local news station in Springfield is so much hairspray it looks like shellac, fake smiles, nasal intonation, and one big commercial for local businesses, mostly the medical community, all designed to distract from the fact that it’s not news.

  4. Yeah — cast. I realized at TechTV that writing scripts for others to read is a little like writing for a character. You get to know how people sound, words they would and wouldn’t use, lines that would work for some and not for others.
    I didn’t mean the cast comment as a slam, though; I think it’s just the truth about one part of the business.
    And all the truly dumb things that happen on the air aside, I have to say I encountered a lot of smart, thoughtful people at TechTV who really were trying to create the best product with the available resources (said resources including a managing editor from print journalism who didn’t know a lick about television).

  5. Leslie Griffith is a toad. I can’t STAND the way she has to make her voice traverse a 4 octave tonal range… She is constantly digging her chin into her chest so she can hit the low notes. Everyone I know that has seen her speak mimmicks her antics. Doesn’t KTVU realize what a joke this blonde freak is?

  6. The big questions are: 1) Why is she still on the air? 2)Who is she related to to be allowed to stay? and 3) He or She??? Is a puzzlement. On going debate in our home. Look at that adams apple.

  7. Adams apple? Be nice — and remember when Leslie was a sweet young thing with a sort of wild and crazy personality (long before she was compressed into the anchor’s chair).
    The reason she’s still there is that the show is still generating the numbers it needs to stay ahead of the competition. That’s the long and the short of it, and quite a sad commentary on the rest of the Bay Area “news programs.”
    We shouldn’t let Dennis Richmond off too easily, either. Most nights he looks like he’s in a sulk about having to sit next to what’s-her-name; meantime, his own performance is on occasion painfully tired. Extrapolating the way Leslie’s reporter salary has moved over the last five or six years, Dennis is probably pulling down $750,000-$850,000 a year — conceivably more than that. You’d think that in return for that pile of cash he could get excited about work once in a while.

  8. Tim wrote: “Leslie Griffith is a toad. I can’t STAND the way she has to make her voice traverse a 4 octave tonal range… She is constantly digging her chin into her chest so she can hit the low notes. Everyone I know that has seen her speak mimmicks her antics. Doesn’t KTVU realize what a joke this blonde freak is?”
    I thought I was the only one who noticed “Ms Dip” (Leslie Griffith). That’s what I call Leslie when she does the murder and killing reports or some death-related thing especially at the begining of the newscast. She keeps that chin dip going down to her chest with those low-octave tones until around the time of sports and then she turns it off. At that point in the “newscast” regardless of what has happened in the news, she’s happy. The tones of death, murder, bodies found, killing, despair, dysfunction, and suffering are going (until her next performance). Around the time of sports and weather, they’re all one big happy family. All smiles. This corporate infotainment sucks. I never see news anchors from Europe (BBC or DW-TV Germany) doing that stuff. They don’t “act” the news, they just read it, as it should be in my opinion.
    From what I remember of Elaine Corral-Kendall, she didn’t do all that stuff. I wonder what Dennis Richmond thinks about Leslie doing all that “theatrics” stuff?
    Dana King at KPIX is a close second to Leslie when it comes to acting the news (watch her eyes and her head).

  9. WHAT DID SHE DO TO HER FACE? Oh, my God! She is starting to look like that Weinstein woman in New York. Stay away from her plastic surgeon.

  10. small minds discuss people,
    average minds discuss events,
    great minds discuss ideas
    perhaps viewers discuss the presenters because they feel impotent to infulence events, i.e., let’s kill the messenger as a solution
    there is no good ink,
    there is no bad ink,
    there is only ink
    such acrimony over an electronic image;
    if one doesn’t like what one sees, change the channel
    the slogan is correct “dribbling”

  11. Dude/Dudette:
    If you’re so above the fray, why waste your time on a few random bits of data. I mean, there are no good bits,there are no bad bits, there are only bits. Wow. That’s so zen.
    The reason it’s actually a bit more than dribbling in this case is that the medium in question happens to be one from which a substantial number of your fellow citizens get most of their information about the world beyond their living rooms. The existence of degraded, lowest-common-denominator newscasts like those represented by Ms. Griffith and the ascendancy of the likes of Bush — and the license he’s been given to undertake disasters like Iraq — is no coincidence or accident.

  12. I beg your pardon, but Leslie Griffith is one of the best things San Francisco has going for it right now. What with all the gloom and negativitiy in this sad world, Leslie lifts my spirits and gives me strength to move on. I feel like she’s talking to me, talking to my heart, don’t you?
    Anyway, please think of Leslie as a person, doing her best day in and day out. And I like her plastic surgery, thank you very much.

  13. Did LG get replaced? Julie H. has been on the 10 o clock new for the past 3 or 4 days in a row. I didn’t hear her say she was sitting in for Leslie. Is this really the end? Holy crap, I thought the day would never come!

  14. What the hell’s the matter with you people? First of all, Leslie is gorgeous. She is as good as Elaine was, but in a different way. She does a lot of philanthropical work and is a genuinely nice lady. Back off with your personal attacks on her. She beats whatever/whomever else we have available on the other local newscasts. But I will say, Julie Haener is VERY easy on the eyes, too!

  15. Leslie Griffith is a great co-anchor. She is absolutely professional and I love her covering the news solo. In my opinion, Dennis Richmond, who looks most of the time scary should finally leave the team and let someone younger and good looking take his place.

  16. My gosh! Some of you people have done all but buried Leslie Griffith. She’s doing a job that I dare say many of you could not, would not or, based on the sophomoric, limited content of your comments, should not do. If you think you can do a better job than Ms. Griffith, then apply for her position at KTVU and see what happens….

  17. Hey, I’ve got to stick up for Leslie! I have had the opportunity to interview her and she is 100% genuine. She’s also a great reporter – as witnessed by her Edward R. Murrow awards. I think that you are all jealous of her!

  18. Andy, I don’t really know. I was watching the night she announced she was quitting, and she didn’t offer an explanation. By most accounts, no one on the show knew what was coming. Afterward, there was speculation that she was fed up with station management, and I’ve also been told by former KTVU people that she wasn’t getting along with Dennis Richmond.
    Larry D. Hatfield of the old S.F. Examiner wrote a pretty good next-day story on it:
    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/e/a/1998/03/19/NEWS4003.dtl&hw=elaine+corral&sn=001&sc=1000
    The Chronicle’s John Carman got into what might have been going on behind the scenes:
    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/1998/03/20/DD64896.DTL&hw=elaine+corral&sn=002&sc=696
    And now you know everything I know.

  19. Wow !Channel 2 has thee most rare find !!Leslie is the 10 o”clock news!! She and Dennis Richmond have made Cox Communications Millions $$$$$!! I find her news coverage past excellent!!! Shes TALENT you will not find on any other Bay Area Station!!! Look @ KRON couldnt deal with Darya Folsom every nite I would rather not know the news, than have KRON give it to me!! I hope The Brass at KTVU keeps Leslie, give her a raise or whatever she wants!! Remember this “YOU PAY PEANUTS,YOU GET MONKEYS” Ive been a KTVU buff for years!! This is a Travesty for Channel 2 and its viewers!! If you read these posts you will realize no changes are needed at KTVU IN ANY DEPT!!! One thing you can do is get back CHARLEY VAN DYKE for your Voice Over for all your news intros you had him in the late 80 s early 90 s !! Your Voice Over Guy now is Bland and Lacks CHARLEY VAN DYKES talent you remember Charley from The Big 610 KFRC back in 1969 he was a famous DJ then moved on to KHJ in LA !! So ive made my point KEEP LESLIE AT ANY COST!! If you choose to Replace her YOU SHOULD PUT PRIYA DAVID on!!! Kenny Strong in Concord Bay Area Native (REMEMBER YOUR SLOGAN “THERES ONLY ONE 2”

  20. I for one having always enjoyed Leslie – she made the news fun to watch. Her wacky look & ‘did it herself’ hair paired with her stoney, unaffected attitude always made me smile. I think some of you critics are taking the anchors way too seriously. Dennis Richmond was a bore I think, and hard to look at with his 4 lbs of foundation they slather on him. And Leslie-wanabe Julie Haener is never as fun to watch. I hope she’s not the permenent replacement. Leslie has won countless awards & achievments. I wish her well in her future…

  21. Now with Leslie gone, I have no reason to stay up for the 10 O’Clock News. I have felt fortunate to be able to get the broadcast here in Redding, California. Because of Leslie I got into watching the news and she brought me into the headlines of todays world.
    I will just get more sleep now because I will not be staying up late for the broadcast. Since Leslie has been away, I have found Mornings on 2 with Ross McGowan a better program than the 10’O’Clock News.

  22. KTVU’s Co-Anchors have always been BABES. I tune in to get the news from Dennis and the J/O fantasy from drooling over the likes of Leslie and Julie. Now if Sara can only get more air time…………

  23. Leslie Griffith was my favorite newscaster in the Bay Area; I’m sorry to see that she’s gone. She seemed to impart a seriousness and authenticity lacking in other anchors, and one sensed a compassionate intelligence behind the on-screen personality. My opinion may have been influenced by a couple of interviews I read in which she came across as a bright and genuinely thoughtful person.

  24. TO LESLIE GRIFFITH, THANKS FOR THE MEMORY BY BEING IN THE NEWS EVERY 10 PM,IT IS ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO SEE YOU AND CATCHT UP WITH MY LOCAL NEWS, DON’T EVEN BOTHER BY THOSE PEOPLE WHO GOT NOTHING TO DO BUT TO SAY NEGATIVE FEEDBACK, FOR ME HAVING A MULTIPLE AWARD SPEAK FOR ITSELF AND YOU EARNED EVERY ONE OF THEM, TOO BAD KTVU DIDN’T SEE IT THAT WAY AND NOW THERE IS NO REASON FOR ME TO WATCH A 10 PM NEWS…I HOPE YOU WILL FIND WHAT YOU LOOKING FOR WHEN IT COMES TO BROADCASTING …WISH YOU THE BEST

  25. Watching the Channel 2 News tonight brought me to the keyboard. Dennis Richmond is the anti-newswoman for the SF Bay Area. Leslie is greatly missed for her feeling, her reputation and her ability to physically rspond to horroific situations. Wishing you the best Leslie, and wishing for someone to grow a nad at KTVU and keep Dennis in check.

  26. Oh, my. What did Dennis do tonight?
    I agree that he leaves something to be desired. He seems kind of bored. But just when you think he’s really bad, you watch one of the other Bay Area newscasts and rediscover what “bad” really means.
    Of the other KTVU anchors, I think Sara Sidner has some real potential. She projects intelligence as well as a modicum of feeling. Julie Haener, like Dianne Dwyer before here, seems lacking in the soul department. Leslie Griffith had soul to spare; it’s just that it got lost in her almost-nightly flubfest.

  27. “She stumbles on the scripts, she smiles when there’s no reason to smile, she hmmms portentously.”
    YES, I AGREE! That screen capture above says it all. But that’s what I loved about Leslie’s newscasts. It actually felt like a human was delivering the news. Dennis Richmond is a robot in comparison. Far too serious, even when responding to one of Bob MacKenzie’s lighthearted human interest stories. Leslie, on the other hand, usually smiled geniunely after such a story.
    Leslie, you’ll be missed. I have one question, though: what’s up with those Asian dresses you sometimes wore? Not a criticism, as they suited you fine.

  28. Oh my god. I can’t believe a scathing and accurate review of Leslie Griffith’s nightly “performances” has turned into a candlelit roadside memorial!
    Let’s all not get along with Leslie Griffith.

  29. As much as I like Julie Haner who replaced Leslie Griffith, the 10 O’clock news is just not the same as it was when Leslie was there.
    I for one miss her with hopes that she will return soon to the Bay Area and do some free lance work if nothing else.

  30. I could not stand Leslie Griffith, I always was hoping that Julie Haener would be the co-anchor instead. Now I watch the 10 o’clock news.
    I thnk Julie is a pleasure to watch and to listen to, very professional and not at all pretentious, unlike her predecessor….
    But Dennis dear, isnt it time you retire?…really.

  31. I enjoyed and still enjoy watching the channel 2 news and I liked watching Dennis, Elaine, Leslie and Julie.
    I remembered making a statement about both, Elain and Leslie. I remembered saying “They looked very tired and they look like they don’t want to be there.” I remember before both of them disappear from the news…months before…they literally look “BAD”..their hair, make-up..everything…and then “poof” they were gone. But what remember the most was telling my husband the day I saw Leslie’s face pulled way back and her lips stretched…”they are going to replace her.” I wish her the best and I hope channel 2 news won’t do the same to Julie…what ever it is.

  32. Yes, and one of her subjects as a blogger is how rotten TV news is. It’s curious that she didn’t sound that theme so loudly when she was pulling in 600 grand a year from the evil empire.

  33. I think Elaine Corral and Leslie Greffit are more human and naturally lively. The one that should let go was Dennis Richmond. He was so boring and doesn’t smile at all. Those who let go Elaine and Leslie doesn’t know what they are doing. Too bad we need happy face in TV not like rehearsed. Be natural. People makes mistake too. That’s human.

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