Year of the Snake


In TV parlance, the term “font” is often used to describe the on-screen titles that accompany graphics during a newscast. In my relatively brief stint in TV news, there’d by someone in the control room assigned to put the titles together, usually following a producer’s or writer’s instructions. It’s kind of an important job, because mistakes show up prominently on viewers’ screens and tend to leave the impression that the people putting together the newscast are rushed, careless, or incompetent. Above is a recent example from what I still habitually call our best local TV news show.

My understanding is that the job of doing the fonts has been handed to the writers, who are also asked to do other stuff–like video editing–that they didn’t used to do. It’s not that mistakes didn’t happen when more people were working on the shows; errors are part and parcel of trying to put out a pile of information on a tight deadline with fallible humans involved in the process. But in the era of smaller staffs and “working smarter, not harder,” the mistakes seem to happen more frequently. And if that’s the case–my observations are purely impressionistic, not backed up by any statistics–you have to think that as long as the shows pull their weight in the ratings and the ads are all sold, the people ultimately responsible for “Chinses New Year Parade” don’t really care too much about what shows up on the screen.

Uprising, Meet Moon Rising


Nothing helps you relax after a long, hard week in the newsroom quite like another newsroom’s misfortune. The above is from a live shot KTVU-Channel 2 was doing in San Francisco’s U.N. Plaza tonight after a rally by supporters of the Egyptian uprising. The reporter, Amber Lee, was just wrapping up after a tape report when a passer-by dropped trow. In the moments following this shot, her camera operator tried to move to get this full moon out of the frame. He/she couldn’t quite do it.

As KTVU News likes to say, “Only on 2.”

Update: My friend Pete points out in the comments that KTVU still has the video of the report online. Watch for the last five seconds or so.:

Infotainment Tonight


Screenshot from the January 13, 2011, “10 O’Clock News” (a.k.a, “The Used-to-Be Really Good Bay Area News Show”). By way of explanation, whoever was in charge of doing this graphic left the placeholder label in place for all the audience to see. How does stuff like this happen? Staff cuts, mostly. I’ve heard that many of the artists and producers who used to make and oversee graphics like this have been reassigned or let go and that writers have been given this job–in addition to continuing to write the news and find, pull, and edit videotape. The unfortunate on-air result notwithstanding, cutting these corners makes the station owner’s bottom line look great.

The Case of the Missing Anchor

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

[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; in late September, he was saying he expected her back early in October.]

I didn’t catch the top of the KTVU “10 O’Clock News” Thursday night, but the show undoubtedly opened with one of the anchors saying something like, “Leslie Griffith has the night off.” It’s not news when a TV co-anchor takes a vacation day, but what’s odd is that Leslie Griffith, who’s appeared opposite Dennis Richmond for eight and a half years, has had the night off, from both the 10 o’clock show and the 5 p.m. newscast, for six weeks running. Griffith’s departure wouldn’t be shocking; from my perhaps unforgiving viewpoint she’s been giving empty, off-key performances for years and just doesn’t appear suited to the straight-ahead news operation KTVU fancies itself to be.

But if Griffith is out, why doesn’t the station say so?

The reason: Griffith is not out. She’s just not on the air. And there’s no telling when she’ll be back. According to a KTVU staffer, “Management is saying, ‘Leslie is on extended leave, and we look forward to her return.’ ” The staffer added that Griffith “has been gone on her own accord. She has not been forced out.”

[Update: Another source says that while rumors swirl at the station about whether Griffith will return or not, more attention is focused on the upcoming launch of “The 10 O’Clock News” in HDTV. That’s scheduled to happen October 9.]

(Even though most of the local papers seem to have taken a pass on this story–I guess there’s a war on or something–the Contra Costa Times’s TV writer has taken notice: “Where’s Leslie Griffith?“)

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Newscast Gone Bad, Again

A reader writes, regarding Leslie Griffith of KTVU’s “The 10 O’Clock News” :

“Tonight there was a broadcast item about a developer who was going to preserve the cultural elements of what they were buying — in ‘Chinatown,’ according to Leslie.

“Then the pictures come on the screen — of Japantown. Oy, Leslie. Has it come to this? You can’t even recognize iconic cultural elements? The Peace Tower in Japantown, and you still call it Chinatown. Multiple times??”

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