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November 22, 2006
Local TV News Sweeps: Day 20

LS MARIO GARCIA VERDICT 1.JPG
Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling


What’s this?

Some perspective?

During sweeps month?

Now there’s a surprise.

But such an unlikely occurrence happened Tuesday on News10’s 11 p.m. broadcast. After leading with the verdict in the Mario Garcia trial - as all stations did, with good reason - News10 then took a different course.

Whereas Channel 13 spent 10 minutes on Garcia, covering every possible angle, and Channel 3 and Fox40 devoted several sidebars to Garcia, News10 switched to reporter Mark Hedlund for an in-depth look at how Sacramento “streets are not as deadly as in the past.”

Yes, that’s surprising. Because, if you watch local TV news for any amount of time, you’d get the impression that we live in a crime-infested hellhole replete with rapists, serial killers, nefarious sex offenders, arsonists and reckless drivers.

But Hedlund, who has been working the crime beat for 25 years at News10, gave viewers some much-needed historical perspective. He showed numbers proving that there actually has been less crime in Sacramento this past year than in years past. You want to talk high crime? Try 1993, when there was 145 murders - 13 per every 100,000 residents.

And Hedlund quoted a Sac State criminologist, who told us we’re much safer here than in the past: “You sort of need to take a breath and take the long view.”

Long view?

Local TV?

You must be kidding.

Now, about the coverage of the Garcia verdict: As I pointed out in Tuesday afternoon’s posting, Channel 13 beat the other stations in reporting that Garcia was found guilty of first-degree murder. This is a big story, but Channel 13 spent 10 of its 24 minutes at 6 p.m. on this lone report.

And it was a little self-serving for 13 to do a victory lap both at 6 and 11 p.m. by detailing how reporter Bridget Cannata scooped the competition by text messaging the verdict from the courtroom, where cameras were not allowed.
As anchor Pallas Hupe finally intoned halfway through the 6 p.m. broadcasts, “There are other stories out there tonight.”

Indeed.

Channel 3 was late to jump on the verdict when it was announced a few minutes after 2 p.m. It stayed with the soap opera, “Passions,” instead of breaking in for a report.

But KCRA redeemed itself Tuesday night with its thorough - but not overkill - coverage. It was the only station to get one-on-one interviews with the parents of victim Christie Wilson. Dave Walker and Lois Hart talked to the mother, Debbie Boyd, at 6:30 and then reporter Leticia Ordaz interviewed both parents at 11.

Not that the parents said much tht was new. The only scooplet Channel 3 had was Boyd’s declaration that she’d be willing to cut a plea deal with Garcia if he would tell authorities “where he left the body.” But it’s the prosecutor, not the victim’s family, that decides sentencing.

As Hupe so sagely said, there was other news last night:

* Late in News10’s 11 p.m. broadcast, anchors Dale Schornack and Cristina Mendonsa teased to a story on that annoying magician David Blaine pulling another stunt - this time escaping from shackles while suspended four stories above Times Square.
APTOPIX DAVID BLAINE.jpg

Cut to a commercial...and it just so happens to be a commercial for Target, featuring David Blaine. (Target is sponsoring the stunt.) Return to News10, which then runs its story on Blaine.

Some might call it “synergy;” I call it nauseating.

Credit an embarrassed Schornack, however, for pointing out the advertising/editorial melding: “That was the news story you just saw. The commercial was two minutes ago.”

* Tease of the Night, during Channel 13’s late news: “We’re flipping the bird Wednesday on ‘Good Day,’” gushed Julissa Ortiz.

* Tease of the Night, runner-up, during Channel 13’s late news: “Commode Concerns,” barked reporter Kris Pickel. (It was a story about high sewer rates in rural Cascade Shores, a story that News10’s Dan Adams aired on Nov. 10.)

* And, finally, the dry wit of Dave Walker reared itself again. At 6:30, he interviewed a geologist who was talking about a tsunami that they think hit Lake Tahoe 15,000 years ago.

Walker: “So no casinos were there at that time?”

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