That old Woody Allen line - “90 percent of life is just showing up” - held true during the election-night coverage by the local TV news teams.
Channel 3 came out the clear winner (except at the very end; hang on, we’ll get to that), primarily because it was the only station to broadcast continuous coverage during prime time (8 to 10 p.m.).
News10, Channel 13 and Fox40 all decided to air regular programming, so that by the time they hit the air, Channel 3 already had broken the news on all the big local and state races.
News junkies appreciated that Channel 3 preempted programming. But let’s be honest - it’s not as if NBC (fourth place in the ratings) really had much to lose. On News10 at 6 p.m., anchors Dale Schormack and Cristina Mendonsa went to great lengths to assure viewers that “Dancing With the Stars” would air as scheduled.
Mendonsa: “Don’t worry. You’re not going to miss a rumba or cha-cha with the stars.”
So, between 8 and 10 p.m., Channel 3’s competitors had to settle for cut-ins on commercial breaks. Meanwhile, Channel 3 was the first to report Arnold Schwarnzenegger’s victory (big shock!), Measures Q and R’s defeat (another shocking development!), Jerry Brown’s win as attorney general, and the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives.
Nearly two hours before the competition, Channel 3 also reported the Maloof brothers’ vaguely threatening (regarding a move) statement, and it covered the press conference announcing that Q and R supporters would start a non-profit foundation to push on.
Once the other channels joined the fray, Channel 3 was still dominating. It moved ahead, talking about other, closely contested races, while the rest played catch-up.
Still, Channel 3’s landslide coverage was derailed at the last minute. Blame Jay Leno. At 11:45 p.m., Channel 3 signed off and went to the “Tonight Show.” Bad timing. Had the station waited another 15 minutes, it would’ve been able to report on Charlie Brown’s concession on the 4th District congressional race.
For the record, Channel 13 was the first to report that Brown had conceded. But it signed off minutes later and chose David Letterman over live coverage of Brown’s speech. Only News10 stuck around long enough to air Brown’s bowing out live. It didn’t sign off on coverage until midnight.
OK, enough of who beat whom. Here’s our random thoughts and memorable sound bites from the night:
* 5 p.m. - Channel 13’s Tony Lopez, ignoring that the polls would still be open for three hours: “Angelides is expected to give his concession speech sooner than the usual 11 p.m.” Cut to Kris Pickel at the Angelides headquarters: “They’re still expecting a victory speech here.”
* 6 p.m. - Lopez already is speculating that Schwarzenegger will run for mayor of Los Angeles after his second term. He had no sources to back up the claim.
* 8:45 p.m. - Channel 3’s Dave Walker: “The governor is like one of those action heroes he plays - falling off a cliff and landing on his feet.”
* 9:45 p.m. - Walker on the Senate races, channeling his inner Dan Rather: “Tight races here. Tighter than a new pair of shoes.”
* 10 p.m. - Fox40 spends 10 minutes on the election (with no graphics scrolling across the screen), then devotes the rest of its hour-long newscast on non-election stuff. Strange. But, hey, it’s counter-programming for those tired of politics.
* 10:15 p.m. - Channel 3 goes live to Angelides’ concession speech, while Channel 13 airs a commercial and News10 does a rehash of the Pombo-McNerney race.
* 10:20 p.m. - News10, late coming in, is the first to “dump out” (a TV news term) of Angelides’ speech. (Hey, why stick with a loser!)
* 10:30 p.m. - News10’s Mark Hedlund, covering the Brown campaign, gets our award for sartorial splendor with his red, white and blue tie.
* 10:40 p.m. - A rare misstep by Channel 3: It runs a graphic showing John Doolittle beating “Warren.” Warren?
* 11:05 p.m. - News10’s Cornell Barnard at the McNerney headquarters: “A few people here are taking it out on me that results aren’t coming in faster.”
* 11:15 p.m. - After News10’s Hedlund quotes Doolittle as saying the media is the cause of his close race against Brown, anchors Mendonsa and Schornack had some fun with that.
Mendonsa: “In this campaign, Doolittle has given more interviews than before. Maybe he’s learned that we (the media) don’t bite.”
Schornack: “And the ones who do have had their shots.”
And finally, at 9:45 a.m. today, News10 (OK, actually ABC’s Charles Gibson) was first to report that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld would be resigning.
On Channel 3, the “Today” show stayed with its “turkey tips” segment. On Channel 31, “Good Day Sacramento” was cooking lumpia, the Filipino dish. Five minutes after ABC broke the story, “GDS” finally cut to the Rumsfeld news. The “Today” show was the last to report it.