By Patricia Lynn Henley
Cancelling the news
KFTY TV 50 abruptly dropped its nightly news broadcasts on Friday, Jan. 26, throwing 13 people out of work and leaving North Bay viewers with almost nowhere to turn for timely updates on local events. The Monday-Friday 7pm and 10pm news shows got the axe, as did the weekend Week in Review program. But not to worry--the station's website promises that live local news, weather and traffic updates will continue on its weekday 6am to 10am Armstrong & Getty program, which provides a visual view of this duo's radio broadcast on Talk 910 KNEW radio. Two dudes in a booth--now there's some informative TV news. A brief statement from Channel 50 general manager John Burgess is posted on the station's website. Apparently there wasn't enough advertiser support to keep the news programs alive. Burgess' statement also says the programming changes "reflect the evolution of our strategic direction toward a multiplatform approach for news and information"--whatever that means. Burgess didn't return requests for comment, but his website screed promises a new public affairs program, more web-driven content and a chance for viewers and community groups to develop "locally" based content. Until all that can be created, the station has replaced its news shows with reruns of Becker, Still Standing, Blind Date and Frasier. "This leaves a big gap in local news," says George Magnan, programming and production manager for cable access stations in Santa Rosa. "What local folks are really going to miss is [news coverage] during an emergency. They're not going to be able to go to TV 50 and see the flooding, because it's not going to be there." It's unlikely that any one source will be able to fill the gap, says Bruce Robinson, news director for KRCB Public Radio and Television. "We do special news programming and election coverage, but nothing on a daily basis," Robinson says. "Perhaps this will make us reassess the services we provide, but news coverage is a resource-intensive process, which is why TV 50 is bailing out." It's unfortunate, he added, that Channel 50 says it couldn't find enough advertising support for its news programs. "It's sad if the local business community won't support this." The result is no locally generated television news programs in the North Bay, and not a lot of in-depth radio reports. "The headline services basically follow the lead of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, and most local radio stations are just headline services," Robinson notes. "The San Francisco television stations come up here occasionally and more often than they used to, but it's not the same as having a local news station."
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