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[whitespace] Mary Babbitt
Prime Timing: Veteran anchor Mary Babbitt lost her spot in KNTV's shakeup.

Public Eye

TV or Not TV ...

BIG CHANGES ARE going on at San Jose's news channel. KNTV axed a writer and a producer last week, as presaged by Eye June 21, and rumors of more sackings have spooked the Channel 11 herd. On top of that, employees say the station let popular anchor Mary Babbitt get away last week after execs moved Brent Cannon and Laura Garcia-Cannon into her noon spot. ... Several staffers who did not want to be named sobbed on Eye's shoulder, saying that just about everyone is crossing their fingers that they won't get summoned into the boss's office next. Even though the Bay Area is one of the hardest places for TV journalists to seek employ, some newsies are dusting off their résumés and sample videos. "There have been some shakeups, and there's more coming," predicts one insider, "they're just looking for a reason to get rid of you." Others have been relegated to off-camera roles to make way for new faces. Another wag claims the station is dumping older faces for younger ones. "They just want a bunch of ... young attractive nubile people," the employee opines. ... Station brass are dealing with the Herculean task of bringing the station's news crews up to a higher standard before it becomes the Bay Area's NBC affiliate on Jan. 1. The one handing out the pink slips is news VP Scott Diener, an Emmy winner and former political consultant snagged from Cincinnati CBS affiliate WCPO in January. Diener referred Eye's call to General Manager Bob Franklin, who did not return calls. ... One of the two staffers cut last week complains that Diener sent a memo in May about performing better but then promoted her anyway. And there's another wrinkle: The writer, who is black, says she contacted the NAACP in February after a white anchor sent her what she considers a racist email that was "degrading and dehumanizing." The former employee complained to station managers about that and other instances of "racial intolerance" she encountered, but says she doesn't know if her complaints were linked to her firing. South Bay NAACP President Rick Callender says station management agreed to meet with association officials only if they'd promise not to go public with the issue. That meeting was called off at the writer's request, but now the NAACP is preparing to reinvestigate.

Nine Lives

Add a couple names to the list of hopefuls for the District 9 San Jose council seat. Eye reported in May that Chris Hemingway, an aide to current seat holder John Diquisto, was in the running. Update: Hemingway now claims residency in the Cambrian district he hopes to represent. He says he's talked to political consultant Ed McGovern about joining his camp, but hasn't hired anyone yet. Meanwhile, it looks like Hemingway will be getting a run for his money from a longtime Cambrian resident with serious community activist cred. Third-term Cambrian School District trustee Judy Chirco has confirmed that she's definitely in, and while Hemingway can tout his boss's backing, his challenger already boasts two big endorsements: Ex SJ Mayor Susan Hammer, who says she might host a fundraiser for Chirco, and District 1 Supe Jim Beall, who held the seat before Diquisto. Chirco has signed a contract with San Francisco-based campaign consultants Terris Jaye Barnes, which managed Hammer's '94 re-election. One thing Chirco will be able to hang over Hemingway's head is that she's been around a lot longer--Chirco graduated from the now-closed Cambrian High School and learned to drive there when the area was mostly orchards. Both Hemingway and Chirco have asked SJ Mayor Ron Gonzales to endorse their bids, but Gonzales says he's not wading in just yet. Speaking of Ron, he can also expect a call from his former aide, Betsy Doss, who is also weighing a run. The former teacher and principal spent a year and a half as the mayor's education policy adviser until leaving in October to become a consultant. But while Doss, who has also worked in community affairs at chipmaker AMD, is now basking in the financial glow of selling her skills to corporate clients, she says that may be the rub: "I'm serious about exploring it," Doss says, "The main issue is income."

Union Man

Long time Demo party activist and union leader Stephen Stamm died June 20, of heart failure, at age 53. The SJSU grad and Vietnam vet was almost killed in a serious bodysurfing accident in 1993, and it looked like he might not walk again. But Stamm not only got back on his feet, he also returned to work. Stamm first got involved with the union while working as a grocery clerk in the '70s, and later became part of the leadership, says longtime friend and fellow Democrat Steve Preminger. With Stamm involved on both sides, Preminger says, "labor started feeling more comfortable with the Democratic party." Most recently, Stamm was Secretary-Treasurer of UFCW Local 428. Madge Overhouse, known as the godmother of the local Democratic Party, says Stamm brought his no-nonsense style to the county Democratic Central Committee, which he used to chair. At a June 28 memorial, Overhouse, sounding on the verge of tears, recalls one eulogist joked that "Stephen spoke two languages: One was English with an accent and the other was profane." But more importantly, Overhouse says, "he was union."

Missing Persons

Funny that half of the people on the program for a recent gathering of transit wonks were absent--because they couldn't get there. But the show went on at last week's annual Mineta Transportation Institute board of trustees awards banquet, which raises scholarship money for postgrad transit students at SJSU. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, who lends his name to the outfit he helped create, couldn't attend because he was helping dedicate the new National Japanese American Memorial in Washington, D.C. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown bailed out at the last minute, and Assemblyman Fred Keeley (D-Santa Cruz) was stuck in Sacramento dealing with a Republican budget blockade. Institute spokeswoman Leslee Hamilton says nice guy San Jose Mayor (and her former boss) Ron Gonzales stepped in to fill one of the welcoming roles, and Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose) filled in by introducing Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), ranking Democrat on the House Transportation Committee. Filling in for the absent Keeley to introduce Caltrans Director Jeff Morales was Institute Director Rod Diridon Sr., who was named last week to the state High Speed Rail Authority by Gov. Gray Davis... Eye should note that former Supe Diridon tied the knot June 10 with Commonwealth Club CEO Dr. Gloria Duffy at a pol-packed ceremony in the Santa Cruz Mountains. And as proof that the South Bay can sometimes be a smaller town than wherever John Mellencamp grew up, Duffy, a former Clinton Administration deputy assistant secretary of defense, also happens to be Merc Editor Rob Elder's ex-wife.

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From the July 5-11, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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