KTVU Signing-Off*

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The first independent television station I can recall was KTVU, Channel 2, located in Jack London Square in Oakland, California.  One of their “Firsts,” was to move their newscasts from the traditional “11 O’clock” time slot to 10 P.M.  Besides starting an hour earlier, their news’ broadcast was 60 minutes long, doubling the airtime of the nationally known television corporations, such as ABC, CBS, and NBC.

Over the years, as the internet changed the way viewers watched television, Channel 2 has remanded a constant.  The mixture of local, national, and worldwide news continues, live football and baseball games were/are broadcasted, movies, sitcoms, generally entertainment that whole families could view together, brought the advertisers and advertisements needed to survive financially, which they have done quite well.  Another oddity that I found refreshing over the years and unlike many other television stations, local and nationally, were the employees, especially those in the news department, spent their entire career with Channel 2.

In today’s world, where there are virtually 100’s of channels to view on television, it has become very common for TV personalities, as they become better known, to move,  seeking higher visibility positions.  Perhaps being known, has replaced loyalty for many, which makes Channel 2’s retention even more remarkable.  Thinking back over the years, I can only remember a handful of “News anchors” that hosted the 10 O’clock news time slot.  In addition to the anchors, the other journalists completing the news team stayed, seemingly forever also.  Channel 2, a staple in Bay Area television, must have a magnificent ownership/management team to accomplish and maintain the longevity of it’s employees, which brings me to the “Signing-Off” portion of this article.

Lloyd LaCuesta, announced his plans to retire from KTVU this coming June 15th, after a 36 year career with the station.  I believe LaCuesta became the first Asian-American, perhaps the first non-white journalist, to report on television in the Bay Area.  Rising from a staff reporter to the station’s South Bay bureau chief, La Cuesta was known for his breaking news stories, which proliferated the newscasts over the years.

As I continued reading the article, I realized that LaCuesta was known nationally,  winning six Emmy Awards for his reporting.  He reported on many high profile assignments over the years, probably no more notable than the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, the Oakland hills firestorm in 1991, and the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in 1999.  LaCuesta, who spent more than half of his life at KTVU, signed-off by saying “The station allowed me to cover events, which viewers experienced, through my eyes.”

Although the article was a living testimonial to a reporter and his employer, it reminded me of how easily we forget the danger/violence that lurks within our daily lives.  The Loma Prieta earthquake was devastating, destroying properties throughout the San Francisco/Bay Area, causing the upper deck of the Bay Bridge to collapse, streets and freeways were tossed up in the air or flattened into rubble, causing the loss of many lives as the earth rocked and rolled.  The Oakland hills firestorm was as defiant as the earthquake and equally caught those who call this area home, off-guard and ill-prepared to handle Mother Nature’s curses.

The Oakland firestorm started on an absolutely beautiful Sunday in the Bay Area.  The San Francisco 49ers were playing at home at Candlestick Park.  The camera crew in the blimp, flying over the game, city, and bay showed pillars of smoke rising above the Caldecott Tunnels in the East Bay.  Periodically, the camera crew would refocus on the expanding fire, but even those of us watching the game did not realize the unrelenting power fueling the infamous inferno.

I believe 1,100 homes were lost during the fire, one home burnt to the ground every 90 seconds, over the course of four days.  I was told by a fellow deputy sheriff that the fire burnt so hot there was no “Fire” smells to the area, just a blackened landscape, barren concrete foundations, and hunks of metal that used to be vehicles.  As homeowners began to rebuild, the realization that what was once, will never be the same.

Both the earthquake and firestorm came without warning, raping and pillaging all in their paths.  The corrosiveness of these unbelievable events brought President George H.W. Bush to personally view the destruction caused by the earthquake.  As for the firestorm, the vast emptiness spoke volumes in silence.

The Columbine High School shooting is a different disaster, one that was caused by Man.  We, as a people, are powerless to stop, lessen the full impact, or deter natural disasters.  Planning, as most of us do not do, will only become useful once the path of destruction has completed it’s deadly, humbling ways.

However, arming one-self, killing innocent people, especially innocent children provides a hatred most of us cannot comprehend.  What could possibly be done to lessen the vulnerability surrounding all of us?  Who can we turn to that will protect us from future attacks?

How do we save ourselves, our children from the manic, dysfunctional mind(s) that “Get off” on the senselessly taking of lives?  The only difference I can see between these cowards and suicide bombers is the bomber dies, Cowards, when caught and convicted live their lives in penitentiaries, often showing no remorse, as the families of the victims live in a state of shock, reliving their loss for the rest of their lives, wondering why did it happen?

While writing this article, it made me so sad that I am powerless to stop a great deal of the violence and destruction that frequent our planet.  I also realized how lucky I am to have reach retirement age virtually unscathed.  Perhaps, if I would have turned left instead of right things would have been different.

Lord knows, I have put myself in harm’s way numerous times, but fortunately I was able to get out of the danger before it became lethal.  I know of no rhyme or reason why things, especially bad and/or violence happens to one, not the other.  One thing I do know is we are all equally venerably.

*           The Lloyd LaCuestra article first appeared in the Tri-Valley Times in April 2012

Written by: Rick Hurd, staff

Section B, page 4

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