Local SoCal Stations Cover Fires Wall-to-Wall
Southern California broadcasters are devoting most of their airtime to coverage of the wildfires that have displaced nearly 1 million people. The Los Angeles Times reports that local stations preempted the majority of daytime programming and mobilized news departments to their limits.
Starting Sunday mid-morning, L.A. and SoCal broadcasters cut away to the fires and deployed the bulk of news operations to coverage. KCBS Assistant News Director Paul Button said his station called an all hands that included freelancers and former employees.
The Times reports that duops KCBS/KCAL and KTTV/KCOP each kept at least one station on the fire Sunday and Monday, while the other broadcast major sporting events. KABC bumped Oprah for the fires and alerted viewers with a crawl that soaps could be found on sister cable nets.
Some stations were said to scale back late Monday, though most made use of Internet sites for continued coverage.
Recriminations followed the 2003 SoCal wildfires. A grand jury was called to investigate why the Emergency Alert System had not been activated, but found no fault because broadcast news teams were on the story before an EAS alert would have gone out. The FCC later slapped several stations with fines for failing to provide timely closed-caption information on the fires.
The 2003 fires killed 16 people and destroyed nearly 2,500 homes. So far, five deaths have been reported in the current fires, and the extent of the damage is still being assessed.