Thursday, September 1, 2011

San Francisco Bay Area Television-25 Years of Early Morning News

Today the early morning television airwaves in the San Francisco Bay Area are saturated with local news broadcasts.  Five stations (KTVU, KRON, KPIX, KGO and KNTV) produce a total of 17 hours of local news on weekdays between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m.  Twenty-five years ago, in the summer of 1986, the same stations produced zero hours of local news (excepting the local cut-ins to network programs at 7:25 and 8:25 a.m.).

The world of Bay Area television news broadcasting changed on Monday, September 1 (Labor Day), 1986 when KRON-TV (channel 4, then an NBC affiliate) debuted "Daybreak," a half-hour local newscast from 6:30 a.m. to 7 a.m.  "NewsCenter 4 Daybreak" was then the only local newscast on the Bay Area television dial between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. (aside from the five-minute cut-ins to the network morning programs at 7:25 and 8:25 a.m.).  Lloyd Patterson and Lila Petersen were the co-anchors.  This half-hour program a quarter century ago spawned the seven hours on KRON (4 a.m. to 11 a.m.), 4 1/2 hours on KTVU (4:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.) and 2 1/2 hours on KPIX, KGO and KNTV (4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m.) that Bay Area viewers see today.

"Daybreak" had a texture that was different from KRON's other newscasts in 1986.  Traffic reporting was heavily emphasized.  Newscasts generally began with live shots of traffic conditions at the toll plazas of the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge (live traffic cameras were a rarity then).  Much of the content was from KRON's newscasts that aired the previous day.  [For example, the evening anchors' (Jim Paymar and Sylvia Chase) laughter sometimes could be heard during the taped Wayne Shannon commentaries that aired during "Daybreak."]  The New York Stock Exchange began trading at 6:30 a.m. PT, giving 'Daybreak' an opportunity to be among the few broadcast television sources of opening-bell market trends (aside from the Financial News Network on San Jose's channel 48, which had yet to convert to its Spanish language Telemundo format.)  "Bumpers" before commercial breaks included trivia questions and cartoon clips.  A mid-1987 promo summarized what made 'Daybreak' distinctive: "“When the day begins, ‘Daybreak’ is ready.  With local news, stocks, weather and live traffic reports.  Daybreak – the Bay Area’s first newscast.  Weekdays at 6:30.”When the day begins, ‘Daybreak’ is ready.  With local news, stocks, weather and live traffic reports.  'Daybreak' – the Bay Area’s first newscast.  Weekdays at 6:30."
“When the day begins, ‘Daybreak’ is ready.  With local news, stocks, weather and live traffic reports.  Daybreak – the Bay Area’s first newscast.  Weekdays at 6:30.”“When the day begins, ‘Daybreak’ is ready.  With local news, stocks, weather and live traffic reports.  Daybreak – the Bay Area’s first newscast.  Weekdays at 6:30.”

KNTV (channel 11), then the ABC affiliate in the San Jose/Salinas/Monterey television market, in 1987 or early 1988 followed KRON with its 15-minute "Good Morning San Jose" program at 6:45 a.m., displacing the last quarter of the hour-long "ABC World News This Morning."

In January 1988, KGO-TV (channel 7, ABC owned & operated station) announced that it would challenge KRON with its own early morning newscasts, two 15-minute newscasts at 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., interspersed with 15-minute segments of "ABC World News This Morning" at 6:15 and 6:45 a.m.  It was on the air by mid-1988.  Russ Coughlan, former KGO general manager, was the anchor of a low-budget newscast that featured Coughlan holding up and reading morning newspapers on the air.  KGO touted the fact that its newscast began earlier than KRON's, beginning a "war" for earlier and earlier start times.

The earth literally shook before KPIX-TV (channel 5, then a Westinghouse-owned CBS affiliate) entered the early morning news race.  Its 6:30 a.m. newscast evolved out of special coverage following the October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  By that time KRON had already expanded "Daybreak" to a full hour, beginning at 6 a.m.

KTVU (channel 2, Cox Broadcasting-owned Fox affiliate) began competing in the early morning news market in January 1991 when "Mornings on 2" debuted from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., featuring host Steve McPartlin, news anchor Terry Lowry and reporter Eric Greene.  Its competitive advantage was that it was the only local newscast against the network programs during its two-hour time slot.  It was then said to be the first local newscast in the western United States to challenge the network programs.  "Mornings on 2" replaced a two-hour children's block, including "G.I. Joe," "Adventures of the Gummi Bears," "Duck Tales" and "Merrie Melodies."

In August 1996, KTVU added a 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. newscast called the "KTVU Morning News," anchored by Dianne Dwyer and Ross McGowan.  That newscast expanded earlier to 5:30 a.m. in August 1998.  Today it begins at 4:30 a.m.

In the early 1990s, local stations increased their local cut-ins to network programs.  In 1992, for example, KRON added 7:55 and 8:55 a.m. five-minute newscasts to join its 7:25 and 8:25 a.m. ones.  "Daybreak" had expanded to two hours (5 a.m. to 7 a.m.) by 1998.  Now KRON begins its local newscasts at 4 a.m., a half-hour earlier than its four rivals.

KPIX ran a local newscast called "Channel 5 This Morning" during the 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. hour in mid-1996.  Anchored by Marcia Brandwynne, it was blended with network content.  KPIX ran a network news program from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Cox Broadcasting, KTVU's owner, bought KICU-TV in San Jose in 1999.  In 2000, KTVU simulcast "Mornings on 2" on KICU. KICU occasionally broke away from KTVU to air Santa Clara County-focused items.

KRON "Daybreak" anchors in the 1990s included Susan Blake (began in 1990) and John Kessler.  [Here are "Daybreak" promos from 1997 and 1999 (featuring John Kessler, Darya Folsom, Christine Nubla, Michelle Franzen and Brian Hackney).]  In January 2002, KRON lost its NBC affiliation and became "independent."  It created its "KRON 4 Morning News" in the 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. timeslot to replace the "Today" program that moved to KNTV.  Eventually the "Daybreak" name was removed from the pre-7 a.m. broadcast.

KCRA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Sacramento, has produced an early morning newscast longer than any Bay Area station.  Well before "Daybreak" premiered on KRON in 1986, KCRA had long broadcast an hour-long "Channel 3 Reports" program from 6 to 7 a.m.

KMST-TV (now KCCN-TV), the CBS affiliate in Monterey (channel 46), also may have beaten KRON to the early morning airwaves.  In September 1986, it aired a 15-minute program called "Morning in Monterey" at 6:15 a.m.

KSBW-TV, the NBC affiliate in Salinas (channel 8), was perhaps one of the last NBC stations that had no local morning newscast whatsoever.  It began producing 7:25 and 8:25 a.m. newscasts in early 1987.  Its first early morning newscast began in August 1987 in the 6:30 to 7 a.m. time slot, featuring Diane Guerrazzi as anchor and Jim Adamson as weatherman.  (KSBW's 11:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. newscasts began the same day, effectively doubling the station's weekday local news productions.)

To make room for "Daybreak," KRON moved the half-hour "NBC News at Sunrise," then anchored by Bob Jamieson, to the 6 to 6:30 a.m. time slot.  "Sunrise" displaced an morning re-broadcast of the previous evening's "Entertainment Tonight."  In August 1986, KRON's five-minute news breaks at 6:45, 7:25 and 8:25 a.m. were called "Daybreak" so that program title antedated the half-hour newscast that began in September 1986.

The "Daybreak" logo was a rising sun that was reminiscent of the logo for NBC's "Today" program.  "Today" co-anchors Bryant Gumbel and Jane Pauley cut promos in 1986 for KRON's "Daybreak."  Pauley's five second promo implored viewers to "Give your 'Today' a great start.  Watch NewsCenter 4 'Daybreak.'"

Today five Bay Area stations air local newscasts at 6:30 a.m. weekdays.  When "Daybreak" premiered on KRON in that time slot in 1986, its competition was "Alvin and the Chipmunks" cartoon on KTVU, the "CBS Early Morning News" on KPIX, the last half-hour of "ABC World News This Morning" on KGO.

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