KTLA reporter David Begnaud knew he was taking a risk when he left the confines of traditional TV reporting to join Larry King’s new home, Ora TV. But already, he says he is basking in the ability of the online network’s second show NewsBreaker to report on news as it happens.
This morning happens to coincide with Begnaud’s first exclusive. After hearing about an open letter written by Special Olympics ambassador John Franklin Stephens to Ann Coulter in response to the latter’s now infamous Obama R-word tweet, he tracked the gentleman down and got him to read his letter on camera.
“I said to my team, ‘It’s one thing to read the open letter but it’s much more powerful to see him read it,” Begnaud tells FishbowlLA via telephone. “It’s sort of personal for me, because I grew up in Louisiana with a mentally handicapped aunt and my mother has a company that takes care of the developmentally disabled.”
“The R-word was never permitted at our home, and in my opinion, Coulter is certainly allowed to say or tweet whatever she wants and we the media then get to decide how much we’re going to publicize it,” he adds. “But having grown up around someone who is mentally handicapped, I knew that if I could get Stephens to read his open letter on video, it might change some hearts.”
Begnaud started his journalism career right out of high school with KLFY-TV. After interning for just a few weeks at age 17, he was offered a full-time reporter position by his mentor Maria Placer. Six months later, she made him the host of a weekend morning show and then, shortly thereafter, gave him the weekend evening anchor spot. As a result, Begnaud anchored on weekends and went to college during the week.
“When that was over, I moved to Shreveport and worked for KFLA-TV for a year and half, and then went to work for CBS in Sacramento, and was there for three years,” he continues. “Then I came down to Los Angeles to work for KTLA.”
“For me, the tough part, always, was getting breaking news and then having to wait for the evening newscast. I met Larry King and his executive producer Wendy Walker, and she asked me if I wanted to bring my dream, vision of a breaking news show to Ora. It was definitely a big risk to move from ten years in traditional TV to online.”
Begnaud was late for his FishbowlLA interview time because of some gruesome breaking news involving an NYPD cop’s cannibalistic aspirations (See below). Right now, the NewsBreaker 45-second-or-so snippets are piping out to the Ora TV website and YouTube, but the producer-host says various additional syndication avenues are in the works.
The program is entirely elastic, with Begnaud and his team doing as many daily short blasts as the news dictates. “We’ve done five, we’ve done seven, we’ve done close to ten in a day,” he explains. “I’ll give you the news on your phone, as it happens. That New York cop story that’s breaking right now? I’m literally looking at my editor, she’s editing it right now. We’ll probably have it online in the next ten minutes.”
“Carlos Slim, the man who envisioned all this, wanted that. He became the richest man in the world on mobile media, so he wanted something that could live there.”
Indeed, it’s no accident that Begnaud launched his show NewsBreaker on October 15 the same week that Newsweek was confirming plans to go digital. It’s not about print anymore. And it’s certainly no longer about a weekly magazine’s cushy lead time.