California News Stations Respond to Earthquake

Local news stations throughout California deployed camera men the length of the state’s coast Friday to provide TV viewers with a continual “shore watch,” following news of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan early Friday morning, the even more destructive tsunami that followed and the tsunami advisory that was issued for much of the California coast.

“Between here in Los Angeles at KCBS and our Bay Area sister station KPIX, we have cameras up and down the coast,” said Mike Nelson, vice president of communications for the CBS Television Station Group.

Such a commitment of resources is due in large part to station executives knowing a good—albeit tragic—story when they see one. But it also may be the result of the double impact earthquake stories have for Californians: The state’s residents not only empathize with the victims, but they also fear that something similar could happen there.

So when news broke, local news stations geared up for a busy day. Then when the tsunami advisory was issued for much of the California coast later Friday morning, it was clear that local stations wouldn’t just be covering the earthquake’s impact abroad; they also would be monitoring its impact here at home.

Not surprisingly, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami story led most network and cable morning news shows, as well as local morning news shows in Los Angeles. Shortly after 10 a.m., West Coast time, local stations KCBS (2), KNBC (4), KTLA (5) and Fox affiliate KTTV (11) broke into regularly scheduled programming with coverage of a press conference with seismologists from the U.S. Geological Survey and Pasadena-based California Institute of Technology.

Reports also surfaced early Friday that several boats were destroyed in a harbor near northern California’s Humboldt County as a result of the aftereffects of the Japanese tsunami. Footage of the earthquake, the tsunami and their effects, arriving from Japan throughout the afternoon, were largely provided by that nation’s top broadcaster NHK. It seemed clear that the earthquake story would lead most network and local news programs during the evening, if not through the weekend.

“We have been doing extended coverage, and as events warrant, we will be all over the story,” said Nelson.