Steve Price in his makeshift home studio
Anchor Steve Price in his makeshift home studio.

If you drop by to visit TV anchor Steve Price at his home, don’t expect to sit down and play “Hi-Ho Cherry-O” or “Connect 4.” Also, you won’t find the KFMB-TV weekend anchor reading such books as “In Search of Deeper Learning,” a study on how to reform American public high schools, and “The Double Life of Fidel Castro.”

That’s because the children’s board games and the books are now serving to stabilize and elevate Price’s teleprompter as he anchors weekend evening newscasts from an impromptu studio in his dining room.

Amid a global pandemic that has prompted an unprecedented clampdown on daily life and a halt to U.S. economic activity, Price is among many San Diego TV newscasters who are demonstrating social distancing by broadcasting live outside the studios and from inside their homes direct to your home.

Since mid-March, as viewers watch them broadcast a slapped-together, jury-rigged setup in a home office, guest bedroom, family room or dining room, some local on-air talent have been dealing with barking dogs, small children asking for something and technical difficulties beyond their control.

“I had a battery on my light die in the middle of a live shot and the whole screen went dark,” said Price. “I posted it on my Instagram account, and viewers responded that they were laughing out loud when they saw it live over the air. Viewers are incredibly understanding of the challenges we’re facing.”

“At first, it was definitely intimidating. We were the first station in the market to separate anchors on the set and have anchors broadcast from their home. Once I figured out the technical side of getting a live feed out of my house, the hard part was setting up an aesthetically pleasing shot that was also functional. For me, that meant stacking tray tables, books and old games on top of each other to get the teleprompter where I needed it. Luckily, that was out of the shot.”

Other News 8 anchors are broadcasting at home, including weathercasters Shawn Styles and Heather Myers.

“The viewers seem to be very understanding and even appreciative of the media’s effort to demonstrate social distancing,” said Myers. “They don’t mind when my kids (ages 7 and 9) make cameos and seem to love getting a behind-the-scenes look at our homes and everyday lives.”

“I am loving working from home. I never dreamed it would ever be possible to work on-camera from the inside of my home. I think we are all shocked that so much is possible thanks to technology. Ever since I had kids nine years ago, it has been constant struggle to find some sort of balance. Even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, there are blessings and working from home is one of them for me.”

Heather Myers in her home weather studio.

Styles commented, “I’m always amazed what our viewers notice. Within an hour of my first broadcast from home I received multiple emails and texts about the quality of the image and audio. They also commented on my garden and asked about the plants and for tips. It’s always better to have access to the tools I have in the weather center or to be able to use the touch screen to explain what’s developing in the atmosphere. Given the situation we’re all in the setup is working well.”

The extra efforts at home have not gone unnoticed by news executives.

“Moving the anchors to their homes, without broadcast cameras, lights, teleprompter, and communication from the control room put them way outside their comfort zone,” said Dana McDaniel, News 8 director of content. “Adjusting to these new make-shift home studios has shown their true commitment to our viewers and I could not be more proud of how the News 8 team has handled this challenge.”

Indeed, meteorologists seem to be the favorites of news directors for home confinement assignments.

Angelica Campos, evening meteorologist with KGTV-ABC 10News, admits there have been technical hurdles to overcome.

“The set-up was difficult, it has been challenging at times,” said Campos. “I’m not an expert at doing any camera stuff. I’m a meteorologist, but thankfully one of our photographers came to my house and helped me set-up my husband’s office into my weather center at home.

“Viewers have said they are happy to see us taking the same precautions we were telling people from early on. In my opinion, it is a reminder for them to do the same and stay home.”

“I have gotten my son only once to say hi to our viewers before bed time. People watched me through my pregnancy, so it’s fun for me to show them how big he is getting, and this opportunity allows me to share a bit of my family with our viewers who welcome us home everyday in their lives.”

Sheena Parveen, morning meteorologist at KNSD NBC 7, said working from home has meant a more casual wardrobe.

“I didn’t think I’d ever like working from home, but I’m getting used to being more comfortable with slippers all morning instead of high heels, and there’s a good chance I may be wearing sweat pants,” said Parveen. “I also think viewers like to see us practice what we preach. It’s important to me that I still deliver accurate weather information from home, since people have to carry on with their lives right now as much as possible.”

“I’ve been told recently that my weathercasts are a nice distraction from all the pandemic news. Many people with pets still need to go outside regularly, and just for your own sanity you should take a walk if possible, hence, my morning walk forecast. It’s important right now to take care of how you feel mentally, and I fully understand that.”

“The set up was easy, but the lighting can be tricky. I have many windows at home, so when the sun rises during our morning show, my light drastically changes. I’ve had to rig a few things, like the blackout curtain.”

A broadcast from home by NBC 7’s Sheena Parveen.

Spanish-language TV viewers in San Diego also are seeing on of their weathercasters at home. Ana Cristina reports for KUAN-TV Telemundo 20, a San Diego-based Spanish-language station owned by NBC Universal that shares studio space with KNSD.

“I have noticed that viewers feel more connected with us at home,” said Cristina. “I have had viewers reach out and talk to me about their plants at home, since they have seen mine in the background. I have even exchanged tips and pictures of plants with a couple of viewers that follow me on Facebook. My dog, Beebee, has made a guest appearance a few times and people seem to love her.”

Another challenge for the on-air TV talent at home is dealing with their own vulnerabilities, safety concerns and home responsibilities while projecting calm and poise in front of the camera.

“It’s part of the job to always remain poised and to focus on the forecast,” said Campos. “But, I have been doing weather for so long that I have learned to stay calm and collected even through loud barks, or things falling apart. We have two dogs and a one year old, both can get loud sometimes and I’ve had it happen during weather reports.”

“I feel more connected to the public because I feel just as vulnerable as everyone else,” admitted Myers. “I am asking the same questions as everyone else. And, I am navigating this home-schooling issue along with every other working parent. It’s messy and crazy, but I do feel better because I am home with my family. I honestly don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t be at home right now. God bless the people who have kids but don’t have this option.”

In many ways, the coronavirus upended local TV newscasts overnight. Broadcasters agree that after the lockdowns have ended, their industry may never be the same again.

“I had to quickly learn a lot of new technology,” said Price. “But, this was the push I needed to learn the skills that will help me be a better journalist in the future. Zoom interviews aren’t as pretty as in-person interviews, but they are a great way to quickly get quotes from people. I really think those will be here to stay even after social distancing ends.”

Officials with KUSI-NEWS and KSWB-TV Fox 5 told the Times of San Diego their newscasters are continuing with in-studio newscasts, just as in pre-pandemic days, while practicing social distancing in the newsroom.

Cox Media Offering Free TV Spots to San Diego County Restaurants

Cox Media, the advertising sales division of Cox Communications, is offering free 30-second television commercials to San Diego County restaurants that are still offering delivery and takeout service during the coronavirus lockdown.

“As our community is impacted by this pandemic, it’s important for us to support our local businesses, and one way we can do that is to provide free television advertising to local restaurants to let their customers and the public know they’re open for business,” said Leslie Talansky, VP of Cox Media in San Diego.

Talansky declined to specify to the Times of San Diego a dollar amount the offer represents, but said, “it will be a significant investment.”

Talansky also said the commercials are currently running on a variety of cable networks, including A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, BET, Bravo, Comedy Central, CMT, CNBC and Discovery.

Civico 1845 has taken advantage of the Cox Media program.

“We have the ability to accommodate hundreds of restaurants since the ads would run geographically throughout San Diego County, and we will accommodate as many as possible,” Talansky said. “Cox Media has already received requests from more than 80 restaurants.”

The free spots, to air a minimum of two weeks per restaurant, will include graphical information about the restaurant. No video footage is required. Interested restaurants should call 1-855-755-2691 or send an email to MarketingInsights@CoxMedia.com.

“We are also grateful to Cox for their support in putting these PSAs out to let San Diegans how to support their local restaurants,” said Javier Correa, Jr., owner-operator of Sombrero Mexican Food.

“We are happy to have the help to promote our take out offerings,” said Dario Gallo, owner of Civico 1845 and Il Dandy. “We are relying on neighborhood support to get us through these hard times, so getting the word out that we are open and offering pick up and delivery is important for us.”

KOGO Airing Nightly Show with Virus Survival Tips

KOGO News Radio 600-AM has launched “Right Now,” a how-to-survive-coronavirus series of programs airing weeknights from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The station said each program will focus on different health topics to help listeners managing life during the virus pandemic. The line-up includes:

  • Financial health on Mondays with Bob “Sully” Sullivan, KOGO business reporter, answering questions about furloughs, stimulus checks and the economy.
  • Mental health on Tuesdays with Lou Penrose, co-host of “The DeMaio Report with Carl DeMaio and Lou Penrose,” offering advice on how to cope, relieve stress and remain calm in this time of crisis.
  • Physical health on Wednesdays with Mark Larson, morning host on 760-AM, featuring interviews with local medical professionals.
  • Spiritual health on Thursdays with Mike Slater, afternoon host on 760-AM, discussing how listeners can tap into their spiritual side to create a sense of calm, hope and wellbeing in an uncertain world.
  • Personal health on Fridays with LaDona Harvey, morning news co-host, providing practical tips to quarantined Californians unable to date, gather with friends and enjoy theater, dining and concerts.

San Diego AMA Hosts Webinar on Repositioning Your Brand

The American Marketing Association’s San Diego chapter will host a free webinar on “How to Rapidly Reposition and Systematically Activate Your Brand” starting at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 15. Presenters will include Frank Cowell of Digitopia and Brian Lischer of Ignyte. Topics will include a three-step process on how brands can be repositioned during and after COVID-19, identifying market segments, how to gain market share, and how to grow in the months ahead.

Also on the San Diego AMA website is a post by Riley Swanson offering historical examples of brands that thrived during times of crisis. Proctor and Gamble added radio to its advertising mix during the Great Depression, which led to the term “soap operas.” During World War II, headlines in print ads for Nestle stated “Chocolate is a Fighting Food,” and sales soared. In the 1970s, as part of the Women’s Rights movement, Virginia Slims launched the first cigarette specifically marketed to women with ads featuring the slogan “You’ve come a long way.”

Rick Griffin

Rick Griffin is a San Diego-based public relations and marketing consultant. His MarketInk column appears weekly on Mondays in Times of San Diego.