Marti Emerald in the hospital for spine surgery.

Known as the “Troubleshooter” at KGTV-TV in San Diego, Marti Emerald stood tall as perhaps the market’s most dominant TV news reporter throughout the late-1980s, 1990s and early 2000s.

Today, the 66-year-old is flat on her back, resting at her Imperial Beach home after her fifth back surgery. The 6-foot-tall Emerald is now about 5-foot-10-inches, she said.

“I’m all braced up, using a walker, feeling stronger and better, literally one step at time,” Emerald told Times of San Diego. “Maybe one of these days I’ll learn how to hit a golf ball.”

Not long after joining KGTV in September 1985, Emerald became San Diego’s TV consumer advocate. (“We’re committed to consumers in this country, we’re looking out for you,” was one of her favorite, enthusiastic lines.)

Ratings soared as viewers watched Emerald’s ambush interviews with someone cringing, squirming or hiding behind the curtains. “It’s okay to talk to us, we all know what’s really going on here,” she would say, attempting to badger and coax subjects to talk to a news camera.

Viewers were known to delay their dinners until it was Emerald’s turn to reveal her latest, titillating investigation.

She reported on unsafe baby cribs, a church that existed only to raise money, unlicensed contractors, telemarketing frauds and discarded medical records discovered in a trash dumpster near a medical clinic, to name just a few.

Her reports about medical records gave impetus for lawmakers to pass HIPAA — the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 — a law that protects the privacy and security rights of individuals’ health information.

Emerald also covered a scheme by two Russian brothers, David and Michael Smushkovich, who pled guilty to filing fraudulent insurance claims. Federal prosecutors said the brothers operated a fraud ring involving mobile diagnostic vans soliciting customers at health clubs and shopping malls.

Bills to insurers were falsified to show that healthy patients were ill or injured. The fraud totaled $1 billion in largely unnecessary and often botched medical tests and treatment.

“Scam Diego got its nickname for a reason,” Emerald said. “Every possible scam can be found here, and, why not? The crooks also love the sunshine and beaches.”

Emerald recalled another favorite story about a homeless mother who had been adopted and needed help looking for family members to care for her four sons. The woman had been diagnosed with advanced breast cancer and wanted her sons to have a home. KGTV hired a private investigator who found the woman’s family a few months before she died.

Shortly after leaving KGTV in September 2007, ending a 30-year broadcast career, Emerald continued her advocacy efforts as an elected official. She served eight years on the San Diego City Council, representing two different districts.

Emerald, a Democrat, said, “It was a real joy to serve on the city council. We reached out to the community and asked, `What do you want? What do you need?’ And, then we worked together to make it happen. It was another form of advocacy with the power of government behind us.”

Although she was eligible to seek re-election in 2016, she decided against it after battling breast cancer, which currently remains in remission. Also, in 2016, she underwent neck surgery to correct discs injured while caring for first husband, attorney Michael Klarfeld, who passed away in 2011. In November 2014, she married Karl Bradley, a construction manager for the Sweetwater Union High School District.

Her latest back surgery will hopefully correct a malady called spinal stenosis that caused numbness in her legs and feet because of pressure on the spinal cord. “My back is fused at three different levels,” said Emerald. “Everything is pretty solid; nobody is going anywhere.”

Now retired, Bradley is a terrific caregiver, said a thankful Emerald, who wrote this Facebook post in April: “My husband (is) my greatest source of strength. Stepping into a new chapter of a journey that began nearly a year ago when my legs gave out on me. A major spine surgery, three weeks in hospital and skilled nursing. I head home and embark on the next phase of this journey, learning to walk again, regain strength and confidence, and embrace pure gratitude to all who have encouraged and supported me each step of the way.”

Emerald told Times of San Diego she was surprised at the replies to her Facebook post. “I was really taken back by the hundreds and hundreds of positive responses,” she said. “It was overwhelming. They lifted my spirits and will help me get through this latest episode. I’m so grateful for the community support, to everyone for their prayers and encouragement. It really means a lot to me.”

Mindgruve Named to 2021 Inc. 5000 Regional List

Mindgruve, a San Diego creative marketing agency, reports it has earned a spot on the 2021 Inc. Magazine 5000 regional list for California.

Despite last year’s shutdown from the pandemic, Mindgruve said its year-over-year growth helped it land at No. 234 on the Inc. list, which places Mindgruve among the top 5 percent of all companies in the state.

“This is one of the most esteemed honors a private business like ours can receive,” said Chad Robley, Mindgruve CEO and founder. “We’re as humbled as we are excited for what’s to come in 2021 and beyond.”

Mindgruve’s Chad Robley

In addition to California, Inc. has five other areas for its regional 5000 lists, including D.C. Metro, Florida, Midwest, New York Metro and Texas.

Last year, Mindgruve earned a spot on Inc.’s 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Company list at No. 2,789 with a reported growth rate of more than 143 percent.

The agency, with 60 employees, provides a variety of services for Sony, Victorinox Swiss Army, Bollé, PCA SKIN (a Colgate-Palmolive company), SkullCandy and Boot Barn.

AMA Webinar Examines Post-Pandemic Reopening Plans

The American Marketing Association’s San Diego chapter will host a free webinar panel discussion titled “Hope on the Horizon: Strategies for Marketing a Reopening Plan” from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Wednesday, May 26 over Zoom.

For registration information, visit sdama.org. Questions to panel members can be submitted in advance to info@sdama.org.

Presenters will include: Erika DiProfio, VP of marketing at SeaWorld; Craig Dado, executive VP and chief marketing officer at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club; and Dave Koontz, director of marketing for the USS Midway Museum.

Topics will include marketing strategies on how to attract customers as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, as well as crafting messages for customers who may be wary of crowded spaces and want to feel safe again.

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

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