When the Camera’s Off

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A behind-the-scenes look at your favorite TV anchors and reporters

Ever wonder what your favorite local television news anchor is wearing underneath the desk? Or what hidden talent lurks within that TV news reporter you depend on to tell you what’s happening in Northern California? Well, we decided there’s no better way to find out than to ask. And ask we did. We put 12 local TV reporters and anchors—some Sacramento institutions, others brand-new to town—under the microscope this past summer, offering a glimpse into their personal and professional lives that you’d never get from watching a newscast. Here, they dish about their jobs, families, pastimes, opinions and more. And because nobody’s perfect, we’ve included tales of some of their funniest on-air bloopers. We guarantee that after reading this, you’ll never view these local celebrities in quite the same way again. You may even find you have more in common with them than you think.

Dan Elliott, reporter/anchor, KXTV News10
Upon being hired at News10 in 1989, Dan Elliott remembers telling his wife, Claudia (whom he had to pry out of Santa Barbara), “We’ll be here for three years, tops.”

That was 18 years ago. Today, Elliott is a local fixture. He co-anchors “News10 Good Morning” with Sharon Ito and “News10 Midday” with Jennifer Smith. Elliott started his career at Sacramento’s ABC affiliate as a sports anchor, and in 1995 switched to news. He came to the capital from KEYT-TV in Santa Barbara, where he was a sports director, sports anchor and news anchor, and also a radio color commentator.

Before that, he worked at KFRC 99.7 FM and KGO 810 AM in San Francisco. He received a degree in broadcast communication arts from San Francisco State University.

• What’s your best job perk?
Notoriety. Being well-known helps a lot of times; often you get a little extra service, and that’s nice.
• What’s the worst part of your job?
Notoriety. If people don’t like you, they’re not going to do a darn thing for you. And you can’t just run in and run out of Bel Air; people are always coming up to talk to you. You’re on the job 24/7—you’re always representing News10, and you don’t want to represent it in an unfavorable light.
• What are you wearing underneath the desk?
Ninety-five percent of the time I’m wearing pants that match my suit jacket. Five percent of the time I’ll wear blue jeans or shorts.
• Where did you grow up?
I was born in Merced, so I’m a Valley boy from way back. I grew up in Fremont and went to high school there.
• Tell us about your family.
Claudia and I are celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary. (It was in July 2006.) We have three boys: Tim, 15; Trevor, 13; and Tucker, 8.
• What do you do in your off hours?
I’m a dad. That just takes a ton of time. All three boys play competitive soccer, two of the boys play baseball, and Trevor plays basketball, too. I get home at noon and try to get an hour of sleep before the mad rush begins.
• What’s your favorite cause or charity?
My favorite cause is youth sports. The kids get so much out of it; it keeps them busy and it gives them some direction. I find the lessons I learned playing sports apply so much to the workplace. And I have a couple of favorite charities. One of my best friends, Steve Caruso, runs the Elk Grove Food Bank, and he’s just a wonderful man. I also love Make-A-Wish; that’s a terrific organization. Here at the station, we do a lot of things with the American Heart Association and The Salvation Army’s Coats for Kids project.
• What’s your most memorable story or interview?
I remember interviewing Joe Montana back in 1979 when he was a rookie with the 49ers. Nobody was talking to him, so I just sat down and talked to him because I was a Notre Dame (Montana’s alma mater) fan. We just sat and talked like a couple of guys. If we’d had a beer, it would’ve been perfect. Years later I went up to him and tried to jog his memory, but he couldn’t remember me.
• What’s your hidden talent?
I’m a great whistler. I grew up listening to show tunes, so I’ve got a lot in my repertoire.
• What would you be if you weren’t a journalist?
A basketball or a baseball coach.

Adrienne Bankert, Traffic Pulse 3 reporter, KCRA Channel 3
Adrienne Bankert takes her job seriously, helping commuters navigate Sacramento’s busy freeways during rush hour between 5 and 7 a.m., and again at 5 p.m.

So what’s up with everybody’s fixation on her ‘do? Those are traffic snarls she’s talking about, people, not the snarls you try to smooth out with a comb. Yet the hair hoopla persists.

“Since I started my job, I’ve probably had 10 hairstyles. Everybody knows it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her hair, but I do not want people to be distracted by my hair,” she says. “People always ask, ‘Is it a wig?’ ‘Why’d you dye it?’ ‘Do you have extensions?’ ‘Who’s your hairstylist?’”

The tress police have been on patrol since October 2004, when Bankert joined the local NBC affiliate after working for the Los Angeles PBS affiliate KLCS-TV, where she hosted educational programming. She also freelanced as a red-carpet correspondent, producer and writer.

A graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in communications, Bankert was honored in 2002 by the Black Journalists Association of Southern California with the Myra Bauman Scholarship and is a Black Alumni Scholar.

When we asked her the following questions, we promised to stay out of her, um, hair.

• What’s your best job perk?
The fact that I get to do what I love every eight minutes for four hours straight. It’s fun to be on TV all the time, and my goal is to be the best storyteller I can be. I think I was born to talk.
• What’s the worst part of your job?
Waking up at 3 in the morning.
• Where did you grow up?
I was born in Beverly Hills, but I was raised in Sheridan, a town north of Lincoln.
• What do you do in your off hours?
I just started working out. I’m excited; I’ve lost five pounds! I used to eat six cookies for breakfast, no problem. I’d been eating that newsroom food. People in journalism love baked foods, so there are always muffins, cookies, doughnuts and cake around. If you don’t turn it down, it shows up on you some way. I do cardio for 30 minutes three days a week, and weights. You might as well get in the habit of living well in your 20s so you can look hot when you’re older.
• What is your favorite cause or charity?
I do a lot of community service. I really like giving back. I do a lot of work with my church and with young people. I think it’s because I’ve been given so many chances by people who saw potential in me, and it was all because I was in the right place at the right time—so when I talk to kids, I talk about the importance of being in the right place at the right time. I serve on the board of the Juvenile Justice Chaplaincy, and I consult with organizations that assist in keeping young people off the streets.
• Tell us about your family.
I have four brothers and two sisters. I’m the oldest. I am totally single. I would feel selfish to get into a relationship now because it takes a lot of time, but eventually I want to get married and have kids.
• What’s your hidden talent?
I like to paint and draw. Our whole family does—we’re all very artistically inclined. When I was in L.A. I sold some paintings. I do some pretty funky stuff, mostly abstract.
• What’s your most memorable story or interview?
I can think of one of my most touching moments. I recently did a story on teen driver safety in which I interviewed a young girl who was the victim of a high-speed accident on a private road. She was driving 25 miles per hour and the other person was driving 70. When they crashed, the steering wheel broke her chest. Her mother was trying to seek justice because no report had been filed. For this girl to be so young and courageous—she was resilient and really forgiving, a sweet girl with a genuine spirit. I like meeting people like that.
• What’s the biggest misconception about you or your job?
Besides the fact that most people think I’m short (Bankert is 5 foot 10), they think I work here all day. They don’t know I work a split shift. And a lot of people think I’m reading from a script, but I’m not.
osh Bernstein, investigative reporter, KCRA Channel 3

Josh Bernstein joined KCRA in November 2005.

Before that, he spent four years at WPMI-TV in Mobile, Ala., where he was named “Best Investigative Reporter” in 2005 by the Alabama Associated Press. In the past two years, Bernstein was honored with two prestigious Edward R. Murrow awards for Best Investigative Reporting and for his investigation “License to Kill: How a Suspected Serial Killer Beat the System.” Bernstein’s tenacious digging brought about the removal of a Mobile County commissioner, who was convicted on charges of public corruption after Bernstein exposed him for bid rigging and profiting from his position.

Bernstein, who’s “single, successful and seeking the same,” says he finds great reward in fostering a well-informed public and that he’s actually a nice guy. Really.

• What’s your best job perk?
Just being able to meet and talk to people. I love meeting people from different backgrounds, from politicians to the average Joe. Another perk is getting to see things from a different perspective than everyone else. In my job, I’m really wired into what’s going on in the community and what’s affecting people.
• What’s the worst part of your job?
The hours, the stress and the deadlines.
• Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in New York, between New York City and Long Island. I went to boarding school in Connecticut.
• What do you like best about Sacramento?
I love living downtown. I walk to work three or four days a week.
• What do you do in your off hours?
I love the outdoors. I love going to Tahoe, and I’ve recently started to enjoy the river. I also love the arts and going to Second Saturday.
• Any pets?
A lab mix named Saki. She’s my downtown diva. And no, I didn’t name her that because I like sake. It’s because a neighbor where I used to live had a cat named Sushi, and my dog loved hanging out with that cat. She even picked up some of its mannerisms.
• What’s your hidden talent?
I’m a pretty good tennis player.
• What would you be if you weren’t a journalist?
I’d be bored. Despite all the stress, there’s nothing I love more than my job.
• Why did you go into investigative reporting?
To me, right is right and wrong is wrong, and when I see public officials abusing their office and getting a free ride at the taxpayers’ expense, that just really disgusts me.
• What’s the biggest misconception about you or your job?
That I’m a mean person just because I hold people accountable. A lot of people think I’m out to get everyone, and I’m not at all. I look for the good parts of a story as much as I do the parts that are going to anger people.

Stefanie Cruz, anchor/reporter, KMAX CW 31
After five years working as an anchor and reporter for WVIT-TV in Hartford, Conn., Stefanie Cruz came back to Northern California, where she was born and raised, to help CBS 13’s sister station launch the weekend edition of “Good Day Sacramento” in 2004. She now can be seen on weekdays. An Alameda native, Cruz says she loves living close to her extended family—without having to suffer Bay Area sticker shock. She finds Sacramento quite to her liking.

“I like that you can still get to know your neighbors here,” she says. “I also like what Sacramento is becoming. It’s developing its own personality, its own vibe, and I get to be in the middle of that.”

Cruz began her career in Yuma, Ariz., at KSWT-TV, then reported for KWQC-TV in the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois: Moline, Rock Island, Davenport and Bettendorf. She is a graduate of San Diego State University.

• What’s your biggest job perk?
Lots of laughing all the time—and it’s never out of place.
• What’s the worst part of your job?
Getting up at 2:30 in the morning. I have a 2-year-old son at home, so there’s no sleep whatsoever.
• What are you wearing underneath the desk?
I never dress down. I’m not one of the slipper wearers.
• Tell us about your family.
My son’s name is Grant, and my husband, Jason Shoultz, is a reporter and producer for “America’s Heartland” on PBS.
• What do you do in your off hours?
I spend as much time as possible with my son. And I indulge, on occasion, in soap operas. I like “The Young and the Restless,” “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “As the World Turns.”
• What’s your favorite cause or charity?
I’ve been involved lately with My Sister’s House, an Asian-Pacific Islander domestic abuse shelter. A lot of times, race and culture don’t get addressed in terms of battered women.
• Any pets?
We have two: Fidel and Kennedy, both cats. We wanted to pick some historical figures’ names and just have fun with it.
• What’s your most memorable story or interview?
The days after the 9/11 attacks. While I was working in Hartford, we went to Ground Zero to report on the relief and recovery efforts. It was like a war zone. That sounds trite, but there’s no other way to describe it.
• Who’s your role model?
My grandmother. She had a very strong work ethic, and she really fought a lot of odds to become successful.
• What’s your hidden talent?
I think I’m good at reading aloud and dancing to The Wiggles. I’ve learned to become an animated children’s entertainer.

Tim Sakahara, reporter, KTXL FOX40

On board with FOX40 since January of this year, Tim Sakahara is thankful to be back in his native Northern California among extended family and clouds that generally don’t swoop down and blast houses off their foundations. Before arriving in Sacramento, he spent two years at the ABC affiliate in Oklahoma City, where the big news often was tornadoes.

“Growing up in California, that was completely new to me,” says Sakahara, whose work in Oklahoma helped snag his station an Edward R. Murrow Award in the Newscast category.

A University of California, Los Angeles, graduate, Sakahara interned with CNN in Washington, D.C., and also has worked at TV stations in San Jose and Medford, Ore.

He says he’s thrilled to be in Sacramento, where he can almost catch a whiff of the garlic in his hometown of Gilroy, the site of a renowned annual festival celebrating the pungent stuff. He’s crazy for it, but says he’ll pass on the garlic ice cream.

• What’s your best job perk?
My favorite part of the job is getting out of the building and seeing and doing things firsthand. I get to meet a lot of people that most members of the public wouldn’t get to meet.
• What’s the worst part of your job?
There are dangers in this job, and sometimes you get closer than you’d like to a crime scene. A couple of months ago my photographer and I came onto a crime scene and it was still active. This guy had just robbed and pistol-whipped a store owner, then got into a hit-and-run accident. That’s when we came on the scene. The guy pulled out a .45-caliber handgun and fired two shots at us. Fortunately, he was a bad shot.
• Tell us about your family.
My wife, Karisse, is an executive producer for the morning show at News10. She’s amazing—more than the woman of my dreams. Not only that, she’s from Hawaii, so we get to go “home” every year. We have a 15-month-old son named Shea, like Shea Stadium. My wife and I are baseball fans, but even though I’m a Giants fan, she wasn’t going to let me name our son Pac Bell or Candlestick.
• Any pets?
We have two shelter-rescue dogs, Kennedy and Mattie, and if you ask me what breed they are, I can’t tell you. We just bought a house in Elk Grove, and one of them chewed up our drip sprinkler system. I’m pretty sure it was Mattie.
• What do you do in your off hours?
I love taking an active part in Shea’s life; we have a lot of fun together. If there’s any time after that, I love sports—golf, tennis, anything athletic. And I like being outside gardening and working in the yard.
• What’s your favorite cause or charity?
UNICEF—helping the children of the world. Also Doctors Without Borders, that’s another great one. And then anything that helps pets, like the Humane Society.
• What’s your most memorable story or interview?
The first time I went storm chasing in Oklahoma I saw four tornadoes in one day. Talk about an adrenaline rush!
• What’s your hidden talent?
Cooking. I love grilling anything on the barbecue, like salmon and steaks. I also make a mean eggplant parmigiana.
• What do you like best about Sacramento?
Being close to family again. Plus Sacramento is close to everything—Napa, Tahoe, Yosemite—which I love. Other than that, I like staying in Sacramento. I love the diversity; there are different cultures and ethnicities, and that’s important to me and my family.
• What’s the biggest misconception about you or your job?
I think a lot of times people typecast you. They think you’re leaning one way or another when you’re doing a story. Especially now since I work for a FOX station, people think, “He’s got to be completely right wing.”
But I take it very seriously that we’re supposed to be down the middle of the line, without bias.

 

Mark Demsky, sports weekend anchor, KTXL FOX40

There’s no such thing as a dull week for Mark Demsky, who juggles multiple jobs and a family to boot—and still finds time to indulge his inner Wayne Gretzky. Demsky, who joined “Fox40 News at 10” in November 2003, also covers sporting events during the week in addition to hosting and reporting for KHTK 1140 AM on the weekends. And Demsky wannabes, take note: He also teaches a class in play-by-play broadcasting through the California State University, Sacramento, College of Continuing Education. He’s wildly excited about this pilot program, which instructs students on how to call a game and develop their personal style. And by now, he ought to be a pro: Prior to joining FOX40, he was a producer for UPN 31, sports director for KIEM-TV in Eureka and director of broadcasting at Humboldt State University. He is a graduate of San Jose State University with a degree in radio, television and film.

• What’s your best job perk?
I get to watch a lot of sporting events. I still think it’s a kick in the pants to know it’s my job to cover a Kings playoff game or whatever it is.
• What’s the worst part of your job?
The high demand on my time. I work 2 to 11 (p.m.) or 3 to midnight, and it takes away from my three kids and my wonderful wife.
• Where did you grow up?
I lived in Southfield, Mich., my first 10 years, and then my family moved to San Jose.
• Tell us about your family.
My son, Gage, is 14, and I have two daughters: Gabrielle, 7, and Isabella, 4. My wife’s name is Anna.
• What do you do in your off hours?
I like to spend time with my family. I just got done coaching Gabrielle’s softball team with my wife. I also like to spend time outside; I like to golf and ride my mountain bike, and I like to barbecue on my nights off. We make this pork tenderloin; my wife has come up with a marinade sauce that’s incredible. And I do play ice hockey. I’m on a team that plays Tuesday nights at Skatetown in Roseville.
• Any pets?
We have a Cavalier King Charles (spaniel); his name is Hunter. He’s a great family dog—very energetic.
• What’s your favorite cause or charity?
If I’m partial to anything, it’s kids and their illnesses. My daughter Gabrielle had a brain tumor when she was a year and a half old. It wasn’t cancerous, and her doctor removed the tumor. But there are a lot of kids with tumors who aren’t so lucky.
• What’s your most memorable story or interview?
The Chris Webber trade was one of the biggest things. We literally found out about an hour before they called the press conference on the night of the trading deadline. We got a call at 8 o’ clock and by 10, I was leading the news with information from Arco Arena. It’s memorable not only because of who he is, but also the magnitude of the deal.
• What’s your hidden talent?
I play guitar a little bit. I have an electric guitar, and I’ve been learning for a while. I didn’t do it as a kid and I always wanted to.
• What would you be if you weren’t a journalist?
I’d probably be a teacher. I love kids. My wife and I volunteer in our kids’ classrooms all the time.

Lisa Gonzales, anchor, CBS 13

August seems to be a lucky month for Lisa Gonzales, who anchors the news on CBS 13 at 5 a.m., 6 a.m. and noon. She was hired at CBS 13 in August 2005, and is expecting her first child, a girl, due at the end of August.

A native of Sacramento, Gonzales is thrilled to be back after anchoring stints at the ABC affiliates in Fresno and Redding.

“I love that Sacramento still kind of has a small-town feel, yet it’s a big city—and it’s home,” she says. “And I love the Delta breeze we get here at night. I never appreciated it until I moved away to Fresno.”

Before becoming a journalist, Gonzales worked at Proctor & Gamble for two years as an account manager. She graduated from El Camino High School, then attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she received a degree in rhetoric with an emphasis in journalism.

• What’s your best job perk?
Afternoons off. I work from 4 a.m. to 1 p.m., so after 1 I’m free to do whatever. My husband has a home office, so we go on afternoon dates. I look forward to one day being able to pick up my daughter from school myself.
• What’s the worst part of your job?
I have to be up at 3:30 a.m.
• What are you wearing underneath the desk?
Comfortable shoes!
• Where have we seen you before?
I was a Royal Court Dancer for the Sacramento Kings in 1999–2000. I love basketball, and I played basketball in high school. My baby sitter was on the very first Kings dance team.
• What do you do in your off hours?
I like to spend time with my husband, Carlos. We like to go to the movies.
• What’s your favorite cause or charity?
WEAVE. Helping battered women is really important to me. I’ve done a lot of work with battered women’s shelters in the markets I’ve worked in, and I look forward to working with WEAVE in Sacramento.
• Any pets?
A German shepherd named Eli and a cat named Kiko. Eli is about 120 pounds, and Kiko is about 4 pounds. She’s not even as big as his head, and she runs the house!
• What’s your hidden talent?
I like to decorate and help my friends decorate. I sew; in fact, I’m redecorating our guest room, and I sewed all the linens and did a duvet cover.
• What’s the biggest misconception about you or your job?
That we have people doing our hair and makeup at 4 in the morning. We have to do it ourselves, and it’s my least favorite thing to do. I take less than 15 minutes; I go really fast.
• What would you be if you weren’t a journalist?
I would’ve loved to have been an FBI agent, but you can’t really do that when you’re married. I guess if I weren’t a journalist, I’d be an interior decorator.

Taryn Winter Brill, weekend anchor/feature reporter, KMAX CW 31
Everybody has a brush-with-celebrity tale, but Taryn Winter Brill could write a book on her encounters with stars. While an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, she interned at the “Late Show with David Letterman” in New York City, and later worked as a producer alongside Regis Philbin on the prime-time hit

“Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

“He’s a really nice guy—kinda like Grandpa,” she says. “For three years, I worked with him and he was always 72.” (Did we mention Brill also has dabbled in stand-up comedy?)

Before landing a job with “Good Day Sacramento” in February of this year, Brill worked in Los Angeles, where she reported for the Channel One Network, which broadcasts in high school and middle school classrooms throughout the country. She also hosted a pilot for the Discovery Kids channel. And as a reporter/producer for AOL Moviefone, she got to rub elbows with major Hollywood types including Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie—even “Good Day Sacramento’s” Mark S. Allen. Brill also worked as a producer/host for GoTV, an on-demand mobile network broadcast on Sprint Nextel and Boost Mobile wireless networks. She still co-hosts AOL Music on Demand on Time Warner Cable.

Although Sacramento is “hotter and flatter” than she’s used to, Brill says she’s loving it all the same.

• What’s your biggest job perk?
I got to apply at Beale Air Force Base as a representative of “Good Day Sacramento” to fly with the Thunderbirds. It was the thrill of a lifetime, like being in the space shuttle. I asked them, “Hey, can I skydive, too?” So the next day I went skydiving with the Army. Opportunities like those are the biggest perks.
• What are you wearing underneath the desk?
Flip-flops and my 7 jeans.
• What do you do in your off hours?
I love to play tennis and pingpong. I’m looking for a pingpong league. And I love to listen to the radio. I claim to know all the words to every song on the radio. I’ve never been a CD person.
• Where were you born and raised?
Long Island, N.Y.
• Tell us about your family.
They’re the most important people in my life. I have two older brothers and a younger sister. One brother’s a doctor, one’s a lawyer, and my sister’s a banker.
• What’s your favorite cause or charity?
My brother is really involved with the Museum of Jewish Heritage–A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York. I contribute to the Holocaust memorial fund.
• Any pets?
I’d love a dog, but I’m never home so it wouldn’t be fair.
• What’s your hidden talent?
Juggling. I can juggle three items; I haven’t even tried four. I juggle balls, fruit and socks. I also teach Spanish on the side. I majored in Spanish in college and studied in Spain. I used to privately tutor kids and adults—even a couple of celebrities.
• Who’s your role model?
My mom, for sure. She put her career on hold to raise four kids. She’s the most giving, loving mother who supported us in any and every endeavor. She always instilled in us to go for our dreams.
• Why are you a journalist?
I love to ask questions. When I was in junior high my friends would make fun of me, like, “Oh, are you interviewing me now?” I’m just always curious. I always start out saying, “So tell me . . . “

Pablo Espinoza, weekend anchor/reporter, Univision 19
Pablo Espinoza recalls with satisfaction one particular story he did for Sacramento’s Spanish-language television station that changed many people’s lives for the better. It was a series about immigration consultants who help new U.S. arrivals with paperwork—work permits, visas, green cards and the like. Except not all of them were honest.

“There was this guy who was making promises he couldn’t fulfill, and he stole half a million dollars from dozens of people,” Espinoza says. “It took maybe three years, but I pressed the police department, talked to the attorney general and talked to District Attorney Jan Scully. The guy was sentenced to 9 and a half years in state prison, had to pay restitution to the families, and the state law was changed because of my story.”

Score one for the soccer-playing single dad from South America, who’s been with Univision for nine years. He’s also heavily involved in the community; among other things, he serves on the board of the Institute for Local Government, the research arm of the League of California Cities that promotes interjurisdictional cooperation among local agencies. Before coming to Sacramento, Espinoza worked in broadcasting for KJEO-TV, the CBS affiliate in Fresno, and in Waco and San Antonio, Texas.

Next time you see him at the anchor desk, look closely. Chances are, his son is playing on the floor underneath it.
• What’s your best job perk?
When I was a little kid with my dad, we’d see a crowd and go see what was going on. Now I get to be in those kinds of places, ask questions and get paid for it. To have that ability is the greatest perk and also the greatest responsibility.
• What’s the worst part of your job?
Having to be away from my family.
• What are you wearing underneath the desk?
If it’s nice and warm, shorts and sandals. I anchor on the weekend, so it’s more relaxed.
• Where did you grow up?
I was born in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. I grew up in a couple of cities in Ecuador, then came to the United States as an exchange student when I was a senior in high school. I went back to Ecuador and went to college, and then finished at a Catholic college in San Antonio, Texas.
• Tell us about your family.
My son is 8; his name is Adrian, and he’s my little companion. He goes everywhere I go. And I’m engaged to be married. I proposed to my fiancée, Nancy, in the Galapagos Islands.
• What’s your favorite cause or charity?
I’m on the advisory board of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Anything that has to do with the well-being of children is important to me. I also like to help new generations of journalists accomplish their dreams. I’m involved in two organizations providing scholarships to new journalists: the Sacramento Press Club and the California Chicano News Media Association.
• What was your most memorable story or interview?
I was the first to get a sit-down, one-on-one interview with Gov. Schwarzenegger when he was running for the recall election. I think the fact that I greeted him in German helped me a little bit.
• What’s your hidden talent?
My fiancée says flower arrangement. I always pick out my own flowers and put them together. I’m a good cook, too.
• What’s the biggest misconception about you or
your job?
People think that because you work on television, you’re a millionaire. Most of us are not. When I first started, I made less money than I did as a bartender in college.
• What would you be if you weren’t a journalist?
A professional soccer player. That’s what I always wanted to do as a little kid.

Pallas Hupé, anchor, CBS 13
Pallas Hupé, who co-anchors the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts with Sam Shane, learned at an early age to bloom where she was planted . . . er, make that transplanted, because she’s never lived any place long enough to sprout serious roots.

Hupé got her start in broadcasting in an unorthodox way: hosting a children’s show on the English-speaking network in Saudi Arabia, where her father worked when she was a teenager.

“I traveled with the TV show all over the kingdom. We went to royal palaces to tape shows. It was an unusual coming-of-age,” she says.

Hupé, a two-time Emmy Award winner, joined CBS 13 this past January after spending six years anchoring and reporting at the FOX and UPN affiliates in Detroit. She’s also worked in North Carolina and Florida. A graduate of England’s Oxford University with a master’s degree in politics, philosophy and economics, Hupé says she considers herself fortunate to have been steeped in so many cultures because it helps her to understand certain nuances that others may view as barriers. One thing’s for sure: Sacramento’s culture agrees with her.

“Everyone has been incredibly welcoming,” she says, “and that has made the transition much easier than it could’ve been.”

• What’s your best job perk?
Being able to get behind the scenes of so many different locations. When you go on stories and meet people, you’re awed by the talent they have that you never would have known about.
• What’s the worst part of your job?
I think it has to be working on holidays.
• What are you wearing underneath the desk?
Anything that coordinates with what you see. I’m big into color coordination; I like to look pulled together, not half done. Now, I’m not guaranteeing it’ll be nicely pressed and ironed, but at least it’s color coordinated.
• Where did you grow up?
I was born in Ankara, Turkey. I spent only months there; my father was working overseas as an electrical engineer for General Electric, and he worked on radar sites. We made stops in New York state; Mountain View, Calif., where my brother was born; then Eugene, Ore. Then we moved to the Washington, D.C. area and stayed there for six or seven years. When I think about where I grew up, that’s where I think of. When I was in ninth grade, my father moved the family to Saudi Arabia. Because the Saudi government would not allow Western youth to study in their kingdom, I had to go to boarding school. I went to boarding school in Connecticut. Then I moved to England and finished up my schooling there. I was exhausted by the time I was 21.
• Tell us about your family.
I have two boys: Cade, who’s 8, and Carson, who’s 5.
My husband, Steve, is a director at a high-tech firm that provides advanced networks for research and educational institutions.
• Any pets?
An Eskimo/golden retriever mix named Trinket. My husband and I both had dogs named Tinker, and we wanted to come up with a variation on that name. I was looking for a small, nonshedding dog, and we got a large dog with white, fluffy hair that sheds everywhere.
• What do you do in your off hours?
I spend as much time with my children as I can. We love living here because you can be outside rollerblading and biking [for so much of the year], and we try to be physically active. I also love reading to my children; that was my passion when I was young. No. 2, I desperately try to keep the house clean or at least in order. I’m constantly doing what all moms do: making breakfast, cleaning up, making lunch, cleaning up, wiping counters, doing laundry.
• What is the origin of your name?
My parents were married in Greece. The name Pallas comes from Pallas Athena, the patron goddess of Athens.
• Who’s your role model?
My mother is my role model. She was able to balance having a career with having a family. I learned very early on that you can do both and have a fulfilling life.
• What did you find most surprising about Sacramento?
I never pictured California with so many trees. I love it!

Mark Hedlund, senior reporter, KXTV News10
Mark Hedlund started at News10 on March 30, 1981—the day President Reagan was shot. He’s hardly had a dull moment since. A full-time journalist since 1975 (he’s covered every U.S. president since Gerald Ford), Hedlund has traveled around the world delivering news about major events that have shaped our lives: the Persian Gulf War, the Rodney King verdict, the murder trials of Dorothea Puente and Richard Alan Davis, paraplegic Mark Wellman’s historic climb of Yosemite’s Half Dome, California’s great floods of 1996 and ’97, and the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Despite his longevity as a TV news reporter, there’s one thing Hedlund will never be comfortable with: being recognized in public.

“I have never,” says the award-winning TV news veteran, “gotten used to the fact that people bestow celebrity status on you just because you work in television.”

• What’s your best job perk?
The unpredictability of the job. The positive side of that is that you never know what your day is going to be like, so it’s always exciting.
• What’s the worst part of your job?
The unpredictability. I can’t tell you how many of my children’s events I ended up missing over the years [because of breaking news]. Murphy’s Law often comes into play when you have dinner plans with the family.
• Tell us about your family.
My wife, Beth, is a sixth-grade teacher. She and I are celebrating our 30th anniversary. (It was in July 2006). Our 25-year-old son, Erik, either fortunately or unfortunately, has decided to go into the news business. He’s a reporter for the NBC station in Missoula, Mont. Our daughter, Krista, is 23. She just graduated from Sac State and is a preschool and nursery school teacher. And we have our grandson, Ayden. He’s the center of our lives right now. He’s 2½, and he’s like the Energizer Bunny. We like to spoil him rotten, then send him back to Mom.
• Any pets?
We have a dog and a cat, both of which my daughter just had to have, then left behind when she moved out.
• What do you do in your off hours?
I love to spend time with my wife. We like to travel when we have the chance; we’ve kind of become cruise junkies. I also like to golf, read and ski, and I’m kind of a chef. We have a little gourmet group and I like to experiment in the kitchen.
• What do you miss about your early days in journalism?
I was fortunate to get into journalism in the glory days, and it was still the glory days back in the mid-1970s. Because of the way the business was, it was much more lucrative and the competition was much less, so we used to travel a lot more, and a lot more spontaneously—like going away for a week or two to do something on the other side of the world for a special report. Now we’re much more limited in that. And we used to do more long-form reporting back when we had hour-long newscasts. We can’t do that anymore.
• Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Oakland and raised in Castro Valley. I got my B.A. degree in mass communications at Chico State and a master’s degree in telecommunications and journalism at Indiana University in Bloomington. I’m a third-generation Californian.
• Who’s your role model?
In many ways, it was my father. He taught me about work ethic and persevering to reach your goals. And this may sound corny, but also Edward R. Murrow because of the amazing things he did as a journalist. He was really an inspiration for me when I decided to become a journalist.
• What’s your hidden talent?
I sing, mostly just at church. My wife says I don’t sing enough. I did sing at somebody’s wedding one time, and that couple is still together, so I guess I didn’t ruin the ceremony too badly.
• What would you do if you ruled the world?
I’ve been in this business for 31 years professionally—28 years on the TV side. I started in radio, then worked at a newspaper (in Fresno) for a couple of years, which is an unusual background for a TV journalist. If I ruled the world, I would demand that every television reporter spend a year as a print reporter to learn how to use the language better and to get in-depth in a story.

Chris Riva, news anchor, KQCA WB58
One of the greatest experiences in Chris Riva’s life was carrying the Olympic torch for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games. Not a bad gig for the then-sports director at WGBA-TV in Green Bay, Wis., where Riva also produced various sports programs for the Green Bay Packers. (But no, he doesn’t have one of those cheesehead hats. We asked.)

“Each NBC affiliate was awarded one person from the station to run,” says Riva, who earned the honor by organizing food drives for the needy in northeastern Wisconsin. To this day, he cherishes the memory of meeting his fellow torch bearers, whom he considers the true heroes: firefighters, cancer survivors, organ donors and doctors.

“We don’t get a lot of perks, and that was one of the neatest experiences that was afforded to me,” says Riva, who ran with the torch for two-tenths of a mile.

Riva, co-host of KCRA’s sister station’s hour-long “WB58 News at Ten,” is quite the athlete himself, having completed several triathlons, a marathon, and a 24-hour mountain bike race. He arrived in Sacramento in July 2005 from KWGN-TV in Denver, where he was the weekday main sports anchor and the host/producer of two weekly sports programs. A native of Cincinnati, Riva began his broadcasting career at WKEF/WRGT-TV in Dayton, Ohio, and at WCPO-TV in Cincinnati. He graduated from Wright State University in Dayton.

• What’s your best job perk?
Doing those stories in which you get to see the absolute best in people—and them entrusting you to tell their story.
• What’s the worst part of your job?
Seeing the worst in people. Not every subject we deal with is happy and positive. Also, we work a lot of hours. Think about it—we’re always at work when you’re at home.
• What are you wearing underneath the desk?
I have always worn suit pants. I have never worn shorts—ever. Almost all suit pants are silk-lined to the knees, so that’s the most comfortable thing.
• Tell us about your family.
My wife, Jamie, and I are expecting our first child, a boy, on Nov. 15.
• What do you do in your off hours?
My wife and I are avid snowboarders, I enjoy playing golf, and I love to mountain bike.
• Any pets?
We have a big chow/shepherd named Tyson. He’s 10 years old. I got him as a present when I first met Jamie. I asked for something for golf and she shows up with a puppy.
• Who’s your role model?
My father. He’s my best friend. I talk to him daily.
• What’s your hidden talent?
I won two stand-up comedy awards, both in Cincinnati.
• What surprised you most about Sacramento?
I pulled in here on July 4 and it was 110 degrees. I didn’t know anything about the heat in the summer.
• What would you be if you weren’t a journalist?
This is my favorite question. I’d be a seasonal employee. I would be a ski patrol at a major ski resort in the winter, and in the summer I’d do guided mountain bike tours. I’m not sure there’s a job like that, but I’d love it. Oh, to be 21 and fresh out of college!

Oops! When Bad Things Happen to Good TV People
Virtually no one who broadcasts live in front of a camera is immune to the occasional slip-up, whether self-induced or inflicted by forces outside their control. While television news bloopers may leave reporters and anchors wishing they could crawl under a rock, we the viewing public have one thing to say: That’s entertainment.

And, boy, do our local newscasters deliver (making us love them all the more).

A common form of TV news blooper is the technical malfunction, which is better, at least, than a wardrobe malfunction. KCRA-TV’s Josh Bernstein remembers when his earpiece stopped working while he was reporting on a chemical plant explosion in Mobile, Ala. His photographer said, “You’re up!”—and Bernstein didn’t believe him because he was taking his cues from a screen, which also turned out to be unreliable.

“I said to him, ‘Don’t do that! It’s so immature. Shut up!’” Bernstein recalls.

Of course, viewers at home caught every word. . . .

The technical gremlins also struck KCRA’s traffic reporter Adrienne Bankert, who three months into her job found herself enveloped by a huge real-time picture of LiveCopter 3 pilot John Hamilton in place of where her freeway map should have been.

“His head was as large as my body,” she says. “I was shaken because it was my first major technical glitch and there was nothing I could’ve done about it. I saw his face in the camera and I leaned over like I was about to kiss him on the cheek. I said, ‘John, it looks like I’m about to give you a kiss!’ He said, ‘Well, Adrienne, maybe later.’ He was blushing.”

Other bloopers are caused by, shall we say, human malfunction. Case in point: News10’s Dan Elliott, who in 1991 convinced a reluctant news director to let him do a live bungee jump on TV. “The time came and I couldn’t jump,” Elliott says. “I turned to the camera and said, ‘Our baby was just born, and I can’t do this.’”

Luckily, he had understanding viewers. For the most part.

“For every phone call and letter we got saying what a wuss I was,” Elliott says, “we got two or three saying it took a lot of guts not to do it.”

Elliott may have been the picture of restraint, but what was going on with Stefanie Cruz’s self-control the day she laughed so hard that she banged her head on a $75,000 Elton John red piano?

“I had a big bump on my head for days,” says the CW 31 anchor/reporter, who’d sat down to play the piano during a live shot and began giggling hysterically at something a co-worker said.

Worst of all, no one will let her forget it. “They won’t stop playing that tape here. I want to destroy it!”
More common than head lumps in the news business is that old nemesis, the hiccups. CBS 13’s Lisa Gonzales caught a bad case of diaphragm jumping jacks just as she went on the air at a TV station in Fresno.
“I had to kind of pause and hold my breath between sentences,” she says.

Sometimes it isn’t the hiccups that are responsible for newscasters not being able to finish a sentence. Try a karate-chopping fetus.

“I worked up to two days before my son was born,” says Pallas Hupé, an anchor at CBS 13 who recently moved to Sacramento from Detroit. “I remember sitting there trying to read a story and he was kicking so much a co-worker had to take over. It knocks the breath out of you. I couldn’t get the words out.”

Runaway mouths also can be a problematic part of the anatomy, especially when they blurt the verboten.
“Back in Eureka,” says FOX40’s sports guy Mark Demsky, “I went to say the word ‘championships’ and I put a ‘t’ on the end instead of the ‘p.’ I stopped and said, ‘I think you know what I mean.’”

Finally, there are those bloopers that occur through no fault of the newscaster or the equipment. These are of the wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time variety.

News10’s veteran reporter Mark Hedlund narrowly missed a doozy of such a blooper as he was reporting on paraplegic Mark Wellman’s historic climb up Half Dome in Yosemite National Park in 1991.

Hedlund says, “We were up on the shoulder of Half Dome seconds away from going live, and somebody up above had just finished an apple and didn’t know we were down there. The person heaved the core down and it hit me on my right temple. If it had been a rock, it would’ve killed me. I had apple mush and apple juice dripping down my face, and I was frantically wiping it off.”

Hedlund was fortunate—viewers never knew. So was Pablo Espinoza of Sacramento’s Spanish-language station Univision, who once found himself dodging a woman who’d started to take off her top behind him while he was reporting at an event.

“I kept moving to the side so she wouldn’t be in the shot. The photographer kept following me. Fortunately, this was not live,” Espinoza says.

Some of the most embarrassing bloopers can happen when a reporter prepares to tell a story . . . and there isn’t one. That happened to FOX40’s Tim Sakahara.

“There was this big construction project and I was supposed to do a traffic story,” he says. “About a minute before the live shot, all of a sudden there are no cars coming and I’m supposed to be talking about how bad the traffic is. I couldn’t help but laugh. I did the whole shot with a smile on my face. I sounded and looked like a big idiot, I’m sure, talking about the traffic that wasn’t there.”

Well, what can one do at that point except wax philosophical?

“That kind of stuff is bad for the reporter at the time, but you’ve got to be able to laugh it off,” Sakahara says. “Fortunately, it’s not brain surgery.”                                                                                                                                                                              

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