By Steven T. Jones
An era ended last night while my colleagues and I taped the final episode of the City Desk Newshour, a Comcast television program that has provided continuous weekly coverage of San Francisco City Hall for almost 30 years. It is simply the latest blow in a steady erosion of political and local government coverage by experienced journalists.
I’ve been a regular panelist on the show for a couple years now, but I was really struck by what an institution it is in November when we did a segment on the anniversary of the Harvey Milk and George Moscone assassinations. I glanced at the monitors and saw our B-roll footage of Milk, Moscone, and Dan White being interviewed in our studio for our show back in the day.
Comcast decided to slash its locally originated programming budget and fire half its Bay Area staff, something it is allowed to do because local governments have lost the legal ability to set local programming standards for cable companies as part of their franchise agreements. If you have Comcast cable, try to catch the final episode replays this weekend on Channel 11 and/or check out old episodes in the OnDemand section under hometown local programming.
But there is a silver lining to this story. Comcast officials in California successfully fought to save our show as long as we can retool it to have a more regional focus, which we’ll be working on over the next couple months. So tune in later this summer for a new show with a new name and new focus, but some of the same faces from the Guardian, Chronicle, Examiner, and KQED.