Wednesday, July 30, 2008

In Defense of Kent Shocknek, and why Chris Schauble, Jennifer Bjorklund, and Ana Garcia should be reprimanded

Southern Californians know where I'm about to go with this. The rest of you will catch up.

Mike of Franklin Avenue shared this video in a recent post:

If you don't have access to video at the moment, this shows David Letterman's commentary on Kent Shocknek and Christopher Nance, a former KNBC newsman and weatherman respectively, diving under the news desks during the October 1, 1987 Whittier earthquake. Letterman's studio audience was guffawing at the sight of two men diving under a desk, and Letterman himself referred to the "little special hiding place" that the two used.

Mike himself implicitly characterized Shocknek's and Nance's behavior as unprofessional, as he compared it to Chris Schauble and Jennifer Bjorklund of KNBC's coverage yesterday:

The earthquake begins, and the newscasters remain at their desks. Bjorklund gazes up toward the ceiling, with a complete lack of concern on her face. The newscasters note that someone off-camera (Ana Garcia) ran into the newsroom, barefoot, then ran back out again. Schauble then notes that "it could have been handled differently, shall we say" - a direct slap at Shocknek's well-known coverage from twenty years earlier.

Mike himself praised KNBC's coverage yesterday, saying, "Cool, calm and collected, the duo were extremely professional."

Melissa Grego agreed with Mike:

KNBC Los Angeles arguably redeemed itself today, more than two decades after the infamous desk-diving incident involving the station’s newscasters Kent Shockneck and Christopher Nance.

I vehemently disagree with Mike's and Melissa's assessment.

In fact, I believe that KNBC's performance yesterday was the second most unprofessional performance ever in Los Angeles local news - number one still being the time that Harvey Levin stood in a rushing stream during flood stage "just to get the picture."

David Letterman, who has ties to Los Angeles, should know better. Mike should know better. During an earthquake, which of the following courses of action is the correct one?

  1. Get under a desk and protect yourself.

  2. Stay sitting at your desk, gazing at the ceiling.

  3. Run around barefoot
You can check any earthquake preparedness manual that you like, and I don't think they're going to advise that you gaze at the ceiling or run around barefoot during an earthquake.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Kent Shocknek has gotten a bum rap over the years, when he should be commended for his actions. And perhaps Christopher Nance has engaged in unprofessional behavior in the past, but this is not one of those times.

In addition, it should be noted that the Whittier earthquake and its aftershocks were closer to KNBC's Burbank studios than the Chino Hills earthquake. Not that it should matter - you should get under the desk under any circumstance - but it should be mentioned.


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