NBC’s Steve Schwaid leads KNTV transition

Feb 18, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Former WCAU-TV News Director Steve Schwaid is at the center of the hectic world that is KNTV, San Jose, Calif. He is the leader of the 18-person transition team, which is overseeing the now NBC affiliate and soon to be NBC-owned station. He is busy with the tasks at hand.
“We are helping these folks transition into the NBC culture and walking them through to what we do, what NBC stands for-and we stand for winning,” Mr. Schwaid said. “We have a phenomenal opportunity [during] the Olympics to expose the market to a TV station [it has] never watched before. Fortunately, we have NBC programming, and people are finding it. In January there were five nights our 11 o’clock newscast was No. 1. It’s a significant feat. People are accepting our programming. They’re accepting the news.”
While NBC is busy trying to get the word out to Bay area viewers that KNTV reaches north of San Jose and is now the home of Must-See TV in the country’s fifth-largest market, Mr. Schwaid, 47, is adjusting to his role as transition team leader.
What’s the hardest thing about his new job?
“As an ex-newsperson, you’re in a position now of working not just in the news department but at a station level. That’s a change. As for our role right now, we’re not managing the station, we’re consulting and working with the station. We help make suggestions on what we do and respect what they’re doing. It’s not our station. At the same time, you have to understand and learn the market. This market is significantly different than a lot of other markets. First of all, it’s a much more diverse, higher-educated [market]. It is a market that has three enormous cities-San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose.”
Mr. Schwaid, who is married and has two children, began his television career as a reporter for WHIO-TV, Dayton, Ohio. In mid-’98, he landed at WCAU in Philadelphia, which he said was then a “sleepy, nonaggressive” news environment. “There was a somewhat underserved portion of the market in terms of weather coverage, consumer, medical and breaking news,” he said. “My guidelines [are] you don’t follow the newspaper, you lead. If you go back and look at Philadelphia, we did not, as a routine, take a story from a newspaper. We’re a news organization; our responsibility at a TV station is to go out and get the news.”
During his first few months at WCAU, Mr. Schwaid masterminded the famous installation of blue strobe lights at the station:
“One of the problems you run into [in] any TV organization, if something big happens, breaking news, you have to get everybody together. We installed 14 blue strobe lights … throughout the work areas of the building. So when there is breaking news, the assignment desk has a big red button, and for 90 seconds these big blue strobe lights go off. Once we hit that light, we should be on air in two minutes or less. My staff was so awesome on this-it was amazing.”