TV and Temblors

Mar 3, 2003  •  Post A Comment

It really became clear to me that Electronic Media was a different kind of trade publication on Oct. 17, 1989, the day the Loma Prieta earthquake devastated the San Francisco Bay area, killing 62, injuring thousands and knocking out power.
I was on assignment at the San Francisco Hilton covering a telephone industry conference.
Rocking and rolling through the 7.1 quake where I was on the hotel’s 15th floor was unnerving. In the temblor’s wake, authorities warned that an aftershock of even greater violence was forthcoming. So I must confess that my first impulse was to make a fast exit, as were the many fleeing telephone industry executives.
But when I finally got a line through to EM’s home office, Ron Alridge, then the publication’s publisher and editor, insisted that I stay to cover the disaster.
My initial reaction was that Ron was nuts. What other trade publication in the world would put a staffer’s life on the line to cover a story that was clearly the province of the adrenaline junkies who cover wars and other disasters for the TV networks and major media outlets worldwide?
I’m glad I stuck it out, though. Walking from TV station to TV station across the ravaged city and then writing about their ordeals by candlelight in my hotel room was one of my most memorable experiences.
Serious news publications cover the news of interest to their readers, even in dangerous situations.
The experience reminded me that EM was a serious news magazine that just happened to focus on the television industry.
In my mind, it’s what always set EM apart.
Doug Halonen is Washington bureau chief for TelevisionWeek.