Goodbye ‘Full Focus’ — We’re Sorry to See You Go
Thursday, August 2, 2007
Update: KPBS general manager Doug Myrland spoke about the cancellation on These Days .
The last day of July marked more than the end of the month. It was also the last day for Full Focus , the daily television news program I'd hosted for more than four years. I found out it was the last day just hours before we taped that final episode and it was as though the day suddenly slowed down, the way film does in slow motion.
The radio and television business is replete with stories of series that come and go. And they always do go -- although some take longer to disappear than others. In all of its iterations, Full Focus had been on the air for about 8 years, starting as monthly programs hosted by KPBS Radio reporters on location to eventually become the nightly studio-based shows divided into four segments.
The vision for Full Focus changed as the ideas flowed in. We considered "video kiosks" where people could record personal stories. We included community commentaries in Public Square. And we recently took the show on the road , shooting segments all over the county. Ratings climbed that week and we hoped more field location would translate into a larger audience. Viewers were passionate about Full Focus and its potential, but the numbers remained small by current television standards.
Vision is what makes life exciting. Vision is challenging and sometimes unattainable, and needs to be pursued by imaginative, dedicated, talented, daring people. Full Focus had those people. Natalie Walsh, executive producer, was a ferocious advocate for the program. Pat Finn, whose writing skills gave class to the segments she produced, oversaw the highly popular Friday "Top Stories" wrap-up of the week's news with local reporters and a variety of hosts, including Michael Marcotte and Alison St John from the KPBS News staff. Managing editor Graciela Sevilla is a respected journalist with years of experience behind her and a deep knowledge of the community. Producer Mary Garbesi is one of those rare multi-talented professionals who can produce, edit, work in radio or television, is in love with culture and the arts, and became a top public affairs producer. Reporters Amita Sharma, Joanne Faryon, Rebecca Tolin, and Heather Hill brought intelligence, dedication, and freshness to the program. All of their work was enhanced by videographers/editors, and production personnel whose pride in their work was evident each day. Some of them will be re-assigned at KPBS. Others will be grabbed up by smart organizations.
Sometimes in life, timing is absolutely perfect. In this case, time did not befriend Full Focus . The visions remained vigorous, while the resources and the audience did not keep pace. The execution of the program was the envy of television professionals who saw us devoting time and considerable thought to every aspect of each show, from careful writing to thorough research to deep consideration of topics to be covered with balance and fairness.
KPBS Television has had its share of canceled series over the 40 years of its existence. But next year or the year after, someone's vision will shape another local program that will find its own way to cover San Diego's important stories and ask the necessary questions.
Meanwhile, I turn my energies to other projects at the station. For me, KPBS remains a strong source for local news and public affairs on the radio and online. I'm hoping that soon KPBS Television will find another vehicle for covering what's going on in our community.
-- Gloria Penner was host of Full Focus for four years and has hosted over a dozen series on KPBS over the last 37 years. She continues to host Editors Roundtable , with additional contributions to KPBS Online, Envision San Diego and other reporting. Please read our guidelines before posting comments.