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From the Field
by Greg Weissman

When the Inland California Television Network hired me last fall as its News Director and lead Anchor, I saw an opportunity to change the way local news is gathered and reported. Bolstered by presenting the news and issues of the day, and not by haphazardly profiling crime, show business, and the general underbelly of society. I wanted to get back to basics, and do news the way it used to be done.

The Inland California Television Network (ICTN) was founded and is managed by Cal State University San Bernardino. It is the brainchild of CSUSB’s president Albert Karnig, a true champion for fair, honest and responsible journalism. When I first learned of this upstart network I was intrigued by the idea that for the first time the Inland Empire would have its own television news broadcast, and I wanted to be a part of it. Moreover, It reminded me of the 1990’s when I was a reporter for KNBC’s Inland Empire bureau. My daily story pitches were almost always rebuffed by producers saying they wanted something “harder”. What they were really saying is give us a “if it bleeds it leads” type story. My argument was always the same, “let’s give viewers something intrinsically valuable to the area in which they live”, in this case the Inland Empire. For example, stories on transportation issues, stories of environmental impact due to out-of-control growth, or perhaps one groups innocent challenge to save the endangered desert tortoise. As was often the case I lost those arguments, and almost always ended up covering some type of crime-related story. For those who watched Los Angeles television those crime stories became the public image of the Inland Empire. And for IE viewers it became a skewed representation of the place they call home.

The Inland California Television Network is about to change all that, not by reinventing the wheel, but by returning to responsible journalism. Replacing the “if it bleeds it leads” format, with one of, what story affects the most people? ICTN will accomplish this through signed agreements with 13 cities that line the I-10 corridor from Montclair to Yucaipa. ICTN will manage these cities government access channels from 7 p.m. to11 p.m., providing news and programming pertinent to the Inland Empire. A satellite deal is also in the works. This venture is funded by a two million dollar grant garnered from the U.S. Navy. Funding that will last three years, or until ICTN can become self-sufficient, which likely means becoming commercial. ICTN is in the process of building its studio, buying digital server based equipment, and hiring personnel. The network is also about to ink a deal to become a CNN affiliate.

When I tell my friends in the business about my vision for ICTN, I’m met with mixed reaction. Some are refreshed by the idea, but many believe viewers no longer want this kind of newscast. To be certain, this is not the kind of product any consultant worth their weight would entertain, let alone promote. However, I’m betting that viewers do care more about relevant issues, and less about irresponsible crime stories. In its own way, ICTN will lead the charge to get back to basics in the nation’s number two market. And as we head toward our spring launch date my commitment to responsible journalism grows ever stronger.

I hope viewers tune into ICTN to witness the return of responsible local news, giving viewers information they need and deserve to become better informed citizens.

About the Author
Greg Weissman
News Director
Inland California Television Network
201-b North E Street Suite 206
San Bernardino, Ca 92401