For 43 years, starting at age 22, Brad McLellan was one of the decision-makers for what viewers would see when they watched a KGTV-TV/Channel 10 newscast. For a generation, he was an assignment editor, a behind-the-camera job, a member of a newsroom team who selected one news story over another.
McLellan, 66, retired in July of this year after working 46 years at the station. “I’m proud to have worked on the assignment desk under 14 different news directors, all of whom had different philosophies on how to cover the news, and I got along with all of them,” McLellan told Times of San Diego. “I took my job very seriously.”
Decisions for daily TV newscasts content at major-market stations are typically based on a variety of factors, said McLellan.
“The key for me in my job was preparation,” McLellan said. “The only way to do the assignment editor job effectively is constantly reading, working beats, checking sources. At the morning editorial meetings, I would set the table and prepare a menu with a ton of ideas. In addition, producers, news managers and reporters would contribute their own enterprise ideas, as well. From that giant list of stories, we would come up with a coverage plan for the day.
“Yes, we considered input from station executives concerned about ratings and consultants with survey results from viewers. But, ultimately, the majority of our newscasts consisted of the most important news of the day. Newscast producers and news managers made the choices on how the stories would run in their newscasts.
“Of course, weather is always a popular topic because it affects everyone. But, every potential story is different. Not all car crashes or homicides are created equal. A fender-bender with no injuries is different than a car stolen by a teenager who crashes into a school bus filled with children. We had to be thorough and check-out every story.”
On Tuesday, Oct. 25, the San Diego Press Club will honor McLellan with the Jim Reiman Award for excellence in news media management. The Reiman award is named after a longtime KGTV-TV assistant news director who worked in the 1980s and 1990s. It was established in 1997, following Reiman’s retirement.
Recipients of the award have been the unsung heroes of the news profession who may not have a byline or appear on camera but have had a profound influence on news gathering and production, SDPC said. The first recipient was KGTV assignment editor Jack Moorhead.
“I’m grateful for the selection of the award and especially proud that it reflects the station’s legacy as a solid news-gathering organization,” McLellan said.
McLellan admits the news media industry has changed over the past four decades.
“The news business is always evolving because the stories are always changing and because technology is always changing,” he said. “When I started in the business, there were only 13 channels on TV, including three network affiliates. Now, people can get immediate local news through a wide variety of sources on social media, plus hundreds of channels on cable.”
Also, McLellan hasn’t missed noticing how politics has influenced news reporting.
“It’s frightening that everything is so political nowadays, how politics plays into everyday news coverage,” he said. “It’s disappointing to see routine news stories covered with an obvious slant and spin. The public deserves to see fair-and-balanced stories, where both sides are told, right down the middle. I knew that our newsroom was doing a good job when both conservatives and liberals would call us on the phone and complain about our coverage of the same story.”
In May 1976, at age 19, as a San Diego State University student studying journalism and political science, McLellan was hired at KGTV. His first job title at the station was “messenger.” He worked the receptionist desk and ran errands for several station departments, including sales and production. About two years later, he joined the newsroom as an assistant photographer at a time when TV newsrooms across the country were switching from film to videotape.
“It was the early days of videotape when the cameras were huge and photogs needed help hauling the batteries and audio decks that were really heavy,” McLellan said.
One week in 1978, McLellan’s life changed forever following a conversation with news director Ron Mires.
As McLellan tells the story: “Ron came to me and said that all three assignment editors were sick and he needed me on the assignment desk. I was worried because the assignment editor position is one of the toughest jobs in the newsroom and I didn’t feel like I had enough experience. But, Ron said to me, `Kid, it’s sink-or-swim time.’
“Here I was at age 22, telling grizzled, veteran TV journalists what to do on their jobs. But, at the end of the week, Ron said that the staff thought I did a good job because I had a calm demeanor and was prepared. He said the assignment desk was the career path I needed to take. And, the rest is history.”
Since retiring on July 22, 2022, McLellan said he has been sleeping in, reconnecting with friends and “decompressing.”
“I’m still adjusting, still coming-down, still decompressing from my career,” said McLellan, who is single and never married. “Working for 40-years-plus, 10-to-12 hours a day, takes a toll on your personal life. I was dedicated to my work. Even on weekends, I was always checking the news so I would not miss a beat on Monday morning.
“Horse racing has been one of my hobbies since age 12. So, shortly after I retired, I spent many wonderful days this summer at the Del Mar track. I’ve also enjoy watching my racehorse train at San Luis Rey Downs.”
McLellan also is considering options to teach and mentor young journalists.
“I would like to give-back, share my knowledge and contribute to the learning of the younger generation. Younger people today have different priorities in life than my generation. Some people today don’t want to work long hours. The problem with being a journalist is that it’s not a nine-to-five, Monday through Friday, type of job. News is a 24-hour business, which requires people to work overnight and on weekends and holidays. I admire young people who want a better life balance, but that’s difficult to do in the TV news profession.”
McLellan is one of the Press Club’s three special award recipients who will be honored at its 49th annual Excellence in Journalism award program. The others include: TV journalist Steve Fiorina with the Harold Keen Award for outstanding career contributions in journalism; Jorge D’Garay with the Andy Mace Award for career achievements in public relations.
For more than 35 years, Fiorina has been a member of San Diego’s media community. He reported for KGTV-TV ABC 10 News from 1984 to 2018 and is currently at KFMB-TV CBS News 8. Over the past three decades, Fiorina has reported on every major breaking story, including earthquakes, fires, murder trials, executions, presidential visits and more. Outside of his work in news, Fiorina has been involved with San Diego chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, San Diego Press Club, Scripps Ranch High School Foundation and Scripps Ranch Old Pros.
Fiorina’s award is named after Harold Keen who arrived in San Diego in 1936 as a reporter for The San Diego Sun. Born in the Bronx and educated at UCLA, Keen later worked as a reporter for the San Diego Union, a contributing editor at San Diego Magazine and editorial director for KFMB-TV, beginning in the late 1940s. Keen received numerous prestigious awards for his investigative reporting and was referred to by his colleagues as the “Dean of San Diego Journalists.”
D’Garay is president and CEO of D’Garay MXUS Public Relations, a bi-national PR firm serving clients in the U.S. and México. His firm, based in Tijuana and San Diego, was founded in 1992 following a successful career in banking. A skilled client representative and negotiator, D’Garay often serves as the primary strategist interfacing with top elected officials of governing bodies on behalf of his clients in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Europe and Asia.
D’Garay’s award is named after Andy Mace, former public relations manager at Pacific Telephone in San Diego. In 1971, Mace is credited with the idea of starting the San Diego Press Club. He later started his own PR company, Andy Mace & Associates, with an office at the Mission Valley’s Stardust Hotel & Country Club, now the Handlery Hotel. He passed away in 2009 at age 88.
Awards will be presented at an outdoor evening event on Tuesday, Oct. 25 in Balboa Park at the House of Pacific Relations (HPR), a consortium of international cottages representing 32 cultures from around the world. Address for the HPR is 2191 Pan American Road West, San Diego.
“After two years of virtual events, we’re excited for the San Diego Press Club Annual Excellence in Journalism Awards to return in-person, said Terry Williams, executive director, SDPC. “The evening promises warm reunions and shared congratulations as we celebrate the extraordinary work of journalism and public relations professionals in our region.”
More than 500 awards will be presented in 10 divisions and more than 130 categories. Award recipients will include reporters, writers, artists, photographers, videographers, corporate communicators and public relations professionals. The categories cover a wide range of topics and writing styles, including breaking news, investigative reporting, editorial, photo essay, press release writing, reviews and specialty reporting.
Judges for this year’s entries include members of journalism professional organizations from around the country, including press clubs in San Francisco, New Orleans, Rochester, Florida, Cleveland, Orange County, Milwaukee and Alaska.
For attendance information, visit www.sdpressclub.org.
Gestalt Brand Lab Designs Persona for a Smoothie-Making Robot
Gestalt Brand Lab, a San Diego branding and marketing agency, has announced it was selected to create a new design and integrated campaign for Jamba by Blendid’s automated smoothie kiosks. The kiosk design features bright colors similar to fresh fruit and a mural Kevin Bongang, a street muralist who previously has worked with Jamba.
Gestalt also consulted on a new persona for an automated, contactless “mix-master” robot that uses machine vision and artificial intelligence to mix fresh smoothies at the kiosks. The googly-eyed robot dances and waves to customers.
“We began to notice that our guests were really interested in the robots and created personas for them as they watched them make smoothies and, yes, even dance,” said Danielle Fisher, vice president of marketing for Jamba.
“Our goal with the Jamba by Blendid creative work was to develop a unique consumer offering only found at the robotic kiosks, drawing consumers in with a fun and insta-worthy experience,” said Brian Munce, Gestalt Brand Lab managing director.
In addition to the kiosk design, Gestalt’s creative work also includes a comprehensive package of videos and imagery, social and digital elements, point of sale, out of home art and a live read radio campaign.
Munce told Times of San Diego that Gestalt first worked with Jamba in 2019, the same year that 850 retail locations in 36 states, as well as the Philippines, Taiwan, South Korena, Thailand and Japan, were rebranded from Jamba Juice to Jamba. He said Gestalt’s first project for Jamba by Blendid began in the summer of 2021.
Blendid, a separate brand from Jamba, was founded in 2015 by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Vipin Jain, Venki Avalur and Vijay Dodd. The startup, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., has raised more than $24 million to date from 3,000 investors, including a mix of venture and crowd-funding investors. The company is currently raising its Series B investment round.
A Jamba spokesperson said Jamba and Blendid, two independent brands, opened the first smoothie kiosk in November 2020.
Currently, six Jamba by Blendid kiosks are operating in the U.S. with four of them in California at a Walmart in Dixon, Stonewood Retail Center in Downey, Love’s Travel Center in Williams near Sacramento and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Ackerman Student Union. The two others are in Georgia at Kennesaw State University and Georgia College & State University.
The Blendid website said more than 500 smoothie kiosks are under contract with plans for 70,000 automated food kiosks at high-traffic spots, including malls, colleges and airports.
Founded in 2019, Gestalt Brand Lab’s has created brands for Luna Grill Restaurants, Mamma Chia, Chuze Fitness, Gaggenau, Grand Mariner and Gemological Institute of America.
KGB Sky Show To Return At This Year’s SDCCU Holiday Bowl
iHeart Media San Diego, operator of eight radio stations, including KGB-FM 101.5, and the San Diego Bowl Game Association, organizer of the SDCCU Holiday Bowl and parade, have jointly announced the KGB Sky Show, a massive fireworks display, will return to the skies following the conclusion of the 2022 Holiday Bowl, a college football bowl game to be played on Wednesday, Dec. 28 at Petco Park.
The KGB Sky Show began in 1976 with the fireworks set off from Fiesta Island and Cholas Lake. Then, the fireworks display became part of a San Diego State football game played in Mission Valley from 2004 to 2019. But, it has not happened the past two years due to the COVID pandemic and the demolition of SDCCU Stadium.
The Holiday Bowl also has not been played for the past two years, a victim of COVID-19 concerns. The 2020 game was cancelled two months before its scheduled date. The 2021 game, scheduled to be played at Petco Park, was cancelled five hours before the scheduled 5 p.m. kickoff when the UCLA Bruins said in a statement the team would be “unable to participate in tonight’s game due to COVID-19 protocols.”
“I can’t tell you how excited we are that the SDCCU Holiday Bowl is now the home of the KGB Sky Show,” said Mark Neville, CEO, SDCCU Holiday Bowl. “Thanks to this partnership and our friends at iHeart, the fan experience at San Diego’s bowl game will be off the charts and the best in the country. Our fans are in for quite a night.”
The 2002 Sky Show, the 45th time for the event, will celebrate the radio station’s 50th anniversary, iHeart officials said.
“After Covid canceled the 101.5 KGB Sky Show the last few years, we knew we wanted to come back bigger and better than ever,” said Noreen Ippolito, market president, iHeart Media San Diego. “Merging the country’s best bowl game with America’s finest city and now adding the 101.5 KGB Sky Show, this will be a bowl game experience like no other, ending the night with the largest fireworks show. We are thrilled to be partnering with the SDCCU Holiday Bowl.”
“We are so excited for the return of the KGB Sky Show and our new partnership with the SDDCU Holiday Bowl,” said Shauna Moran, program director, 101 KGB. “This merger, in addition to our beautiful new venue Petco Park, has made our creative juices flow. There will be new and exciting elements never seen before in a Sky Show.”
Holiday Bowl officials said tickets for the game will go on sale at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 26. Ticket prices range from $35 to $225 per seat. The football game is expected to feature top teams from the Pac-12 and the Atlantic Coast Conference. For ticket information, visit www.holidaybowl.com.
(W)right On Communications Wins IPRN Awards
(W)right On Communications, a San Diego public relations firm, said it recently won two awards from the International Public Relations Network. The awards include B2B Project of the Year and Video of the Year.
The B2B award was for an educational and outreach program for the San Diego Tourism Marketing District to help explain its role in guiding San Diego’s tourism recovery, getting San Diegans back to work and restoring city tax collections from transient occupancy tax on hotel room overnight stays. The program featured an outreach video that showed how the district helps finance the work of the San Diego Tourism Authority, as well as provide grants to tourism-oriented events that help attract overnight visitors to hotels in the city with 70 or more rooms.
The video award was for Healthcare Trust, an owner of multiple senior living communities across the country. The video sought to flip the narrative about assisted living during the government-mandated, COVID-19-related shutdown and overcome stereotypes about senior living. The video started with the familiar worries that parents had about their kids’ psychological development during the pandemic and then flipped the script to the psychological threat to their aging parents who had even less socialization and stimulation.
Marketing agencies from the U.S., European Union, Latin America and Middle East presented their best work at the IPRN conference in Caragena, Columbia. Awards were presented after a vote of agency peers.
Founded in 1998, (W)right On operates offices in San Diego, Los Angeles and North Vancouver, British Columbia.
Rick Griffin is a San Diego-based public relations and marketing consultant. His MarketInk column appears weekly on Mondays in Times of San Diego.