KTVU’s newscaster Frank Somerville has been removed from the air again, but this time it appears that a spit in the newsroom – not an on-air crisis – is the cause.
According to broadcaster sources, Somerville, 63, from the management of Channel 2 following a dispute with News Director Amber Eikel over coverage of the Gabby Petito murder « indefinitely ».
Frank Somerville finally returns to KTVU: Do the viewers owe an explanation?
The disagreement, sources said, came earlier in the week after Petito’s body was discovered in Wyoming. Petito, 22, was reported missing during an off-site camping trip earlier this month. The FBI has issued an arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie, Petito’s 23-year-old fiancé.
KTVU was ready to air a news report covering the latest developments in the case. Somerville wanted to add a short tagline at the end of the report challenging the extraordinary media coverage of the story. Sources said he wanted to point out that the U.S. media often disproportionately reported tragedies involving young white women, while largely ignoring similar cases involving women of color and indigenous peoples.
The veteran anchor was told the slogan was inappropriate and he apparently pushed him back. There was no telling how heated the discussion got.
Sources said that the next day, Somerville was informed by the station management that he was suspended. A broadcaster was unavailable on Friday night, Eikel declined to comment.
It’s another strange turn in a turbulent year for Somerville. During a now infamous newscast on May 30th, he mumbled repeatedly and stumbled over his words and appeared to have difficulty reading the teleprompter. Days later, a spokesman for Fox – the network that owns and operates KTVU – announced that Somerville would be taking an indefinite leave of absence to “focus on his health.”
Somerville had been out of town for more than nine weeks Air before returning to Channel 2’s « The Ten O’Clock News » in August without addressing his unusual absence. Since then, Fox and the station’s management have refused to speak publicly on the matter.
This latest incident, which occurred just six weeks after Somerville’s return to the anchor console, will no doubt spark speculation about his future at the station. He’s one of the highest-paid anchors in the Bay Area, but his contract expires in March. Somerville has said in the past that he would like to work « two or three more years » and end his career at KTVU.
Meanwhile, the media coverage issue that Somerville wanted to address has received a lot of attention in the past few days since the debate is raging about how much is too much. MSNBC presenter Joy Reid criticized her own industry in her prime time programming, citing Petito coverage as an example of « Missing White Woman Syndrome, » a term coined by the late PBS presenter Gwen Ifill to describe the often one-sided focus of the Media on describing white women and girls when they are missing.
A report by ABC News, citing statistics from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, said the FBI had more than 89,000 active missing persons cases by the end of 2020 , and 45 percent of them were black.
According to a 2016 analysis published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, the ABC News report also states that only about a fifth of minority missing persons cases are covered by the news .
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