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KCRA journalists cheer after mass shooting coverage wins Emmy

Six people died in the downtown Sacramento shooting early last year.

Six people died in the downtown Sacramento shooting early last year.

Journalists in Northern California are criticizing a local television station after it reacted to winning a regional Emmy Award in a very unexpected way.

During the regional Emmy Awards ceremony over the weekend, Sacramento NBC affiliate KCRA-TV (Channel 3) won in the category of spot news for its ongoing coverage of a shooting that left six people dead in the city’s downtown district early last year.

The award was being presented by Carolyn Tyler, a former KGO-TV (Channel 7, ABC) reporter who retired in 2018. Tyler had not finished reading aloud the words “Six Killed” when cheers erupted from a table where KCRA reporters, photographers and on-air talent were sitting, much to the shock of their peers in the room.

“Cheering a mass shooting is a really bad look for the media industry,” a reporter who works for Sacramento CBS station KOVR-TV told The Desk by phone on Monday. The reporter asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak for this story without approval from their station, which they did not obtain.

“The entire room was surprised by the reaction, and I think you could see it on [Tyler’s] face when she struggled to read through the rest of the announcement,” a photojournalist with San Francisco’s KGO-TV, said in a text message.

KCRA producer Jessica Duarte explained that the station was severely short-staffed during that day’s coverage, which involved a mass shooting that occurred very early in the morning.

“We started out this day with no one on assignment desk until 9 a.m.,” a smiling Duarte said while holding her Emmy statuette. “It was just me, her, our anchor, our director and her [photographer], and slowly over time, more and more people from our station were calling on their day off, being, like, ‘how can I help?’ … It was a really great show of teamwork, and I’m really proud of that.”

Immediately after Duarte’s acceptance speech, afternoon news anchor Ty Steele was seen hugging his co-workers in the background, saying out loud, “That’s a girl! I’m so proud of you.”

“Oh, yeah!” another KCRA producer said triumphantly, as music played the group off the stage.

Ariel Roblin, the general manager of KCRA, did not return an email seeking comment. KCRA is owned by Hearst Television.

The KCRA journalists who won a regional Emmy Award for spot news connected to the mass shooting coverage are:

  • Jailyn Anderson, producer
  • Jessica Duarte, producer
  • Erica Goldhawk, producer
  • Jennifer Parsons, producer
  • Randy Forsman, director
  • Douglas Holdren, director
  • Gulstan Dart, anchor
  • Deidre Fitzpatrick, anchor
  • Andrea Flores, anchor
  • Lisa Gonzales, anchor
  • Leticia Ordaz, anchor
  • Ty Steele, anchor
  • Erin Heft, reporter
  • Brittany Hope, reporter
  • Brittany Johnson, reporter
  • Lysée Mitri, reporter
  • John Breedlove, photographer
  • Michael Daniel, photographer
  • Brian Fong, photographer

The shooting at the center of KCRA’s coverage happened in the early morning hours of April 3 near the corner of K Street and 10th Street. While the incident was initially characterized as a “mass shooting,” it was later revealed by police that some of the suspects and victims knew each other, and that the event was gang-related.

Six people were killed in the shooting, including four who were described by police as innocent bystanders. Twelve others were injured in the incident. Police arrested Dandrae Martin, Smiley Martin and Mtula Payton in connection with the shooting. Criminal cases against all three are still ongoing.

The mass shooting helped KCRA walk away with more Emmy Awards than any other local broadcast station in the region (which, in addition to covering Northern California, includes the Reno and Honolulu markets). KCRA earned a total of 13 awards, with rival ABC affiliate KXTV (Channel 10) grabbing 12 awards.

Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously reported comments made by KCRA anchor Ty Steele at the awards ceremony as “Let’s go!,” which was based on a poorly-compressed audio clip. Additionally, a quote was wrongly attributed to a KCRA employee who won an award in a different category and did not give an acceptance speech that evening.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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