SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – On December 7, 2012, CBS 5 bid farewell to anchor Dana King, who decided to leave broadcasting to concentrate on her art. She works on her sculptures from a studio in Oakland, and you can see her work online at www.danakingart.com.
Her career at the station began in 1997, when she auditioned to anchor the evening newscasts alongside San Francisco legend Dave McElhatton.
Even the prompter operator remembered saying, “I think we just found our new anchor.”
But some of Dana’s best work would come when she unplugged from the anchor desk and stepped into the field, and often into the world’s most dangerous situations.
After the vicious onslaught of Hurricane Mitch, King was determined to tell the stories of those who couldn’t tell their own. She traveled to Honduras to report on rescues and relief… tragedy and tenacity.
That trademark fortitude took her to Turkey, Taiwan, Albania, and Kosovo, to stand with the survivors of earthquakes, and to tell the stories of refugees driven from their homes by war.
Then war came home, and King was on board the second private plane to leave the west coast for New York – the first Bay Area broadcast journalist at Ground Zero. Then she wanted nothing less than a front row seat when the U.S. struck back at terrorism, reporting from on board the USS Lincoln in the Persian Gulf.
She shied away from nothing, not even genocide: her series “Horror to Hope” marked the 10th anniversary of the killings in Rwanda. Later that year, she spent 10 days in Afghanistan. Her reports covered the upcoming presidential election, security, and the country’s faltering steps toward stability.
A trip to Northern Iraq was next. King wanted the Bay Area to meet the Kurds – once Saddam Hussein’s victims, now thriving in a nearly independent region.
When she took viewers to Ghana, it was so they could meet the recent past: first world electronics, polluting the third world landscape – and the distant past: slave dungeons.
Back in the U.S. it was a look at the future: the inauguration of America’s first black president; and a look at how far we’ve come: 20 years since Loma Prieta.
But no matter where she was, King was always on her own path. For one thing, she’s notorious for updating her ‘do.
“That hair!” cried CBS 5 Creative Director Dee Joyce. “Dana cannot keep a hair style for longer than three weeks! It’s enough to drive our promo people crazy!”
Then it wasn’t just about style – but about color – going gray. In a story about deciding to let her hair revert to its now-natural gray, King wrote, “For me it was about deciding to match my looks with my experience and my time on the planet.”
But gray hair on the head doesn’t stop mischief in the heart.
“One time during a commercial break Dana King taught me to put my fist in my mouth,” meteorologist Roberta Gonzales remembered with a laugh.
On the set, in the field, or in the newsroom, there’s no one like Dana King.
“She likes to come in my office and tap, tap, tap her foot,” said Vice President of News Dan Rosenheim. “She has things to say!”
Managing Editor Peter Saiers remembered the many trips he’d taken with King:
“I’ve done some of my best work with Dana and for the station in the Middle East: Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan,” Saiers said. “I’ve also had some of the most tense times in Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, but not with the militiamen or highway robbers — with Dana!”
Producer Stephanie John also did a lot of field producing with King:
“I traveled with Dana to New York, to Washington, and to Africa. She will stand in the freezing cold. She will sleep on the floor. She will hike into a village with no roads. And she will help you, in the middle of the night, get a gecko out of your hotel room!”
One of King’s most trusted photographers, Rick Villaroman, used a serious face to relate a funny story:
“When you suggested I shoot something, and I went contrary to what you wanted, you had daggers coming out of your eyes. Literally, there were daggers shooting out of your eyes!” Villaroman explained. “Later, you gave me a roundabout compliment. You said I was really smart, that I was very talented, that I drove you crazy, and it reminded you of your brother.”
Newscast director Wayne Philippo had a special message for the woman he’s been talking to over headsets all these years:
“Daner, Daner, Daner,” Philippo said. “For 15 years, through a lot of producers and thousands of shows, I’ve been the voice inside your head. Time to fade to black one more time. Congratulations.”
There will never be another Dana King. We’re so proud. And we’re not alone:
“Congratulations, Mom,” said her son, Cameron King. “I’m very proud of you and thanks for getting me to where I am today.”
“Hi Mom!” added her daughter, Akana King. “I just wanted to say congratulations. I’m very proud of you and I love you!”
We’ll miss you, Dana!
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)