Bret Marcus, the KCET exec who led production of the station’s acclaimed local news series SoCal Connected, is among the 22 employees riffed in the layoffs announced last week by KCETLink, the new public media outlet formed in a merger of the Los Angeles pubTV station with noncommercial satellite channel Link TV.
Marcus, a former commercial TV news executive, served as KCET’s chief content officer and executive producer of the award-winning SoCal Connected, the local public TV news show that had a storied history producing investigative series and other news reports that made a difference in communities in the region.
“I feel like I had a great run there,” Marcus told Current. SoCal Connected and its predecessor, California Connected, “were very unusual programs, produced by some of the best people in the news business. I’m very pleased about that.” (More on the program’s interesting history here; the station now says it is “on hiatus.”)
The show cut a wide investigative swath, exposing wrongdoing at the Los Angeles Housing Authority and illegal massage parlors; taking on massive subjects like global warming and local scandals such as a sweetheart deal over electronic billboards.
Along the way, SoCal Connected won three du Pont-Columbia Awards — half of the station’s six over its 50-year history. Other numerous honors include a Peabody, 17 Emmys, 41 Los Angeles Press Club Awards (including its Special Public Service award last year), two Headliners and two Murrows.
“I’m very proud of the program,” Marcus said. “It’s clearly the most recognized program in Southern California, without a doubt.”
Marcus arrived at KCET seven years ago after a long career in commercial television news — including stints as an executive producer at both NBC and ABC News — and he was eager to dive into public-service journalism. “That’s why I went to public TV,” he said. “Somebody needs to do this type of reporting and hold government accountable.” At the time, KCET was the primary PBS station in Los Angeles, looking to leverage its track record in producing news shows for statewide and local audiences into single high-impact program — the show that became SoCal Connected.
Marcus said he’ll miss the opportunity to make that “civic impact” through stories such as the show’s six-month long investigation of inspectors regulating the state’s worker safety laws, and “Hung Out to Dry,” its look into FEMA’s incorrect flood-zone designations that cost homeowners tens of thousands of dollars.
Could Marcus and his SoCal Connected team land at another media outlet? “The staff is eager to take their good work somewhere else,” he said.