B+C Station Awards: Dana McDaniel Revamps News in San Diego

Dana McDaniel
Dana McDaniel (Image credit: KFMB/Tegna)

When KFMB San Diego was acquired by Tegna in 2018, the station was in need of a refresh. It was the first station in the market and had been owned by Midwest Television for decades. “There were a lot of people in my newsroom that had never worked anywhere else,” said president and general manager Alberto Mier y Terán.

Tegna made significant investments in the station’s look and newsroom infrastructure. And Mier y Terán hired Dana McDaniel as the director of content in September 2019. “She had worked in major newsrooms in Washington, D.C., in San Francisco, in Detroit, in Kansas City,” he said. “I knew she would bring new perspective and new ideas and processes to the newsroom.”

McDaniel’s first TV job had been overnight master control operator at WSJV in Elkhart, Indiana. She moved to Chicago to work at CLTV, and then, to be closer to her family, to WJBK Detroit, where she stayed for 12 years, rising to VP of news. 

When McDaniel got to KFMB, the staff appeared to be experiencing culture shock. “Tegna came in and gave them a lot of technology and wanted them to grow, but I don’t think  that they knew what to do with all of that,” she said.

Ratings were sliding and digital wasn’t a major priority. “There was a lot of catching up to do,” McDaniel said.  “My marching orders were to get people trained. There was tons of potential here, but they didn’t have the tools or the knowledge they needed to get to the next level.”

The station took on the slogan “Working for You,” and McDaniel said it wasn’t hard to sell it to the staff. “This gives the journalists a focus and a purpose,” she said. “They know the work they’re doing is truly trying to help our communities be a better place to live.”

The station succeeded in small things that are important to communities, like getting a stop sign installed at a dangerous intersection. And it’s now working on an investigation, looking at the roots of crime in one section of the city that McDaniel anticipates will lead to change.

The station unveiled a new news set in time for Election Day. It also launched a streaming platform. “We are producing a ton of original content that is now being shared with Tegna stations across the country,” McDaniel said. ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.