March 2002 - 'California Connected' Premieres

David Brancaccio and Lisa McRee
L: David Brancaccio, 'California Connected' host from 2002 to 2004. R: Lisa McRee, the show's host from 2004-2007. | Photo: L: KCET Archives; R: Ed Krieger

In March 2002, the acclaimed news magazine show, "California Connected," premiered on KCET and on 10 other PBS stations in the Golden State.

The show, hosted by David Brancaccio for its first two seasons (taped at KCET's studios), and by Lisa McRee for the last three, was produced collaboratively between KCET and fellow public TV stations KQED (San Francisco), KPBS (San Diego), and KVIE (Sacramento). It was a true collaborative effort in every aspect, from production to fundraising, to decision-making -- the general managers of the four stations met periodically to oversee the program.

"California Connected" was intended to promote civic engagement and have high production values. It premiered with a much larger budget than KCET's previous news magazine show, "Life & Times" -- $4 million annually, which was initially funded by grants from The James Irvine Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Funding in later seasons were also provided by the Annenberg Foundation and The California Endowment.

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In 2006, the show produced a one-hour documentary special, "California At War" to complement Ken Burns' PBS documentary miniseries, "The War" on the Second World War, primarily in response to the miniseries noticeably omitting the much of the contributions of Californians, and specifically Latinos, both in battle and in the war effort.

"We wanted to tell the war experience of Californians, which have a significant Latino population. They were among the most decorated soldiers, and the Burns documentary left a horrible gap," said KCET President and CEO Al Jerome. "The war shaped the state, and the state shaped the war."

"California At War" was offered to the PBS network, but was declined.

Nevertheless, "California Connected" did receive national recognition: A half-hour documentary segment, "War Stories From Ward 7-D" on Iraq War veterans who suffered from Traumatic Brain Injury, won a 2007 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton award for excellence in broadcast journalism. The show also garnered 65 local and national awards.

After 2007, the differences between Southern and Northern California made it challenging to produce stories that would appeal to a statewide audience, and after 154 original episodes, production ended due to reduced funding.

The legacy of "California Connected" continues today in KCET's "SoCal Connected," which premiered n 2008.

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