More Than an Anchor: KTVU’s Frank Somerville

img_1458By: Melissa Healey

When most people think of a news anchor, they think of someone who sits behind a desk and reads a script–they usually don’t imagine them doing their own reporting. Longtime KTVU anchor Frank Somerville, however, takes the unconventional route.

“I don’t just tell the story,” says Somerville. “I tell people what it was like.”

Somerville, a three time Emmy award winner at KTVU, is the anchor on the evening segments, airing from 5-10pm. He has been with the station since 1991—ten years after he first got his start as an intern at that very same station.

“I can’t say enough about the value of being an intern,” says Somerville, who has also worked at local station in Santa Rosa, Minneapolis, and Rhode Island.

When it comes to doing his job, Somerville is all about breaking boundaries. He doesn’t just sit comfortably behind his desk: he puts himself right in the center of the action.

“The more personal experiences I have, the better I am as an anchor,” says Somerville.

Somerville tells of the experience he had witnessing an execution of an inmate at San Quentin Prison who had raped a little girl before throwing her off a cliff to her death. What shocked him the most about the experience wasn’t the process or the looks on the family member’s faces: it was his own reaction.

“At the end of it, I didn’t care,” says Somerville, who is a father of two. “What I’ve learned in this business is that people don’t always think or react they way you think they should.”

Somerville has seen the other side to tragic situations, experiences which he believes help him be a better anchor.

“I don’t have a physically demanding job, but I have a mentally demanding one,” says Somerville.

Somerville is known to frequently attend funerals Oakland, usually ones that occur as a result of street crime. As hard as they are to attend, Somerville finds that the experiences help him tell the stories with greater compassion.

“These kind of things put things in perspective for me,” says Somerville, who describes a time when a mother he was talking to physically collapsed in his arms at her son’s funeral. “It’s really powerful to feel someone’s legs buckle from emotion.”

Somerville believes in having a certain passion while telling a story, finding a way to connect with the audience at home.

“I don’t want to feel fake telling a story,” says Somerville, who admits he sometimes passes a story along to his co-anchor if he doesn’t feel he can be genuine with it.

As for the changing ways of news distribution, Somerville says it is “super important” for the younger generation to stay informed, and believes there will always be a big demand for televised news stories.

“News affects everyone,” says Somerville. “It doesn’t affect me more just because I’m older.”

Even though he’s not a reporter, Somerville pledges that he will continue to make site visits before reporting a story, because he believes that connecting with victims is the best way to connect him to the story.

“I’ll take no for an answer, but it’s my job to ask,” says Somerville.

And he understands that these aren’t just lines he’s reading off of a script: these are real people’s lives.

“It’s not just #46 in Oakland,” says Somerville. “It’s a person. That’s why I do what I do.”

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