KFBK News Director and Senior Editor Judy Farah has more than 25 years news experience in New York, Los Angeles and Sacramento. She's edited the KFBK Afternoon News with Kitty O'Neal the past 16 years while also directing the newsroom by assigning stories to reporters and scheduling guest interviews. Farah started out as a newspaper reporter on the East Coast, covering major stories as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press in Los Angeles, including the 1984 Olympics, the Oscars, Emmys, the presidency of Ronald Reagan and the criminals trials of the Night Stalker and the Hillside Stranglers.
Farah came to KFBK in 1996, and has helped direct coverage of five presidential elections, five governor's elections and the killing sprees of Yosemite Killer Cary Stayner and Scott Peterson. She reported live for two 13-hour days for KFBK from the 9-11 terrorist attacks. She was also the editor on KFBK's 2011 exclusive report that the Sacramento Kings were considering moving to Anaheim.
A graduate of William Paterson College in New Jersey, Farah has won three Edward R. Murrow awards, including one for Best Writing, while at KFBK. She's also earned three awards from the Northern California Radio Television News Directors Association for Best Series, Best Newscast and Best Sports Segment. She has also written for the Wall Street Journal, TV Guide, Los Angeles and Parents magazines. She was honored with a Jefferson Fellowship in 2009 and traveled to Japan, China and Hong Kong to study the Asian economy. In 2010, she was awarded a RTNDA RIAS Fellowship to travel to Germany, Belgium and Prague to study the European economy.
Farah currently is a national blogger for The Huffington Post and often speaks on news and social media. You can find her on Twitter @newsbabe1530
In her free time, Farah enjoys the outdoors by hiking along the American River bike trail and kayaking. A wine enthusiast, Farah's produced a monthly wine segment on KFBK the past five years and enjoys visiting our local foothill wineries.
It was a sunny Saturday morning in Orlando, Florida and Rob McAllister thought he'd take some time to relax after a tiring, cross country trip. He was taking in the sun poolside before starting a big weekend of covering the February 2012 NBA All Star game and talks between the NBA, David Stern, the Maloofs and Mayor Kevin Johnson on the future of the Sacramento Kings. But as he sat there trying to soak in the warm Florida sun, a nagging devil appeared on his shoulder: "What are you doing lying around when you should be chasing down David Stern and a story?"
Rob told me that nagging editor in his conscience was me. He left the pool, hailed a taxi and tracked down Stern at a private meeting in an Orlando hotel room. Rob got his jackpot when Stern emerged and gave him an exclusive statement. Meantime, a dozen or so Sacramento reporters who also made the trip to Orlando were standing outside another hotel, the Ritz-Carlton, with their tri pods and TV cameras set up, waiting for Stern or anyone from the NBA to come talk to them. They got nothing, and weren't too happy when Rob broke ranks and went to get the story on his own.
For me, that was the turning point in the journalism competition in the Kings saga. From then on, reporters knew if they wanted to get new information, they'd have to get it themselves.
A year earlier on January 11, 2011, KFBK and McAllister broke the blockbuster story about how the Kings were secretly in talks to move the team to Anaheim. I was his editor on the story and also talked to the very credible source. But could we bask in the glory of breaking such major news? No. Because for six long weeks, most of Sacramento and the news media refused to believe it until Stern himself confirmed it at the NBA All Star game in Los Angeles in February 2011.
From the point where Stern said the Maloofs were trying to move the Kings, the media frenzy began. Reporters, sports writers and anchors tried to get any tidbit of information they could. But there wasn't much being released. Mayor Johnson was blindsided and had to scramble to concoct a game plan. The Maloofs weren't talking. The NBA released little info except possible meeting dates. The Sacramento media was desperately chasing a story that provided little information. It got ugly at times, with some reporters taking other reporters' info and not crediting them. Too many reporters yelled "Exclusive!" when they really didn't have one.
The news media in Sacramento had to learn how to compete on a higher level.
I started my journalism career as a newspaper reporter in the No. 1 New York market. Next I was a reporter and editor for The Associated Press in the No. 2 media market of Los Angeles where I had to compete against reporters from more than 100 news agencies. It always has and still bothers me that Sacramento is a one newspaper and one news radio town. It's not The New York Daily News versus The New York Post. It's not KCBS against KGO. Both longtime news rivalries. Competition makes you better. Makes you hungrier. Sharpens your skills. News competition serves the citizens better. After helping break the Kings story, I took everything I learned working in those major media markets to try and advance it, as did everyone else.
After the Maloofs backed out of the tearful agreement in Orlando, the game was on. What was next? Sacramento reporters began their own, independent full court press to get the story.
It was hard to beat the hard-digging Sacramento Bee guys -- Ryan Lillis, Tony Bizjak and Dale Kasler. I was envious The Bee could dedicate three of its reporters to the story full time. And they dug hard, uncovering the financial terms of the team and the city; detailing Kings suitor Chris Hansen's big money gamble and chronicling Sacramento's desperate effort to keep the team.
The team at News 10 was also impressive. Ryan Yamamoto, Brian May, Nick Monacelli and Sean Cunningham covering the story 24/7 was also hard to beat. They were at every game possible and snagging anyone who would comment on the situation. Jim Crandell of Fox 40 was also a force, using every connection and source he made in his more than 20 years in the Sacramento sports and news market to bring fresh information on the story. We even got competition from our rivals in Seattle, such as King TV's Chris Daniels, who had the inside track on Chris Hansen.
But then the journalism whales got involved. Big national writers weighed in and changed the game even more. Sam Amick of USA Today Sports, with a deep Rolodex from his time at the Sac Bee, AOL Fanhouse and Sports Illustrated, broke many scoops. As did David Aldridge of TNT, Ken Berger of CBS Sports, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and Aaron Bruski of NBC Sports.
Suddenly, Sacramento reporters weren't competing among themselves. They were going up against some of the best, toughest sports writers in the U.S. who had deep inside sources cultivated over years of covering the league.
"It was a rare story where we were competing with national writers on a daily basis," said The Bee's Ryan Lillis. "You were in competition with very large, very respected (sports) news organizations."
Amick told me the story had many intriguing levels to merit national interest.
"It's a national story for the Kings, Charlotte or any relocation of a franchise," Amick said.
And it wasn't just a story about relo.
"It had so many subplots. David versus Goliath. Hansen's money. Seattle," he said.
And for anyone covering the NBA, the enigmatic David Stern was personally involved. Reporters hung on his every slow-spoken crafted word, struggling to determine or analyze if they had a hidden meaning.
From Sacramento to New York, reporting got better. Reporters no longer waited for news conferences and press releases to get new information. They pursued the story individually and as a team. They worked day and night trying to develop sources. They dug and dug until they discovered new info. They traveled to cities like Orlando and Seattle and Anaheim and NBA meetings in New York and Dallas. And if one reporter got a big scoop, it only motivated the rest to try even harder.
The writing got better. The information got stronger. The reporting was more in depth. In the end, the Sacramento community benefited from the most comprehensive coverage on a story that affected the entire region. And against sometimes insurmountable odds, a community rallied and saved its team.
"You will untimately be defined by the sum total of your responses to circumstances, situations and events that you probably couldn't anticipate and indeed probably couldn't even imagine. So just keep your eyes on the course and be ready to move in different directions depending upon the crises and opportunities with which you are faced," -- David Stern.
It was a wild, roller coaster of a story with the future of a city at stake. Chaotic, dramatic and constantly changing. If we got new information one minute we took the risk it could change the next. But Sacramento journalists rose to the challenge from our competitors. We witnessed journalism at its best. And a city united.
Mom last visited me in Sacramento two Christmases ago. I was always apprehensive picking her up at the airport. She'd look me up and down, size me up then hit me with a zinger -- "What did you do to your hair? What's that on your feet? You gained weight!" Mom got to that certain age where she felt she survived life long enough that she could say anything she wanted, and she did.
On the drive home she ordered me to stop at a liquor store. She went in and started demanding unusual items. "I need red Vermouth. A bottle of bitters. Maraschino cherries. And some rye whiskey." I like my wine but don't do Vermouth and certainly not Bitters, whatever that is. I winced at the $7 price tab for the tiny bottle.
Once home, she took out two highball glasses and got to work. I watched as she slipped in ice cubes, assembled two shots of Whiskey, a dash of Vermouth, the tiniest splash of Bitters then topped it off with one of those cherries I used to eat out of a jar when I was a kid.
"Here," she said. "It's a Manhattan." We clinked our glasses and drank the strong classic cocktail that warmed up the winter cold. Oh, boy, did it. It became our drink that holiday when I came home from work. And even at 79, Mom went out with me after work to restaurants and bars when most middle-age Sacramentans went to sleep.
Mom came from another era. She and my father were blue collar factory workers with a small income, but you'd never know it. They celebrated life and threw grand, dress-up parties in our tiny apartment complete with cocktails out of "Mad Men" with the proper stemware and glasses to match -- frothy whiskey sours, daiquiris, highballs, martinis and yes, Manhattans.
Mom returned to her home in Florida. In October, I got a late night call that she unexpectedly passed away.
I made it through my first Christmas without her. But I still have those bottles of Vermouth and bitters. Sometime this week, I will make a Manhattan just like Irene made for me, raise my glass and toast her. Thank you, Mom, for reminding me no matter my job, income, age, problems or circumstances -- live life fully every day. Here's to you.
On Sunday across America, NFL fans were watching their teams battling it out. In one tight matchup, two star quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Tony Romo, went down to the final two seconds of a tie game at 48-48 with Denver finally winning on a field goal. On Saturday, a classic pitching duel was taking place in Oakland in MLB (Major League Baseball) playoffs between the Oakland A's young Sonny Gray and Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. But to members of the U.S. military overseas who look so forward to watching these games on the American Forces Network as respite from their duties on protecting us from terrorism, they were blocked from seeing them due to the government shutdown.
Things weren't much better for an eighth grade class from Seattle that saved for months to take a history lesson trip to Washington, D.C. to tour the monuments on National Mall. Instead, they were met with hastily set up fences telling visitors to keep out.
The government shutdown has taken its toll on more than 800,000 federal workers across America. But it's America itself and its iconic symbols that are also the victims. The dramatic Lincoln Memorial: shut. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where families can pay their last respects to their sons who never came home: closed.
The World War Two Memorial, where the last, aging survivors of the Greatest Generation can come to honor their country for the last time -- now fenced up. We've seen the images of the 80- and 90-somethings -- even a 97-year-old vet -- in wheelchairs or walking with canes being allowed through to see *their* monument. There are only 1.2 million World War Two vets left of the 16 million who once served. They are dying at a rate of 600 a day and have little time left to see their a beautiful memorial dedicated to their service. But the crackdown continues. Why?
Remember after the 9/11 terrorist attack there was this collective, urgent need to show the world America never closes down for anything? We hurried back to business, getting flights in the air and opening the New York Stock Exchange to show no terrorists or entity would ever shut our doors. In 2013, all it takes is squabbling members of Congress and the president to cause symbolic America to come to a standstill. Yosemite. The Grand Canyon. And most infuriating to me, the World War Two cemetery and memorial in Normandy, France.
Young soldiers from the grasslands of Kentucky to the cement streets of New York went there to liberate the world. They scaled the most high, unimaginable sheer cliffs only to be stopped by the Germans' bayonets to an early death. Or their rubber boats ripped up and sabotaged as they stormed the shore. The rows upon rows of simple white marble crosses told the story of their brief lives. 18 years old. 19. 21. Visiting Normandy was one of the most profound experiences of my life. I walked the beaches of Utah and Omaha barefoot in the rain, stepping in the sand on hallowed ground where the blood of more than six thousand American soldiers was shed. It reinforced my pride in being an American and cemented the sacrifices those very young soldiers made in my heart. Please don't close it. Let others in every single day to let them know their lives were not wasted. At 18 and 19, first time away from home, they saved the world.
I've been fortunate to visit all the memorials and even the White House, now closed to sequester, twice, as recently as December. The first time, I saw a gray-haired man playing fetch with a dog in the garden. It was President Clinton and first dog Buddy. It was always on my bucket list to see the White House at Christmas all elaborately decorated. I got the chance last December. But now no one can enter the doors of the People's House.
These monuments, parks, cemeteries and buildings are not only symbols of American greatness, they belong to the People. These are OUR monuments. They don't belong to Congress. I believe those who live and work in Washington, D.C. see them all the time and take them for granted when the truth is, most Americans will never see them or get just one chance in their lifetime. And for many during the past week of shutdown, that time has passed.
I made acquaintance with Leo Shane, a writer for Stars & Stripes magazine, this past week. He was at the closed World War II memorial when the first Freedom Flight of 92 veterans from Mississippi came in. He explained a shutdown means all non-essential government operations need to be stopped, and national parks are considered non-essential because they don't deal with public health and safety. I know volunteers would gladly help, but there's insurance and protecting government property involved. The Lincoln Memorial was recently vandalized with green paint.
But the whole world is watching. And can't understand what's happening in the USA. Why not have Congress continue their bickering, but allow the iconic symbols of America to remain open because, nothing -- no person or group -- should ever close them? And put up fences and barricades to block where noble men and women have served? For heaven's sake, what's the purpose? It only denies Americans their inalienable rights to share and witness part of our rich history.
So like Reagan to Gorbachev, I ask: Mr. President, tear down these walls. Tear down these fences and bolts around the monuments that were put up last week. They don't belong to you; or Congress; or Republicans or Democrats. They belong to me out here in Sacramento, CA or to those eighth graders in Seattle or those Freedom Flight vets from Mississippi.
Keep your shutdown going if you must, but like those World War Two vets who liberated the world at Normandy, it is time to liberate We the People. Our soldiers are facing death and IEDs every day. Let them kick back with feet up after a long shift and see something other than black and white static on TV. Let them reconnect to home through the pass of a football or swing of the bat. Let us have our memorials back.
Originally published in the Huffington Post, Oct. 8, 2013
People go to work at the office cubicle. Or man the phone banks and receptionist desk. Maybe do automotive or computer repairs or toss around ideas at the start up. For several years of my life, I did something a little bit different. I spent my days and nights with serial killers.
For some unknown reason, Los Angeles has had more than its share of serial killers since Charles Manson.
As a criminal courts reporter in Los Angeles, I covered the killing sprees and trials of the Hillside Strangler, Night Stalker, Sunset Slayer and other horrible people who got their pleasure from brutally murdering others.
Two years of my life was spent in court with Angelo Buono, the Hillside Strangler. Buono, with his big bushy mustache, was cocky with Italian swagger before his arrest. But in court, he slumped cowardly in his seat in his orange jail jumpsuit, not making eye contact with anyone. Buono and crime partner Kenneth Bianchi were accused of killing, raping and torturing ten young women then taunting police by leaving their naked bodies sprawled on hillsides around LA.
I got a little too close to Sunset Slayer Douglas Daniel Clark, who killed six women he picked up along LA's Sunset Strip. Clark, a sex freak, shot some of his victims in the head during oral sex. He kept one of their heads in his refrigerator as a trophy. Clark would turn around and look at me as I entered the courtroom. He often called me from Los Angeles County Jail but my protective male boss refused to let me visit the creep.
How do you quantify evil? How can you determine who's the worst when they're all horrific?
The Night Stalker Richard Ramirez was in a league of his own. I had a gutteral response to the news of his death June 7 at age 53. It was at a hospital, not in his prison cell on California's notorious Death Row at San Quentin. My first reaction was "Gates of Hell open." In 1985, Los Angeles should have been looking back fondly at its successful 1984 Olympics a year earlier. Instead, it was paralyzed by fear for an entire summer.
Ramirez killed couples as they slept in their beds. All over Los Angeles. No one or region was safe. He gouged out their eyes. Dipped his hand in their blood and scrawled pentagrams and the word Satan on their bedroom walls. Ramirez looked the part. Unlike Buono in his jail jumpsuit or Clark, who tried to intimidate his prosecutor by dressing exactly like him down to his three-piece pin stripe suit and pocket watch, Ramirez had wild black hair and squinty, piercing black eyes that seared when I looked into them. So black. Like looking into the eyes of a demon... a possessed demon.
When you cover crime, as I did for The Associated Press in LA, you develop certain instincts just like a homicide investigator. All of a sudden, in the second largest city in America known for its laid back lifestyle, beautiful beaches and endless summers, anyone could be the next murder victim. LA was under siege. People refused to leave their homes. Many armed themselves or turned their homes into fortresses. Doors were bolted and windows tightly closed.
In what became a bizarre nighttime ritual for me, I would leave my house for my overnight shift at AP clutching the leash of our pet Doberman Sasha. My husband and I, Joseph Farah, news editor at the late, great Hearst newspaper the Herald-Examiner, timed it so I would not leave the house until he pulled into the driveway from his night shift editing the newspaper. Once his car lights appeared in the driveway, I'd walk out with the Doberman and hand him off to Joe as I got into my car. I watched as Joe entered the
house safely then drove to work. When I arrived back home at 7 a.m. the first thing I did was to check to see if my husband was still alive in bed. That is the warped, extraordinarily odd psychological behavior a serial killer will do to you. But it was my normal.
Joe and I would discuss these serial killers over dinner. I told him I knew a new one was on the loose and why wasn't law enforcement saying anything. When authorities finally held a news conference, because they had to alert Angelenos to the public danger, Joe wrote a banner headline that said: "The Night Stalker's Deadly Trail." And it stuck. He named a serial killer.
Ramirez was finally caught at the end of a brutal summer. He was captured in a proud, family-oriented neighborhood of East Los Angeles by Latinos ashamed one of their own was a killer. They held him till police got there. I was there for the capture.
Ramirez's first court appearance was one of the most profound but nerve rattling moments of my 25-year reporting career. More than 100 news people were on hand, catching their first glimpse of the Night Stalker. The arraignment was routine. The judge informed Ramirez of the charges and banged his gavel to declare the hearing over. The TV pool camera shut off. All those reporters ran out the courtroom to go live or file. I took one of the biggest career risks of my life and stayed behind, with my brilliant AP photographer Nick Ut at my side. (Ut won the Pulitzer Prize for his famous photo of the naked napalm girl during the Vietnam War.) We were not about to leave until Ramirez, the man who terrorized Los Angeles all summer long, entered the lockup.
I kept my eyes fixed on him and Ut had his camera pointed. As Ramirez got to the courtroom door to lockup, he reeled around, held up his palm and flashed a pentagram scrawled on it and yelled "Hail, Satan!" Nick got the shot. TV didn't. I called my AP editor who cursed me out so bad for being last on the story. "Where have you f-in been? It's all over the f-in radio already!" I calmly said to him, "But did anyone report Ramirez flashed a pentagram and yelled Hail, Satan?" "Holy shit, no!" All those reporters who raced out missed it and had to scramble back inside to confirm incident with the court reporter.
So what was it like to cover serial killers? I was very young. It was my job. My career. I just went from one story to the next. Of course the killings bothered me. Maybe more than I'd like to admit. Joe and I took our first trip to Hawaii after the two-year Hillside Strangler trial finally ended. I could finally relax. I looked out from our beachfront Kauai hotel on the ground floor. I held the sliding glass door that looked out to the beautiful beach, ocean and Paradise. And bolted the door each night. The scars of multiple murders remained.
Looking back now it's strange to think that was my routine "normal: life for several years. Buono died in prison. Clark remains on Death Row, his hair now long and gray. Ramirez off Death Row with his death at the early age of 53. But as I wished him into the depths of hell, I also wondered if that's exactly where the Satanic killer and devil worshipper wanted to be all along.
KFBK News Director
It's hard to miss as it's barreling down a freeway; laboring through a long, lonely stretch of an interstate or swerving in a desert dust storm. A huge purple and pink RV with "Playing to Win" painted on its shiny side. Some people run across the country to raise awareness of a particular cause; or ride bikes or motorcycles. The guy known only as Carmichael Dave is RVing his way across America for one reason: to save the Sacramento Kings NBA basketball team.
Sacramento is in the fight of its life right now trying to hold on to its only professional sports team of nearly 28 years. The owners of the Kings, the Maloofs, agreed to sell the team for $525 million in January to a big-moneyed investment group in Seattle headed by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and bankrolled by billionaire Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
Sacramento, which loves its Kings, immediately fought back.
The Maloofs have tortured Sacramento Kings fans for two years now, first trying to move the team to Anaheim then Virginia Beach and now to the rainy city in the Pacific Northwest. It's a complicated battle, but a bearded guy who feels most comfortable in a baseball cap, sports jersey, shorts and well-worn flip flops who sneaks a smoke on the side has emerged as the leader of the Kings fan base fiercely fighting to save their team.
He's left his wife and two young children behind - a hardship for the homebody family man -- to do a month-long road trip. Why?
"There are countless people who work your 'Joe" jobs; your computer programmer, your teachers, your doctors, your lawyers. The ones who don't have a mic in front of them. They're working so hard," said Carmichael Dave, who says he has the time for it now since leaving his job as a sports talk host on the Sacramento sports station KHTK.
The "Playing to Win" RV tour has hit 18 cities. Dave's met with the mayor in Oklahoma City; did the radio circuit in Dallas; blasted through Bourbon Street in New Orleans and hit New York City for an NBA meeting on the Kings-Seattle situation on April 3, where he presented a huge banner of all the Kings fans across America who signed the rolling RV.
"It's why we're fighting for this thing. It's for the kids so they could have the same team we grew up with," Dave said.
Dave's compadres are his friend Sean Thomas and Elliot Sisson, who is chronicling the "Playing to Win" tour on video. The goal is to stop in as many NBA cities and markets as possible before this Thursday's (April 18) NBA Board of Governors meeting in New York City where the league owners may make the fateful decision of who gets the Kings -- Seattle or Sacramento.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA All Star with the Phoenix Suns, therefore with a passionate reason for keeping the team in town, is leading the charge at home, assembling an impressive investment group of highly successful millionaire entrepreneurs from around the state: Vivek Ranadive, CEO of Tibco software and co-owner of the Golden State Warriors; Mark Mastrov, founder of 24 Hour Fitness; Chris Kelly, former Facebook executive; and the Jacobs family of Qualcomm. They represent all regions of the vast Golden State.
Carmichael Dave -- Carmichael is a suburb of Sacramento -- has been annointed to be the voice for the fans, those so-called regular Joes. He got his name by calling into sports radio shows as "Dave from Carmichael." He did it so often it eventually was shortened to Carmichael Dave. And it stuck.
"I want this entire city, myself included, to be able to look in the mirror, and win or lose, say we did absolutely everything we could" to save the Kings.
The "Playing to Win" RV, its tires worn down some with more than 6,000 new miles on it, will pull up to the Kings arena on Wednesday night (April 17) in a triumphant return for the team's last home game this season against the Los Angeles Clippers. For Carmichael Dave and a legion of Kings fans, they hope it won't be the last.