A Message For Frank Somerville

I’ve always been a fan of KTVU, but more so because of Frank Somerville. I grew up on KTVU news, and Somerville was a familiar face that I saw everyday at 5 PM. He would share little tidbits about his life during his segments, and throughout the years, it made me feel like I knew him personally. It wasn’t until I went to school for journalism did I realize how controversial and bold he was as a journalist. He was the definition of a traditional journalist in the actual sense, given his position at KTVU news, but at the same time, how he went about being a journalist was pretty progressive.

Towards the end of 2021, KTVU cut ties with Somerville over a disagreement. Now, real Bay Area folks know that Frank Somerville was the face of KTVU. Like many others, I waited for the news of his return back on the screen. However, it never happened. And just like that, the show went on. I was shocked to learn that he would no longer be their news anchor. And I was even more shocked a few months later to learn that he received a DUI days before Christmas. The video of the DUI incident was floating around the internet, and it made me so sad to see someone I respected and watched for so many years hit rock bottom. After that incident, any news of Somerville went radio silent. I would often find myself wondering if he was back on Facebook, as he posted frequently in the past.

Recently, Somerville posted on Facebook explaining his DUI in 2021. But before I jump into his recent fall from grace, I want to share a little back story as to why I originally wrote this blog post in the first place. In fact, I started this blog post way before Somerville’s recent statements:

When I first declared my major as “Journalism,” in 2015, I felt relieved. I declared my major so I could finally transfer to SF State in 2016. I spent years as “undeclared.” Before that, I dipped my feet into Early Childhood Education, Criminology, and even Psychology. I knew I wanted to be a writer. Write what exactly? I couldn’t tell you. My mind was all over the place. All I knew was I wanted to write books. I felt like my heart was in Creative Writing, but thought declaring Journalism as my major would give me more to work with in the “real world.”

I declared journalism as my major kind of on a whim, not even really knowing what the job and role entailed. In my head I was like, fuck it, yeah, journalism. I’ll be a writer with more credibility under my belt. Journalism wasn’t love at first class, since I originally wanted to do Creative Writing. But I quickly started to identify as a journalist. What I wanted to write about quickly changed as I started to go through with the journalism courses at my community college. I originally wanted to write fiction, but I found myself wanting to write about real people, real experiences, real stories. I wanted to write with a purpose, make people feel things, and shed light on topics I thought were important.

I remember going to some journalism meeting, or event, or I don’t even remember what. I forget who was even talking, what the meeting was for, or why I had to be there. Was it a class, a meeting, a mandatory event? Brain fart… I just remember what I took away from the presentation. Up until that point, everyone’s cliché response to why they wanted to be a journalist was that they wanted to “give people a voice.” The speaker explained why they disagreed with that statement. They said everyone has a voice. You are not “giving” anyone anything, for people already have a voice of their own. Our role as journalists is to simply seek out the truth and those voices that want to be heard from different backgrounds. Though I can’t remember the event, or even the person that said it, what was said stuck with me. Journalists don’t give people a voice, they give those that want to be a heard an outlet to share their stories.

One of the first things you learn as a journalist is that your job is to tell the story completely unbiased and impartial. That is something I definitely struggled with in the beginning because I have an opinion about every-fucking-thing. Of course, it depended on the topic. Certainly I could remain unbiased and impartial with plenty of topics, but when it came to controversial news, that’s when I struggled. Journalists were supposed to remain professional, neutral, and never break that character. Yes, you can have your own views and opinions, but it should never really be public knowledge where you stand on certain things.

Your social media was strictly business, it was always professional, and clean of any personal biases. At the time, I found it hard to distinguish my professional self with my real self. They advised that our socials be public so any journalistic work we put out can be found and seen by everyone. But that also meant that random people and anyone on the platform could see my personal things as well. That’s because I refused to make a whole other social media handle for my “professional” work. I didn’t know how I felt about it. We were advised to either make a new account from scratch that would act as the professional account, while any personal account would remain private. The alternative was to clean up any existing social media accounts and make it a professional account going forward. I was always conflicted about my presence on social media. Why did they have to be separate? Why did I have to choose between being professional and being myself, why couldn’t both be displayed in a tasteful way? Now, years later, it doesn’t even matter because all I post is my writing content anyways, but at the time, early 20’s Marinelle couldn’t fathom the idea of not posting her personal life – especially my views on controversial news.

Somerville has a big social media presence on Facebook. I don’t even remember when I followed him on Facebook, but that added to the layer of familiarity. Not only did I get a feel of his personality through him sharing on TV, but he gave us all a glimpse into his personal life as well on social media. I liked Frank for the simple fact that he was real as fuck. He would add his personal commentary to news and wear his emotions on his sleeve. This is what my professors have advised us not to do, but for me, it made me feel like I could relate to him. He wasn’t just doing a job. He actually cared. He wanted to help others and bring attention to certain stories. And when I became a journalist, it made me respect Somerville’s professional style even more. He wanted to help others with his platform and bring attention to social injustices.

I started to analyze the way Frank Somerville posted on social media – sharing personal stories, talking about his journey with adoption, and so on. Even on air he would share personal information that made viewers feel like he was just like us. He wasn’t a robot journalist that displayed no emotion, he wore his heart on his sleeve and did it so tastefully. That’s the kind of journalist I wanted to be. He was very different than other news anchors, and I felt like I had a new found respect for him because at the time, I was going through my journalism courses, knowing that my professors would advise against sharing personal information on social media and on air. But it was what I admired most about Frank Somerville, he let you know that he was more than just a news anchor reading off news. He was a real person, and most importantly a person that cared.

When I was in the thick of finishing my journalism degree, that’s when Trump was running for president and then eventually became president. I’ll never forget the day after the election. It was a very somber day, not only for the majority of the Bay Area, but specifically the Journalism department at SF State. Professors were in tears, letting us know that we picked a very difficult time to be a journalist, but we were needed now more than ever. I kind of knew early on that with my writing style, I probably wouldn’t go down the traditional journalist route, and the election solidified that decision. I always gravitated towards opinion writing, or writing about certain topics that I found important. I was never really a breaking news writer anyways. I could definitely write it and was perfectly capable, but it wasn’t where my heart was at. My passion was in telling the stories of your everyday person. The type of story that will have you thinking about life and will have you reflecting at 1 am.

Seeing Frank Somerville’s style of posting and sharing encouraged me to still pursue journalism, even though I was unsure if I “fit in” the professional journalism world. Even though he was still covering hard news, his different approach to interacting with the community is something that I admired. He did some things traditionally, and other things were more progressive. I respected that.

So fast forward to December 2021, Somerville made headlines for DUI charges. In the viral video, it shows a supposed Frank Somerville exiting his car after rear ending another vehicle. I was in total disbelief. Reports were claiming that it was Somerville, but a big part of me was hoping it wasn’t. It was tough to see a news anchor I loved, respected, and basically grew up with hit an all-time low. I really felt for him and wondered how he got to that point. It was not the same Frank Somerville that I had been watching on the news for more than 15+ years.

Recently, Frank posted a Facebook post that explained his actions one year ago. This is the first public statement where Somerville shares what transpired that day. On December 17, 2022, Somerville posted:

“So it was almost a year ago that I was arrested for a dui. I had already been let go by KTVU over a disagreement. The dui had no bearing on that. What it was was an accumulation of a lot of different things. Including serious mental health issues. I couldn’t leave work at work. Instead I took it home and obsessed about it. It started with me going to seven funerals for young black men and women who were killed on the streets on Oakland. I went on my own time and it was devastating. Seeing the open caskets. Hugging the mom of one of the victims and feeling her legs buckle as she said ‘I don’t know how I can move on.’ I also went to the viewings for a  Bart police officer and a Fremont officer on my own time. It destroyed me seeing the flag draped coffins and their boots sitting next to them. The problem was I didn’t feel I had anywhere to go or anyone to talk to. Yet I felt it was my duty to be at all those funerals to let people know that I cared and that KTVU cared. And also to be able to post about it on my Facebook page because I didn’t want those Oakland deaths to be reported as just another number. I wanted people to know that they had a mom and a dad etc. But over time I realized that I felt like I was under a pall of sadness. I felt like I had ptsd. And I really needed someone to talk to. But the last thing I was going to do was tell the station that I was hurting. Main anchors don’t do that. So I tried to deal with it on my own. Prescription drugs. Alcohol. It was the worst decision I ever made but I felt that I had no other choice. I literally felt helpless. I also felt who am I to feel sorry for myself? I didn’t lose anyone. It’s the families who deserve sympathy. Not me. I was just totally stuck. For the record as messed up as I was I didn’t drink on the air. The time I was sent home for being drunk on the air I had actually taken two Ambien  by accident. How I even made it home that night is beyond me. Skip forward to today. I’m almost done with all the dui requirements. It’s cost a fortune. But that’s my punishment. I can only hope that another station will hire me. I’m a damn good anchor and everyone knows that. At the same time I made some serious mistakes. So I will totally understand if that doesn’t happen. I’ve NEVER been in trouble with the law and I never will be again. This dui will not define me. I’ve always believed in second chances and that’s what I’m asking for now. I also want to say sorry to all my co workers and all the viewers. I let them all down. And finally I wanted to say that I’m sorry to the driver I hit. Thankfully he wasn’t seriously injured. I would never be able to forgive myself if he was. – F”

Somerville opens up about his mental health struggles, and how his professional-self would not allow him to open up and admit he needed help. So instead, he self-medicated to deal with the immense pain and sorrow he was feeling when paying his respects to the families of the departed. Somerville’s desire to connect with the community backfired when he realized he didn’t know how to effectively deal with the pain that comes with connecting with the community. In no way is he trying to justify his actions, but get others to see where he was mentally.

3 days after he posted on Facebook about his DUI, he posted a supporting post explaining that he doesn’t want or expect any sympathy. His intentions for sharing his struggles publicly was to be real with his audience, and encourage others to ask for help if they need it. This act of transparency is the exact reason why I applaud Frank’s professionalism and stance as a journalist. Taking accountability for his actions lets his followers know that he may have been on TV, but he’s still a real person, with a real life, and has real problems like you and I.

It’s unfortunate how everything played out because I know I’m not the only one that misses seeing Frank on the screen. His reporting style and desire to connect with his viewers and followers on a personal level definitely inspired me in my earlier years when I first started taking journalism courses. I was very unsure if I could be a “traditional” journalist, but growing up watching Frank on the screen let me know that there is space for me in the journalism world. It may not be in breaking news, but I do have a place here somewhere. I applaud his courageous decision to open up about his struggles and DUI, because other professionals may be in the same boat.

If on the slim chance that Frank Somerville stumbles upon this post and made it this far in the read, I would just like to say that there are a lot of people out there that are still rooting for you. There’s still a place for you out there too.

Asians Experience Racism Too

In the middle of my “LoveYourzStory X My Small Business” series, videos and stories started to trend around the internet – Asian hate crimes. I knew that once my series was complete, this would be a topic I wanted to address right off the bat. I watched the video of 84-year-old, Vicha Ratanapakdee, getting knocked down to the ground by that loser too many times. I sat there, watching the video on loop, feeling sick to my stomach. The more I watched, the more I wanted to break down and start crying. All I could think was: WHY?! Why would anyone do something so horrible to an elderly man that was out minding his business? I tried to put myself in Vicha’s shoes, what those last moments must’ve felt like. Though the video was grainy and low quality, I could only imagine the confusion and fear that raced through his mind as he saw a young adult charge at him.

Sadly, Vicha Ratanapakdee’s story was not the last. It seemed like the elderly Asian hate crimes started to trend one after the other. It got to the point where I couldn’t watch the footage for every new story anymore. It was violence overload. Especially the fact that most of these victims were elderly. It’s upsetting and disgusting to know that there are people out there that will pick on senior citizens that can’t defend themselves. When these assaults are captured on camera, it has its pros and cons. On the bright side, it is evidence. The suspect can be identified, and it is solid proof of the crime. It also brings awareness to the issues at hand when the footage goes viral. It makes people be more aware of their surroundings and what’s going on in their area. However, these viral videos can also trigger the losers out there that feed off of the attention, and try to keep the trend going.

With the help of social media, these hate crimes against elderly Asians were caught on camera and have since went viral. The world scrolled through in horror as these videos were uploaded one after the other. For all the verbal and physical attacks that weren’t caught on video, social media is still being used as a platform to tell the stories of these instances. Though these hate crimes are very unfortunate and upsetting, at the very least, I’m relieved that it is shedding light on some deep rooted issues that need to be brought up. We are living in a time where video evidence is almost necessary, or everyone will doubt the credibility of the victim. And even then, video or photos will sometimes still have people believe that there are two sides to every story. But this isn’t anything new to the Asian community. A lot of the time, Asians have to give proof and keep tabs on racially motivated hate. It is a huge misconception that Asians do not face racism.

Asians experience racism too.

People are surprised and shocked about Asians being targeted in assaults, but sadly, this is nothing new. Especially with COVID-19 and Trump referring to the illness as the “Chinese virus,” there has been a spike in anti-Asian beliefs and crimes since the pandemic started. In the years that Trump was president, we saw this country’s rotting underbelly of racist beliefs burst out at the seams. Some thought these racist beliefs and ideals were of the past, but they quickly realized that that was not the case. Having Trump as president for so many years changed the climate of America. And racists didn’t just come out of nowhere when Trump was president, they have always been there. But suddenly, racists felt bold and empowered, no longer hiding their true feelings of people of color when the “leader” of the country was spewing the same hate. We saw the climax of racial tension in 2020 with the Black Lives Matter Movement rising back up again after the death of George Floyd. People took it to the streets all across the country – even the world – to show solidarity with the black community.

The Black Lives Matter movement brought attention to injustices that black people face from law enforcement and society. This has opened the doors for other minority groups to express their struggles and feelings on the topic of racism as well. Having a melting pot of stories from people of different backgrounds make people feel like they are not alone. And even though 2 people come from 2 different cultures and backgrounds, that doesn’t mean that 1 person experiences oppression and racism while the other doesn’t. All parties can co-exist at the same time without taking away attention from the other group. People from different cultures experience different microaggressions, discrimination, and deal with stereotypes. Having this “but my group of people deal with more than your people,” mentality is where people start to divide and stray away from the bigger picture. And this is where I think Asians get cheated.

The common misconception is that Asians don’t face racism as severely as other people of color. Asians are seen as the “model minority.” thepractice.law.harvard.edu describes model minority by saying:

…The term “model minority” has often been used to refer to a minority group perceived as particularly successful, especially in a manner that contrasts with other minority groups. The term could, by its definition and logic, be applied to any number of groups defined by any number of criteria, but it is perhaps most commonly used to frame discussions of race. In particular, the model minority designation is often applied to Asian Americans, who, as a group, are often praised for apparent success across academic, economic, and cultural domains—successes typically offered in contrast to the perceived achievements of other racial groups.

Growing up in the Bay Area, the model minority myth is very prevalent. I remember being a freshman in high school in my advanced English class. I forget the subject we were talking about, but we were working in small groups, and one of my classmates said something along the lines of, “Well, Latinos are hard workers, doing the field work that no one else would do, unlike Asians who just sit in a cubicle and type in the office.” It’s that kind of mentality that pins other races against each other because one group thinks that they have it worse than the other, and instead of realizing that each group faces different stereotypes and forms of racism, they almost turn it into a competition of, “well my people suffer more than yours, so your suffering doesn’t matter.” And that mentality is dangerous. It dismisses a whole group of people’s experiences and deems it “not worthy” or “less important.”

My classmate was not trying to be hurtful with that statement. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t see anything wrong with that statement at all. In fact, those that are not Asian may be thinking – “What is so wrong about being under the umbrella of model minority? Doesn’t that mean that you, as an Asian, have it easier?” That is not the case. Especially when we group people of color into categories like: Asian, Latino, Black, Indigenous people- it causes us to think they we are all just lumped into one group, assuming everyone in that category has the same experiences, and that is not true. In fact, there is even racism within the Asian community. When people think of “Asian,” they think of light-skinned Asians, but there are darker skinned Asians as well. Asians face racism from their own community and from outsiders. Asians are expected to be successful, excel in academics, and be the model minority group, and though that is a “positive” stereotype, it can have negative effects.

Since Asians are seen as the model minority group amongst people of color, that can sometimes have other people of color look at the Asian community with hate. Bullying, making fun of, or making racist comments towards Asians is more acceptable and not seen as a big deal. When the videos of Asian senior citizens were released, I watched in complete horror. But when I scrolled down to the comments, I was so disheartened and angry. A lot of comments were saying that these crimes are nothing compared to what black people face on a daily. It made me so upset because these comments were basically saying, “since my community is suffering, I don’t care if your community suffers.” So many Asians support the Black Lives Matter movement and other marginalized groups, and it’s just so disappointing that some people genuinely refuse to stand with us because their community goes through similar acts of violence. That should be more of a reason to stand in solidarity with the Asian community. And it’s such a shame that there are some people out there that refuse to empathize with the Asian community because of their underlying hate and resentment they have towards the group.

By default, Asians are usually excluded from talks of racism. And even when Asians speak out about the racism they face, it is swept under the rug, doesn’t get much attention, or is dismissed because “other groups have it worse.” Society tells Asians that they should just suck it up, take the abuse, and just be thankful that they don’t have it as bad as others. This puts Asians in an awkward position where we will never be “white enough” but at the same time we are denied by other people of color because we “don’t know / can’t relate” to the magnitude of racism that their particular group faces. We neither fit in nor can relate with others – not even other Asians outside of our nationality since we have totally different experiences as well. For example, what I go through as a Filipino American is completely different from an Indian American, or a Japanese American, even though we fall under the category of “Asian.” The truth is, the Asian experience is disregarded and is seen as less important compared to our allies.

Asians have always been subject to proving that they also face racism. This is nothing new. However, what is new is the media coverage on these assaults and trends – targeting elderly Asians. As horrible as these assaults have been, the first step is recognizing that Asians are being targeted, and all of these cases are not just random. Now you can find articles, news coverage on TV, and specific social media pages dedicated to the rise in Asian hate crimes that have spiked over the last year. It takes a trend like elderly Asian hate crimes to finally make it on your TV screen. However, I truly believe that times are changing. These crimes are bringing the Asian community and other minority groups together, standing in solidarity, instead of ranking who has it worse amongst the races. Over the last year, I have seen a great shift in how people of color are banding together and uniting, having each other’s back and supporting one another, realizing that racism is intersectional, and we shouldn’t focus on denying other people’s reality. One group of people’s reality can co-exist with another group’s reality without being dismissed, downplayed, or compared. You can stand in solidarity with one group without taking away from another. We are fighting the same fight.

I love that celebrities are using their platform to express the injustices that Asians face that go unnoticed. Jeremy Lin has opened up about his disgust with the recent hate crimes towards elderly Asians, and has shared that being a professional ball player doesn’t exclude him from racism either. He has shared that he has been called “Coronavirus,” by other players, but refuses to name drop. He is using his platform to inform and educate his followers.

It’s very upsetting to see all of the videos of elderly Asians being attacked. It’s disgusting to know that there are people out there that will attack senior citizens that are defenseless and don’t stand a chance. It’s scary because a lot of people are already afraid to go out in fear of COVID, but now they have to fear for their safety as well. It’s hitting too close to home – as footage from the Bay Area surfaces. It’s crazy because the Asian population is so big in the Bay Area, it’s shocking to know that even somewhere so Asian diverse could be a hot spot for Asian hate crimes. A lot of people have organized rallies, have digged deeper into the microaggressions Asians face, and have started educating themselves on racism towards Asians. The first step is starting the conversation – we’ve been quiet and passive aggressive for too long.