If Oceanside ever had its own Walter Cronkite, that person would surely be Al Diedrich, the local news director for Oceanside radio station KUDE (AM 1320) in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Diedrich was a trusted news giver who gathered, wrote and then delivered the local news on live radio with a distinctive and authoritative voice. KUDE even had its own news mobile, which Al took to council meetings and public events to actually record newsmakers for his news broadcasts.
Diedrich, a great-grandfather who died a few years ago, worked for the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce after leaving KUDE. When he gave the news, he was as close as we got to an official Voice of Oceanside.
Al has not been replaced. But I can certainly make a point that one Oceansider has certainly arrived as one of the county’s most respected broadcast journalists.
Alison St John was born in Tanzania, brought up in Scotland and graduated from Durham University, which claims to be the “the third oldest university in England.” She worked in Switzerland, India, Nigeria and Belgium before making it to the U.S. in 1981.
Alison said she was undergoing a “mid-life crisis” when her desire to start a new life led to her Palomar College’s outstanding telecommunications department.
She then became an intern and then later a staffer at Carlsbad’s KCEO (AM 1000) where she learned how to do everything from writing news stories, making commercials to running the equipment.
“It was a wonderful training ground,” she says. “I cut my teeth there. I made some terrible mistakes.”
She joined the staff at KPBS (FM 89.5) in 1989.
“There really wasn’t a (KPBS) radio news department at that time.”
But both KPBS radio and TV has increased its commitment to local news, and Alison has been a vital part of its growth.
“When I started I had the lowest salary of anyone in radio but I guess you could say I got on the right ship.” Since joining KPBS, Alison has anchored local newscasts, produced long form special reports and is the occasional fill in anchor/host of programs like KPBS Midday Edition.
Her reports that air on both radio and TV, have won her numerous journalism awards over the years.
Now Alison and her fellow KPBS colleagues find themselves in a unique position. The North County Times has gone away, and the U-T has cut back on its commitment to gathering news.
The commercial radio stations have also drastically scaled back on its newsroom staffs. On weekends, KOGO (AM 600) often relies on its sister station KFI for hourly news reports.
There was a time when KOGO, KFMB-AM and KSDO-AM all had news departments with real live reporters. Those days are over, leaving KPBS-FM as the only remaining radio operation making a real commitment to gathering news.
Alison, who lives in Oceanside, is officially the North County Bureau Chief for KPBS. She says there is actually a bureau located on the campus of Cal State San Marcos, which has yet to be fully equipped or staffed.
“We want to develop the bureau,” say says. “It is still getting off the ground.”
Alison covered the San Onofre malfunction extensively. She has filed in-depth essays on the importance of mobile home voters, sand erosion, the Prop A election in Encinitas, and an ill-fated bicycle race in Escondido.
“When I started everyone said ‘Who is that woman with the Scottish accent,” she recalls.
As she starts her 25th year at KPBS, local residents know the funny accent all too well.
Jump the shark
Here is another reader submitted idea for our file of “Oceanside oops” moments. Please keep ‘em coming.
OFF RAMP TO NOWHERE — You may see that incomplete off ramp over the San Luis Rey River occasionally being used for photo shoots for new car ad layouts. It’s a nice opportunity for ad agencies.
The only problem is it was supposed to be used for northbound traffic to exit Interstate 5 and get on Coast Highway.
It seems CalTrans never got clearance from the Feds who stepped in with a cease and desist order and forced the construction on the off ramp to end before it was complete. It had to do with the fish and wildlife in the river. It’s now just a very expensive prop.
Oceanside born and raised, Ken Leighton is an Oceanside business owner. He may be reached at [email protected]