Media Life: Mark Twain in Placer, KCRA prowess, Colfax “Lincoln” miscue

By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Media Life columnist
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Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at Also hear Thomson most Fridays at 6 p.m. on Dave Rosenthal’s drive-time radio show on KAHI 950 AM. He’s also a regular guest on Capital Public Radio’s “Insight.” And you can catch up with Thomson on Twitter at AJ_Media_Life.



AUBURN CA - Mark Twain in Placer County?

While Nevada City, Grass Valley and even the Nevada County burg of You Bet can claim a visit from the author of countless American literary classics, Placer County’s case for some book-oriented braggadocio is getting stronger thanks to Tahoma author David Antonucci.

One of the best historical researchers in the area, Antonucci will be dropping down from his Sierra home to Auburn this coming Thursday to share information he has garnered on Twain’s Placer County connections at the annual holiday dinner of the Placer County Historical Society.

Antonucci’s new book “Fairest Picture: Mark Twain at Lake Tahoe” includes some revelations about Twain and Placer County. It’s new information and Media Life won’t serve as spoiler here. But suffice to say some of it revolves around Twain and a wildfire way back when.

Antonucci said he’s also sharing more choice tidbits gained in his research about a rail and overland trek that Twain took through the county in 1868.

The “fairest picture” reference in the book’s title has to do with a statement Twain made praising Lake Tahoe, part of which lies in Placer County.

Twain was effusive with his praise of what he described at the time as Lake Bigler, named after California’s third governor. In 1863, he wrote that Tahoe was “the masterpiece of the Creator.”

As for Nevada County, Twain made stops there as a popular speaker.  You Bet is a former mining community about 5 miles northeast of Chicago Park. There’s not much in You Bet now except a few homes and for a colorful name derived, it’s said, from an expression a saloon keeper used.

Antonucci has examined a ledger of all the stops Twain made for speaking engagements in California. Auburn, inexplicably, is absent.

The dinner takes place at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at Veterans Memorial Hall, 100 East St. Antonucci, who has also written a book on the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, will give a special presentation on “Mark Twain in Placer County, a Civil Engineer’s Take on History.”

Cost is $14 for the holiday-themed dinner. To assure a seat, call (530) 885-5074.


TV pecking order favors KCRA

If you tune into KCRA 3 News, you’re not alone in Auburn and around the region.

The all-important November “sweeps” period, which provides stations with the numbers they need to lure advertisers to their newscasts, again looked awfully good for Sacramento’s traditional TV news leader.

The 6 p.m. news telecast period is probably the best indicator of KCRA’s strength. It goes head-to-head against KOVR CBS13 News, KXTV News10 and KTXL Fox40 News at that time.

And Neilsen statistics compiled from the sweeps show that KCRA’s dominance is continuing.

KCRA was turned on at 6 p.m. weekdays in an average of 82,858 household – 42 percent more than KOVR’s 48,489 share.

News10 was a close third, with 45,915 households watching. Fox40 trailed significantly, with 13,469 households tuning in.

KCRA also dominates in the demographic sweet spot covering people watching who are in the 25-54 age range. That’s one of the key areas advertisers look to for attracting viewers with disposable income.

KCRA attracted an average of 34,593 viewers in the 25-54 age range during the 6 p.m. news telecast. KOVR was again in second place at 20,015 viewers. But News10, with 10,429, and Fox 40, with 8,834, were well behind in the TV station bid for viewer share.

Busting out the bubbly has become old hat for the folks at KCRA. Its winning streak for both the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. weekday news period reaches back to early 1998.

Lori Waldon, KCRA 3 news director, said that the continuing domination of the station has a lot to do with not resting on laurels.

“We don’t for one moment take our ratings for granted,” Waldon said. “Our top priority is to serve our viewers and ear their trust.”


“Lincoln” casting miscue

The new movie “Lincoln” has a familiar name to Placer County. Schuyler Colfax, the politician the city up the hill from Auburn is named after, has a small but integral role in the plot as President Abraham Lincoln attempts to round up support for the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.

Colfax was the 42-year-old Speaker of the House of Representatives and destined to soon become the youngest vice-president up to that time in the scandal-plagued Ulysses S. Grant administration.

But the role of Colfax is ludicrously miscast. Schuyler Colfax is played by veteran character actor Bill Raymond, whose onscreen career stretches back to the 1960s. Media Life couldn’t find a birthdate for Raymond but it appears he’s at least 20 years older than the original Colfax was in 1864-65, when the 13th Amendment was being jockeyed through Congress.

Perhaps a cameo from Matt Damon or a younger version of Tom Cruise could have done the small role some justice – and provided the city of Colfax with some historically realistic onscreen imagery.  

Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at Also hear Thomson most Fridays at 6 p.m. on Dave Rosenthal’s drive-time radio show on KAHI 950 AM. He’s also a regular guest on Capital Public Radio’s “Insight.” And you can catch up with Thomson on Twitter at AJ_Media_Life.