Longtime Los Angeles newsman Stan Chambers, who spent more than six decades at KTLA and was a pioneer of broadcast journalism, died Friday at age 91.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Chambers family,” KTLA President and General Manager Don Corsini said on the station’s website. “Stan was a brilliant journalist and one of the best in the business.”
Chambers joined the station in 1947, when there were only about 300 television sets in the Los Angeles area.
Chambers filed more than 22,000 stories over the next 63 years, until he retired in 2010, on his 87th birthday.
“He will be remembered as a pioneer in the industry and a pillar of the KTLA family, the station’s news director, Jason Ball, said on the station’s website.
“Stan Chambers was a newsman in the truest sense,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “His dedication to producing the best story possible led to innovations that define the newscasts we watch today. Stan was a gentleman, a gifted storyteller and one of those rare L.A. icons whose impact was felt by generations of Angelenos. He will be truly missed.”
Chambers, a Navy veteran, was attending USC and working on a campus magazine when he heard about an expansion of broadcasting at KTLA.
“I said, ‘How about doing a program on a campus magazine?”‘ Chambers said in a retrospective of his career prepared by KTLA. “That was my debut.”
He joined the station full time in 1947, largely working behind the scenes before appearing in front of the camera. He eventually helped anchor 27 hours of coverage of 3-year-old Kathy Fiscus, who became trapped in an abandoned well in San Marino. It became a defining moment in broadcast journalism as the first live broadcast of a breaking news event.
“For the first time, they (viewers) experienced the long form of television, that they were a part of this whole broadcast from the moment they started looking,” Chambers said in the retrospective. “With the Kathy Fiscus telecast, we went into it and did it and it was over before we had any idea of the impact of it.”
Chambers later became part of the station’s first daily newscast in 1962. He went on to cover major events in the city, including the Bel-Air fire, Baldwin Hills dam break and Northridge earthquake, along with the Robert Kennedy assassination, Manson family murders and Hillside Strangler case.
Chambers also did the first reporting on the Rodney King beating story when an amateur photographer who filmed the beating handed the tape over to KTLA.
Former KTLA news director Jeff Wald recalled how 40 years after the Kathy Fiscus story, Chambers covered the crash of a small plane that became entangled in some high-tension lines.
“Two men were trapped upside down in their private plane,” Wald said. “The plane never moved as firemen worked to rescue the pilot and passenger. This went on for hours. Stan’s reporting was gripping and our viewers couldn’t turn away.”
Chambers had 11 children and 38 grandchildren. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a building on the KTLA lot is named in his honor.
“Stan Chambers is one of the greatest reporters ever to be in our city,” City Councilman Tom LaBonge said during today’s council meeting. ” … He was there when television started. I remember being with him at the Pan- Pacific fire in the ’90s, and the first story he covered for KTLA is the ice skating show at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium. I think we will on Tuesday adjourn in a higher note to his memory, but sad news … sad news … There’s no one more special to Los Angeles, a news reporter of all areas — that’s Stan Chambers.”
On his Twitter page, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck wrote that Chambers was “a pioneer in LA television & a good friend to the LAPD. Our thoughts and prayers are with Stan’s family & colleagues.”
County Supervisor Mike Antonovich called Chambers “a friend, a supporter and one of our great TV newsmen.”
“He was objective, honest and fair — qualities which earned him great respect and the highest praise in his professional endeavors and in his personal life,” Antonovich said. “He was a man of faith who was devoted to his family, his church and his community.”
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said Chambers was a “newsman’s newsman.”
“He started at the onset of the television era in a career that spanned more than seven decades,” Yaroslavsky said. “No news reporter in L.A.’s history bore witness to more breaking news stories than Stan. His straightforward reports brought his viewers a front row seat to some of the most memorable stories of our region’s history.”
—City News Service