August 11, 1923 – February 13, 2015
Once there was a time when television newscasters reported the news. They were not smarmy or ironic or stand up comedians. They did not tweet. They didn't have to do any of that to catch your attention because once there was a time when the news itself, coming through a small box in the corner of your living room was compelling enough. It didn't need jokes. Or posturing. Or self aggrandizing pundits. It didn't need Howard Beale mad as hell or Ceasar Flickerman, the slick master of ceremonies on the Hunger Games. It didn't need a nightly network news "star". It just needed a story, well told. For 63 years, Stan Chambers told that story for the city of Angels, on pioneer television station KTLA.
Stan Chambers got his start at KTLA in 1947, a time when TV was so rare it could still spark shock and awe. People would gather round the flickering tube outside a store window to see what was going on. For over 60 years in Los Angeles, Stan was the guy who told you what was happening. From the sad story of little Kathy Fiscus who fell down a pipe well in San Marino, to the Watts riots, the Bel Air fires, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the Manson Family murders and the Northridge earthquake. A sure and steady town crier, Stan told the people of Los Angeles about their city as it happened live. He broke the story about the Rodney King police beating. He was there for it all.
It hasn't been a great week for U.S. news reporters. Some, like Stan, have passed away...generating pounds of print and posts about their important contributions. Farewell to David Carr of the NY Times and Bob Simon (60 Minutes). One reporter (Brian Matthews) has stepped away from his post at NBC nightly news in disgrace. But Stan's long sojourn on the planet Earth embodies the life so well lived it is almost impossible to achieve anymore. He worked in media for over 6 decades and was loved..by his large family, his co-workers, his friends and an entire city of grateful viewers. He never sought the limelight but was at the center of it, painting a picture of life in Los Angeles and making friends of us all.
In the beautiful tribute below, Keith Olbermann relates the time he asked Stan why he stayed so long at KTLA, even after he had been demoted. In true "everyman" style, Stan replied that he "liked the people". I was fortunate enough to work at legendary TV station KTLA myself, many years ago. It was my first job after college. Unlike Stan, I didn't stay, but there were many times I wished I had. I liked the people too. Especially people like Stan Chambers.
Rest in peace my friend.