Friday, February 13, 2015

RIP: L.A.'s TV Reporter Stan Chambers

On a Friday afternoon in the spring of 1949, 3½-year-old Kathy Fiscus fell into an abandoned well in San Marino, California, and a rescue attempt was begun. Newspapers and radio stations covered as an anxious city (and eventually the nation) followed the story. At some point during the rescue, someone at KTLA Channel 5, the first commerically licensed TV station in the western US, thought to send a camera crew. And for 27½ hours, Stan Chambers stood before and beside the camera telling viewers -- this was the early days of television, so perhaps 20,000 people were able to watch at home -- what they were watching on their screens, including the sad news that Kathy had died long before her rescuers reached her. This was the first on-the-scene live TV coverage of a breaking news story. It would not be the last, for television or for Stan Chambers. Sales of televisions skyrocketed.

While it would be several years before KTLA had a regular news broadcast, they'd broadcast special news events live and Stan Chambers was usually the guy on screen reporting. The testing of an atom bomb in Nevada. Brush fires all across the Southland. Floods, earthquakes, riots. He covered the assissination of Bobby Kennedy and broke the story beating of Rodney King. And Stan reported good news, too, not the least of which was the Rose Parade (which, if you cannot be there in person, is still best watched on KTLA [Thank God for the internet!]). I saw him report hundreds of stories on Channel 5's News at 10 living in LA. And he continued this until he retired in 2010 at the age of 87, after 63 years at KTLA and in the homes of Angelenos.

A little while ago, "Stan Chambers" started appearing on the "trending" portion of my Facebook page, dying today at the age of 91. A true television pioneer. RIP, Stan Chambers. Here's one of KTLA's tributes.

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