Saturday, February 16, 2008

My 84 year old amazing grandfather Stan Chambers wrote a book called "KTLA's News At 10: 60 Years With Stan Chambers"!
He's been working for over 60 years and counting as a Reporter/Anchor/Everything on the KTLA News! During his career he has earned 100's of awards including a street named after him, a building, (mayor Tom Bradley even named a Los Angeles Holiday after him in December!) and his own personal STAR on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! Below is a recent interview written about him in the Pasadena Weekly.

"If any man could ever claim he'd seen it all over the last 60 years in Los Angeles, it would be pioneering Channel 5 newsman Stan Chambers.
Whether capturing stunning footage from the Watts and South Central riots from the station's helicopter, or covering crimes like the Manson Family murders, the Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnapping and the beating of Rodney King, or weathering six decades of ratings challenges and competition by tabloid journalism and now Web-based media, Chambers has seen his share of history happen, and still has plenty more to say about it.
Now he's put his most memorable stories into a new book called “KTLA's News at 10: 60 Years With Stan Chambers,” which he co-wrote with Lynn Price. As he prepared for a 10-city promotional tour that included a stop at Pasadena's Vroman's Bookstore, the 84-year-old Chambers took time to reflect on it all in an exclusive interview with the Pasadena Weekly. — Carl Kozlowski
Pasadena Weekly: You began your career at the literal dawn of the television era. How did you know this would be a good field to get into, and how did you get your break?
Stan Chambers: It was an amazing time. I got out of the Navy and went to school at USC on the GI Bill. You could take any course you wanted, paid for by government. I went by the law school and saw a huge line around the building. I told myself in the Navy that I'd never stand in another line again, so I turned and walked the other way. There went my law school.
There was one other building there [for] KUSC-FM. I thought that would be fun, because it was the first university in the area to have its own radio station. I worked there while I got a master's in international relations, and it was an easy step from there to television. I told KTLA I had an idea for a TV show, a campus magazine show. We did a sample episode, and then a few months later I got a call offering to hire me for $1.25 an hour with time-and-a-half for overtime.
In those years, the engineering side was the big thing. Just going on the air was a big thing. I worked on the crew for six months or so. We'd go to Paramount Pictures and use their props to build sets for whatever was going on the air: a cowboy set, or a living room. Then for news, you had a desk, one camera and a script you'd written from the Teletype for a five-minute newscast. That's what TV news was.
Eventually I was on the newscasts myself, under many lights, perspiring, waiting on the cue. That's what made it so appealing to me and I thought it would always be that way; that this was state of the art, and all the things we'd have to work with.
Despite being constrained by budget and technical issues, you still managed to be part of a precedent-setting report in which you broadcast live for 27 hours from the scene of an unsuccessful rescue attempt on a girl named Kathy Fiscus. Did you realize you were making history at the time?
We were usually stuck in the newsroom, but then our producer felt a television story should show what's going on in the city. He'd pick up heavy cameras, put them in the truck and drive out to where big news was taking place, and the biggest story then was about a San Marino girl stuck in a well.
We were on the air 27 straight hours broadcasting the attempted rescue. When she died, it affected the whole city — they never saw something like this before. When she died, it dealt a devastating blow and it made a very big impact on everybody in LA. It got people buying 10-inch TV screens and getting them in their homes.
Jump forward many years, and you became part of the Rodney King story when a citizen named George Holliday showed up at KTLA with the home video he'd made of the police beating King. What are your recollections of the events?
What happened was we got a call at the station from George Holliday. He heard all this commotion outside in his neighborhood and he went out to see what it was. He'd just bought himself a new video camera, so he got it out of the box and from a distance shot the beating going on. The next day he called KTLA and told the station what he had and he brought it over.
It was shocking to have video of that type. Every one of us got involved in the Rodney King tape and the riots. We held a staff meeting and the decision was made to take it down to the police department. I was the one sent to take it to the LAPD, and the attention all started from there after the police said OK.
We knew it would be big news because it was a tough time all around. This really happened, blow by blow, and it was a very difficult situation for everybody. Then when the verdict came out on the officers, I drove back to the courthouse and we had the news on with reports that a riot was breaking out. By the time I got to the station, we had a very uneasy situation in many parts of the city.
I was sent to the airport, then up with a pilot in a helicopter and we were over the riot for six hours looking down on it all. People ask, ‘Would you do it again?' But do you not show something that had already begun? Some said if I had thrown the tape out and didn't show it, things might have been calmer, but I don't believe it.
You're in the air, shooting live, and there was nothing you could do. That went on for ages, but there was nothing we could have done. You show what's going on.
With that in mind, though, one has to wonder where we should be drawing the line with tabloid journalism soaking up the airwaves.
Tabloid journalism certainly affects our time. In the beginning we were very careful about what we talked about and what we showed. It was a general approach from everybody. The worst we'd do was showing someone going into court to be sentenced for something. We didn't have the ability to cover anything, and celebrity news was not hard news, it was a side thing. You had a pattern of what news was, but if we had an opportunity to do something extra, we showed a flood or a major car accident causing traffic [problems]. For entertainment news, we just went to the Academy Awards or the premiere of a big movie. But we were showing what's going on, not being part of what they're selling. But that's what TV news has evolved to — that cameras can be there anytime or anywhere. You have to be prepared for it no matter who you are."

Thanks for checking out the article. Drop me a line and say hi if you have time! (I can even ask Stan a question from you about his book if you have any and I could probably get you a signed copy too!)
posted by Willie @ 3:45 PM
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