News stalwart retires after more than 60 years at the station

Related Link:Stan Chambers: Gentle giant of L.A. TV news

Los Angeles was home to about 300 television sets when 24-year-old Stan Chambers began his TV career as a stagehand at KTLA-TV in December 1947.

Today, as the market boasts more than 5.5 million television households, Chambers will celebrate his 87th birthday and announce his retirement from the station where he has covered more than 22,000 stories during his 60-plus years as a member of the KTLA News team.

“I have enjoyed every day of it,” Chambers told Daily Variety. “Each day it’s a new challenge. Each day it’s a different set of hurdles and problems that you work on to solve right up until (the report) goes on the air that night. The beauty of live TV is that it’s such an exhilarating experience. To this day, when I’m waiting for my cue on the set I still get that nervous feeling.”

Chambers said that he felt his birthday marked a “good time” to sign off. He’s looking forward to having plenty of freedom to travel, play golf and spend time with his large family — which includes 11 kids and a large brood of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Grandson Jaime Chambers, a KTLA correspondent, is so far the only one to follow him into the media biz.

KTLA is planning a series of sendoffs for Chambers. A billboard across the street from the station today will salute Chambers on the occasion of his retirement. An hourlong special featuring highlights of Chambers’ career will air Aug. 23, and a tribute event at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills is in the works.

KTLA prexy and g.m. Don Corsini said among Chambers’ most significant accomplishments is having been one of the first local TV journos to make a strong impression on viewers and thus help brand the station as a trusted source of news.

“Stan has taken television — a medium of mass communication — and used it to forge a unique connection with individual viewers,” Corsini said.

In a career that has encompassed reports on all manner of natural and man-made disasters — including earthquakes, fires and floods, the 1965 Watts riots and the 1991 Rodney King beating — Chambers said the story that most stands out in his mind is the legendary live coverage of the unsuccessful attempt to rescue 3-year-old Kathy Fiscus from an abandoned well in San Marino on April 8, 1949. Chambers and fellow L.A. TV pioneer Bill Welsh mounted a 27-hour live vigil that ended in tragedy — and demonstrated the unrivaled power of live TV coverage of breaking news events.

“None of us had any idea of the impact that this would have. It was on a weekend, so people got so involved and suffered through the whole 27 hours,” Chambers said. “Although there weren’t that many TV sets then, people got a chance to go look at their neighbor’s TV set. It had tremendous emotional impact, and I think that event helped open TV news to the world.”

Chambers’ numerous accolades over the years have included many L.A. area Emmy Awards and Golden Mike Awards, the Governors Award from the TV Acad, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Associated Press Television-Radio Assn. of California-Nevada has an annual kudo in his honor — the Stan Chambers Lifetime Achievement Award. KTLA rechristened its news operation the Stan Chambers Building in honor of his 50th year at the station.

In 2008, he published a memoir, “KTLA’s News at 10: 60 Years with Stan Chambers.”

Despite his advancing years, colleagues say Chambers has always kept up with the latest tech innovations and consistently demonstrated his love for breaking news and tough stories. That spirit was evidenced in a message on his Twitter feed (his handle: KTLA5Stan) sent out last week:

“There is nothing better than driving home from a big story with all of the witnesses, all the police officers & even the suspect on a tape.”

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