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Hal Fishman, the longtime news anchor for KTLA-TV Los Angeles, died at his home Tuesday morning, less than a week after being diagnosed with colon cancer. He was 75.
Fishman had been hospitalized for a serious bacterial infection after collapsing at his home Aug. 1. While undergoing treatment for his infection, doctors discovered that Fishman had colon cancer, which had spread to his liver.
The Tribune-owned station said Monday that Fishman had returned to his home, where he died at 3 a.m. Tuesday with his family.
“We’re deeply saddened at the loss of Hal Fishman,” KTLA vp and GM Vinnie Malcolm said. “We are thankful for his unparalleled service and years of dedication to KTLA and the greater Los Angeles community.”
Fishman, a 47-year news veteran, had anchored KTLA’s 10 p.m. newscast since 1975 and also served as the show’s managing editor. He recently was inducted in the Guinness World Records for being the world’s longest-running television newscaster. Fishman also was known for his signature nightly commentaries, which earned him several Golden Mike, Associated Press and Press Club awards.
“He’d wake up with the news; he went to sleep with the news; the news was his life,” said Jeff Wald, Fishman’s longtime friend and news director. “He took it very seriously because he felt that imparting the news to the public is one of most important things you could possibly do.”
“KTLA Morning News” anchor Carlos Amezcua will continue to serve as interim anchor of KTLA’s “Prime News” for the remainder of the week, but no decisions have been made about Fishman’s replacement beyond that point.
Fishman started his career in broadcasting while working as an assistant professor of political science at California State University, Los Angeles, teaching a course on American political parties. In 1960, he was approached by local TV station KCOP asking him to teach an on-air class in politics. The class, “American Political Parties in Politics,” was a success, and KCOP asked Fishman to anchor his own news segment.
Gene Autry, then owner of KTLA, hired Fishman as a news anchorman in 1965. At KTLA, he covered such stories as the 1965 Watts riots, the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the 1987 visit by Pope John Paul II to Los Angeles, the 1994 Northridge, Calif., earthquake, the 1991 Rodney King beating and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a statement saying that he was “deeply saddened” by Fishman’s death.
“I remember Hal giving me the news when I first came to California in 1968,” Schwarzenegger said. “While he won many awards in his tenure as anchor, perhaps most importantly he won the respect and trust of news viewers throughout California, many of whom followed him through his prestigious 47-year career. Hal will forever remain an icon in California history.”
Among Fishman’s honors are a Governor’s Award from the Los Angeles chapter of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences; an Outstanding Broadcast Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists; two Peabody Awards; and an Emmy. In 1992, Fishman received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, a longtime friend and former student of Fishman, told the Associated Press that Fishman was an “institution and an icon.”
“The shoes … will never be filled,” Antonovich said. “He was a student of world affairs and world events and a news commentator of substance and not just a talking head who read the paper in front of him.”
In 2000, KTLA named its newsroom the Hal Fishman Newsroom in recognition of his services to the community and station. Those in attendance for the ceremony included current and former co-workers; city, county and state officials; and reporters and anchors from competing Los Angeles stations. Fishman was honored again by KTLA this summer as part of the station’s 60th anniversary celebration, held at the Autry National Center.
Fishman also received the Associated Press Television-Radio Assn.’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 and was named best news anchor for three consecutive years by the APTRA.
Along with his newscasting duties, Fishman appeared in numerous films and TV shows playing a version of himself. He most recently was seen this year as an anchorman in Sony Pictures’ “Spider-Man 3.”
Fishman, who was known as the “Flying Anchorman,” also was a veteran pilot and held 13 world aviation records for speed and altitude, according to KTLA. He also co-wrote two novels with his friend and fellow pilot, Barry Schiff: “Flight 902 Is Down” and “Vatican Target.”
He is survived by his wife, Nolie; and son David. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to the American Cancer Society Colon Cancer Research and Education.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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