Stan Chambers

Stan Chambers
KTLA's News at Ten:
60 Years with Stan Chambers

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
January 15, 2008

Q.    Who is Stan Chambers?

A.    I have been a television news reporter for more than 60 years. I began my television career in December, 1947 while still a graduate student at the University of Southern California. Since I was a naval officer during the war, the Veteran's “GI Bill” paid for all of my college tuition. This is a good example of how war veterans were able to find new careers when they were getting out of the service.

The classes I took at USC paved the way to my first job in television. It was an exciting time, when the cameras were black and white and the new era of commercial television broadcasting was just beginning.

Q.    What inspired you to write an autobiography/biography of your 60 years with KTLA?

A.    I remember my debut in front of the old cameras. I stood there in the blistering heat from the banks of lights on both sides of the bulky television cameras. I was fortunate to be an early member of that elite group of television pioneers who were there when television was just beginning.

So, it was a case of “love at first sight.” I enjoyed the new challenges. I was fascinated by the demanding television world that was opening up around me. Like that old moth flying dangerously close to the flames, I enjoyed being in front of the hot, bright lights and feeling the heat as I waited for my cue to “ad lib” my next commercial. I was bitten by the live, television bug very early, and never recovered. I just never dreamed that sixty years would pass by, so quickly.

Q.    What do you think of the technology today compared to the technology in 1947 when you started with KTLA?

A.    Television was primitive in 1947. It expanded rapidly in engineering breakthroughs that evolved into the incredible state-of the-art that we have with us today. My basic reaction was to shake my head and wonder at how all of these new developments could happen and how our horizon expanded so dramatically because of the continuing engineering developments of television.

Early newscasts featured a reporter sitting behind a deck, reading his newscast from a script. There were many historic news events captured by the television cameras. Those images are gone because they happened live on the screen. Since video tape had not yet been developed, the stories were seen exactly when they happened - they were “written on the wind.” All we have left are old, black-and-white newsreel films of those news stories lost in time.

Q.    Of the positions you held with KTLA which are the ones you value the most?

A.    Of all the fascinating jobs that I had at KTLA, my favorite assignment was being a “live” news reporter. We chased stories every night. We never knew what was happening, until we arrived at the location and started video taping the events as they unfolded before our cameras. It was a time when we were doing things for the first time and showing viewers the full story as it was happening. So many television developments are triggered by major stories. You remember the big ones. They are the ones etched in your minds, and they help you identify some television breakthroughs.

In writing my book, I went through the rough notes I wrote in my forgotten old notebooks and relished the memories of working live. They are the substance of what “was” and help you recreate it in the future.

Q.    Of the interviews you conducted which are your most memorable ones?

A.    My most memorable interview was with then California Governor Ronald Reagan at Los Angeles Airport in 1980. This was during the time when television stations still had problems moving live transmitting units around. We had just finished taping a news conference with President Jimmy Carter about the Iranian hostage situation. We left his area to another side of the airport where we knew we could transmit our signal back to our transmitter on Mount Wilson.

We got the Carter video tape ready for transmission when I spotted a black limo in the VIP area near our camera. It was California Governor Ronald Reagan, who we knew was seriously considering running for President. Luckily, I knew his driver quite well and watched as my friend, Barney, got out of the limo and walked over to our cameras. We had a nice, brief talk, and I asked him if there was any chance we could talk to the Governor.

He walked back to the limo and gave me the ‘go ahead’ sign. The Governor and future President came over, and I got my exclusive I interview. It was a great experience and I still remember it vividly. Since we had our live television transmission up and working, we were able to go on the air live and scoop all the other stations.

Q.    What was that experience like when you were presented the star on the Hollywood walk of fame?

A.    It’s funny, but I have covered dozens of “Hollywood Walk of Fame” ceremonies for KTLA. There are always a few hundred people clustered around, there are a lot of pictures taken – it’s an emotional experience for everyone. So it was a huge shock to learn that I was going to get my own star on the Boulevard.

I had an amazing time. All of my family was there, the cameramen had their cameras rolling, and the crowds were cheering on all sides. It was a breathtaking and memorable moment when the star was placed on the Boulevard.I still get to look at it whenever I walk by the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard.

A humorous aside; after the ceremony, my family and were back at home celebrating when I got a phone call from the station. “Where are you? There is a big luncheon out here for you. You are supposed to be here.”

With a very red face, I apologized and stuttered that no one had told me there was a party just for me. I thanked the caller and twenty minutes later, I was at the celebration, more than a little embarrassed.

Q.    If you had to do it all over again, would you have chosen broadcasting the news as a career or would you have pursued a career in the legal profession?

A.    Looking back after sixty years, I often wondered what I would have done, if I didn’t get that job offer from KTLA. I am very pleased to say that there is no greater job in the world. I am very spoiled and happy that it has been such a grand and vivid part of my life. There have been good times and bad times, and I have enjoyed all of them. There is nothing more rewarding than to be a part of a new communications era. We are out there every day, looking for the big story of the day and loving every moment of it. As I have often said, “It sure beats working for a living.”

Q.    How does it feel to have your grandson following in your footsteps at KTLA?

A.    At this stage of a career, it is always great to have a legacy. My grandson, Jaime Chambers, has been a very successful reporter at KTLA for several years. Like a true reporter, he likes being where the action is, and it shows in his daily reports from the field. He is a natural, likes people, asks questions, and observes the news scene carefully.

His career is a great example of being there at the right time and taking advantage of opportunities when they happen. He called me at the station one day and asked if he could visit me and take a look at the KTLA newsroom. It was a special treat to have him come over to KTLA. While I was busy on the phone, he walked around the newsroom, meeting many of my colleagues. At one point, a friend of mind suggested that he try to get an internship here in the newsroom. He did ask, and he landed the job. That was the start of his career and over the months, he enjoyed learning more and more about the operations of a television news room. He took advantage of the opportunity and is a very successful television reporter today.

Q.    What advice would you give the youth today who are seeking a career in televisions broadcasting?

A.    There is a great pathway to a career in broadcasting that did not exist when I was at USC. Television news has expanded so dramatically, Universities all over the country offer major courses in television news. They teach the basics and offer the opportunities to students to perform on camera and duplicate the demands of professional news reporting. The television-journalism departments train the students in the use of the latest electronic equipment. A college degree gives dedicated students a great opportunity to move into the professional journalism field upon graduation. Unlike my day, there are television stations across the country that serve their local communities and present great opportunities for students graduating from universities across the country.

Q.    With your extensive background in the broadcasting industry, have you ever consider teaching in that field?

A.    It has been my pleasure over the past several years to speak before Dr. Jim Loper's Communication class at the Annenberg School at USC. I enjoy the exchange of ideas with the students, who will be in the industry a few years down the road. I have enjoyed meetings with the UCLA Communications class of my former News Director, Jeff Wald. I have the opportunity to meet very talented students who are planning for careers in television.

Some day, I would like to share my stories in a classroom of Television News Students. It is a unique and powerful field that is very important to all of us. It is a demanding field that is built on truth, dedication and survival.

Reporters and cameramen play a major role in our ability to understand what is happening. News is the record of each day. It flows in many directions and it is constantly changing. It is a great honor to be a part of the action.