Death of a Newsman: Hal Fishman 1931-2007
For those readers not from Los Angeles or who have not spent time there the name Hal Fishman may mean nothing. But for those longing for a Cronkite-like news anchor, one who inspired trust and sought to present the truth, know that Hal Fishman was just such a person, and he died this morning. Mr. Fishman obtained his bachelor’s degree from Cornell and his master’s in political science from UCLA. He started as a professor in the CalState system but is best known as a news anchor for more than 30 years in Los Angeles.
He was funny as shown by his first on-air comments ever: “Good afternoon, I’m professor Hal Fishman, and this course is certainly quite unique for me, because it’s the first course that I have ever taught where the student can turn the professor off.” And he used a simple method to stay popular: “being dedicated to being informed,” and being “a person that people can trust to give them a straightforward and accurate account of what’s going on in the world.” In his career he covered many major stories including the “Watts riots, the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, the Sylmar and Northridge earthquakes and the Rodney G. King beating case” and was part of his station’s wining Peabody and Emmy awards for their coverage of the news.
Perhaps his simple view of the news desk as a classroom podium is why I will miss him: “‘When I was a professor…I used to tell my students, “You can’t have a properly functioning democracy without an enlightened electorate.” It’s our job as newscasters to enlighten the electorate. We are the conduits of information.’” Mr. Fishman relied on his knowledge of history and politics as he shared information and educated millions. The key is not the scale but the perspective on what it means to be a conduit of information and the responsibilities of such a position. In short, for his dedication to teaching and presenting clear, honest information I am grateful and hope that others try to emulate his approach to the news.