Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Remembering Hal Fishman: Late L.A. Newsman Already Missed

Tuesday morning at 3 a.m. Hal Fishman, a secure fixture in Los Angeles television news, died at home following a brief battle with colon cancer.

For 47 years Fishman, author, pilot, teacher, who began his professional life in the academic world as a professor of political science, was a rarity; a stabilizing presence in a news market known more for weather girls and future game show hosts than for real reporting.

Beginning in 1960 as a political commentator for KCOP-TV Channel 13, and ending with a 32-year-run as the anchor of KTLA Prime News, Hal Fishman died less than one week after being hospitalized following a collapse at his home in Los Angeles.

For me, the story broke in a seemingly strange place, as a last-minute inclusion before the 8 a.m. news on sports talk radio station AM 570, KLAC, as announced by host and L.A. Times columnist T.J. Simers. The usually acerbic Simers was noticeably serious, even solemn, as he relayed the news he told listeners he had just read on the local website

If you want to read more about the accomplished life of Hal Fishman, a couple of sources are,,1,7565794,print.story?c,

In the coming days, for those of us who watched him regularly, the loss of Hal Fishman, the newsman, will pale compared to what we will feel at the loss of Hal Fishman, the man. As a nightly "commentator" on one of the day's top stories, you never got the idea that the man had a partisan bone in his body. In fact, to this day, I have no idea what political affiliation, if any, that Hal Fishman held. Everyone was fair game, simply because Hal Fishman was fair. In one moment, he could be as relevant as any demographically positioned news reader in a $3,000 suit, and as comforting in the way he told a story as a most-trusted Grampa. His lack of pretense was all the cool he ever needed.

And, he had a sense of humor.

In a story that first appeared in the industry magazine Broadcasting & Cable, Fishman, the former Cal State L.A. professor remembered his first words on television on the program, American Political Parties and Politics :

"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."

At present, KTLA has no word on who will replace Hal Fishman on Prime News. And even when they do, they should probably make no announcement about his "replacement". It wouldn't do any good.

We'd probably just turn him off.

Hal Fishman leaves behind a wife, Nolie, and a son, David.

And all the rest of us, too.

Hal Fishman was 75 years old.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday