Having spent more than four decades as an on-air reporter, anchorman and producer on some of the top Los Angeles and national news programs, Ken Davis had an inside look at some of the most historic moments imaginable. But his off-air stories— including spending a night on the town with Walter Cronkite, having a private breakfast with President Obama, experiencing the terror of legendary music producer/convicted murderer Phil Spector pointing a loaded gun at his head, and conducting the final interview of Oscar-winning actor Henry Fonda at his deathbed — were even more fascinating.
Davis has collected his greatest stories in the new memoir “In Bed with Broadcasting,” a fast-paced and witty journey through the wild side of the media world. He’ll be discussing and signing the book at 7 p.m. next Thursday, Jan. 18, at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena.
“There are basically three story arcs: the fascinating people and events of my career, the rise and fall of journalism from Cronkite to the current trend in media where exploitation and sensationalism have replaced intelligent discourse, to trying to juggle my personal life with my ‘mistress,’ which is my career,” says Davis, speaking by phone from his current home in Ventura.
“I treat my career as if she were my mistress because on the outside she looked hot and exciting, but on the inside she could be cold and calculating. It’s a chronological carpet ride, and it’s full of humor as I refuse to take myself too seriously,“ he says.
Born and raised in Altadena, Davis graduated from Muir High in Pasadena in 1969 and immediately entered his media career as a radio deejay in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he attended college. He quickly became the city’s most popular radio host — “It’s not hard when you’re in a town that small,” he jokes — and soon was lured to become the nightly anchorman on the local NBC TV station.
“I was only 20, so I was the nation’s youngest TV anchorman,” laughs Davis. “Watergate got me fired up about journalism. I came cheap and looked presentable in a tie. It was small town TV and I went with it.”
From there, Davis moved to LA and established a multi-Emmy Award-winning career as a TV producer for the local news on Channels 2 and 9, in addition to such national programs as “The CBS Evening News,” “The PBS NewsHour,” and “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” He also was in on the creation of the long-running celebrity-news program “Extra,” a show that he expresses some shame about in the book.
Having “semi-retired” four years ago to Ventura, Davis decided it was time to share his tales as well as offer a cautionary look at where journalism is going. Despite spending his career working in radio and TV, he has deep concerns about the loss of newspapers and the impact those losses will have on America.
“In this age, when anyone with a cell phone camera can call themselves a journalist, we need newspapers more than ever,” says Davis. “Democracy and honest journalism rise and fall together. A good newspaper can go much further into depth than a TV newscast. When news broadcasters need a story idea, the first place they turn is the paper This country needs newspapers and as I say in the book, ‘Democracy and honest journalism rise and fall together.’”
Ken Davis will discuss and sign “In Bed with Broadcasting” at 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Call (626) 449-5320 or visit vromans.com.