Celebrating 70 years of KTTV: The legacy of journalist Ruben Salazar

As FOX 11 celebrates 70 years of serving Southern California, we are looking back at some of the most significant stories we've covered.

Laura Diaz reports on one that happened nearly 50 years ago, but is still being discussed, dissected, and debated today.

The death of revered journalist, Ruben Salazar.

When I was assigned to report on the life and death of acclaimed journalist Ruben Salazar for KTTV's 70th anniversary series, I was concerned there wouldn't be much new information to uncover nearly 50 years after his tragic death. But I found that not to be true. After making some calls, I discovered one fascinating development is the continued fascination with his story.

There are still many people eager to learn more about this reporter who loomed large in opposite worlds. Salazar was a huge presence in two media establishments; English language media (Los Angeles Times) as well as Spanish language media, (KMEX-TV.) And then, there was his sudden death, August 29, 1970, while covering a massive Mexican-American rally against the Vietnam War.

Some argue that Salazar was targeted by local law enforcement for his aggressive reporting on treatment of Latinos in the barrio. Others argue his death by a tear gas projectile, fired by an LA County Sheriffs deputy, happened in the chaos of the moment, and was not intentional. (The sheriffs deputy who fired it was not prosecuted.) What is clear, is that to this day, people still want to know more.

I've learned of at least three academic studies about Salazar. A ballroom is named for him at Cal State LA, as is a high school in Pico Rivera. A documentary was produced a few years ago for PBS. And the Salazar Family, (headed by daughter, Lisa) recently donated all his files to USC. The archives include Ruben Salazar's briefcase, (which you will see in my story.) All told, that's quite a bit of news for a story that concluded in 1970.

In today's world, diverse newsrooms are common. But in Ruben Salazar's day, newsrooms were not. They were almost exclusively the bastion of white men. As an award winning, gutsy journalist, who covered international politics in Mexico City and then returned to the United States to cover the emerging voice of the Chicano in Los Angeles, Salazar left an indelible mark on journalism in two languages. His excellence in reporting opened the door for countless other journalists of color.

His family says, it isn't Salazar's death that should be most remembered about this man-- but his legacy. After watching my story, I urge you to Google him and read some of his columns in the LA Times. He was instrumental in giving a voice to the voiceless, and lent a poignant portrayal of the working class struggle of the 1960's.