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David McElhatton
David McElhatton

It's always somewhat surprising when a public figure is shy by nature, or, at least, low-keyed and unassumung.

David McElhatton, with some strong competition from Dennis Richmond, was the face of television news in the San Francisco Bay Area for several decades, not to mention a prominent voice of radio news before that,  until his retirement in 2000.

In all, his career spanned a half century.

I met him just twice, in that retirement year of 2000, when he and his wife Karen came into the gallery several times over a period of a few months. The McElhattons were going to make their home in Monterey and they were interested in some art.

And they were passionate about it – Karen in her effervescent, irrepressible way; David softly curious and inquiringly. Of course, the newsman. But a very gentle newsman. His co-workers loved him as much as the public did.

Still, used to seeing him deliver the news, some of it powerful and life changing (like the best newscasters, he was most composed during the most trying times, such as the assassinations of Havrey Milk and Mayor George Moscone in 1978), it seemed slightly surreal to have him inquire about the provenance of a hundred year old painting.

It was easy to warm up to him, though: he had that Walter Cronkite kind of quality about him. You liked him, you trusted him.

Monterey, unfortunately, did not work out for the McElhattons, though they had very much wanted it to, and they finally settled in Rancho Mirage in Southern California.

He died there Monday at age 81 and became part of the news, which he had served so well. 

4 Comment count
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lovely tribute Steve...

just been watching the tributes of him and he was there for Jonestown, the 1989 earthquake, and I remember when he covered the 1994 Olympics.

He'll be so missed.

Jennifer Gibbons, Red Room

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I didn't get to see his reporting of Loma Prieta, Jennifer,

because I was covering it for the Monterey Herald, but I'm sure he was steady and thorough, which is what you want on a story like that. And Jonestown? He was very good on a chilling story. I'm glad about the tributes. He deserves them.

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"most composed"

How we need softly curious and quietly iquiring newscasters-- those most composed in the most trying times. We need objective newscasters we can trust rather than loud and opinionated voices trying to dominate our minds and divide our nation. I never heard your friend, but we need more like him.

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You're right, Sue. It's changed a lot.

These programs that purport to be news, and, let's not forget, `breaking news.' Of course, most don't really claim to be news, they admit they are opinions, but unfortunately people take them as news, and what goes on, the `reporting' of it, gets warped along the way. As to real news, the really good ones – and David McElhatton was certainly one of the very best – set out to inform and, along the way, educate, not influence. Because of this, they are the ones who are trusted in hard times.