Former Sacramento television news anchor and reporter Stan Atkinson was honored Saturday night with a special Emmy by the San Francisco chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
The organization presented him with the Governor’s Award, the highest award a local NATAS chapter can bestow. It was in recognition of “the excellence” Atkinson demonstrated during his 46-year career. In the 1980s, he won three Emmys for news reporting in Afghanistan and Somalia.
Saturday night, Atkinson stood at the lectern on the stage of the San Francisco Jazz Center and reflected on his decades in the TV news business, saying in part that they were “the most exciting time any person could ever have. ... Everything from the ’50s onward was brand-new, because television was still brand-new. We understand now how blessed we were.”
Speaking by phone Thursday, Atkinson said winning the Governor’s Award “was a total surprise. I guess the Emmy board took a look at my 46 years and figured, ‘He’s made it this far, a dinosaur who hasn’t slipped into the ooze yet, maybe we ought to catch him before he does.’ Prior awardees (make up) a very austere list of major players in the business, and I’m very touched to stand in line with those men and women.”
Atkinson arrived in Sacramento in 1957 and spent most of career here, first at KCRA Channel 3 (twice) later at KVOR Channel 13 before retiring from that station in 1999. During his tenures here, the highly visible anchor was known as “Mr. Sacramento.”
Along the way, he worked at KTVU Channel 2 in Oakland (twice) and KNBC in Burbank, where he covered the Charles Manson trial. He and two colleagues established KFTY in Santa Rosa in 1972 but “it went belly-up after a year because of the recession. We were excellent at doing the news, but not so good at doing business.”
At one point, Atkinson worked in Hollywood making documentary films for producer David Wolper, “but I left because I missed the daily grind of TV news.” He twice taught TV news at Stanford University, and once was a Ford Foundation Fellow there.
How did he first get into television in the first place? he was asked.
“My first job was in Spokane when I got out of the Army in 1954,” he recalled. “I got hired to work in a radio station, which is what I did before joining the Army. Then they built a TV station and told me I was going to work there. I said, ‘I can’t because I don’t have a coat and tie.’ They said, ‘Go downtown to Weinstock’s and get a coat and tie.’ I did, and that was the beginning.”
Atkinson and his wife live in the Sacramento area. They have six children, 16 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
“They all think this award is pretty cool,” he said at the ceremony. “That may be the the best part of this whole thing for me because now they think the old dude is OK.”