Local Obituaries

Obituary: Former KCRA reporter Otis Turner, 69, founded Fair Oaks newspaper

Otis Turner, a former KCRA reporter and anchor who founded a Fair Oaks newspaper, died March 26 of lung cancer, his family said. He was 69.

Mr. Turner jumped into the high-profile field of TV journalism while attending Emory University in Atlanta. After a short stint at WSB in Atlanta, he joined top-rated KCRA in 1968 and carved out a solid career as a hardworking reporter and state Capitol correspondent. He was named weekend anchor in 1979 but continued reporting general assignment stories three days a week.

“Otis was a newsman’s newsman,” former KCRA anchor Stan Atkinson said. “He was constantly in pursuit of the truth and had a low tolerance for nonsense. He was very much old school.”

After 14 years, Mr. Turner abruptly left KCRA in 1982. He gave up the visibility of TV to start a small community newspaper, the Fair Oaks Post, in a converted garage.

Working on a newspaper was a dream that he had nurtured since he was editor of his college paper. Meanwhile, he had grown uncomfortable with “the growing importance of entertainment, appearance and personality as opposed to content” in TV journalism, he said.

“And I just prefer covering news for people that I know and having them know me,” he told The Sacramento Bee in 1984. “That kind of relationship improves your perspective when you are covering a story.”

With financial help from local businessmen, Mr. Turner launched the Fair Oaks Post as a free publication in 1984. He wrote most of the stories, hired freelance writers and photographers and employed one full-time worker, an ad salesperson.

Although advertising grew and mail circulation reached more than 17,000, he was not able to keep the shoestring operation going. The biweekly paper folded in 1989.

Mr. Turner returned to the Capitol as a spokesman for Republican Assembly leader Ross Johnson. He left in 1991, did freelance work and was an active leader in the Nepenthe Homeowners Association at Campus Commons in Sacramento.

Otis Guy Turner Jr. was born Oct. 10, 1944, in Moultrie, Ga. He was the elder of two boys who grew up working long hours on the family’s farm producing, among other things, cotton, tobacco, corn, hogs and cattle.

“We were chopping weeds and driving mules and tractors in the hot Georgia sun,” said his brother, Terry, a retired college professor. “We both looked at each other and said, ‘I don’t think we want to be doing this for 30 or 40 years.’ ”

Mr. Turner took prelaw courses before switching to political science at Emory University. He took a year off from his studies to work in Washington as an aide to Georgia Sen. Richard Russell Jr., a prominent leader in the Senate.

He was president of the Nepenthe board at the time of his death and was active in CAI, a homeowners association organization. A few months ago, he reconnected with friends in the TV news industry at a Christmas party for the local broadcasting community.

“It was great to see him,” Atkinson said. “He had a lot of humility in a business where there are a lot of egos bouncing around. Otis walked to a different drumbeat, and we all admired him for that.”

In addition to his brother, Mr. Turner is survived by his wife of more than 40 years, Naomi. A private service is planned.