Arnold Diaz, a ferocious investigative reporter for three New York City television stations who brought religious passion to the field shaming con artists, business owners, scammers, government bureaucrats and others who defrauded consumers, died October 24 in Greenwich, Conn. He died in. Was 74 years old.
The cause of death in hospital was multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, his son Alex said.
Mr. Diaz wanted not only to solve the problems of the victims but also to shame the criminals for their misdeeds. He confronted them, followed them, and shoved microphones in their faces to get answers.
At WCBS, Channel 2, where he spent more than 20 years, his “Shame on You” investigation was introduced with a short animation showing a jingle and a hand with a shaking index finger. When this segment moved to WNYW, Channel 5, it was renamed “Shame, Shame, Shame”; Later, WPIX, on Channel 11, called it “What a shame!” where did it go.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have a dream job, standing up for the little guys, putting up with the bad guys,” Mr. Diaz said last year on Channel 11 when he retired. She said her report “gives voice to victims whose complaints were often ignored – complaints about shoddy landlords, greedy businesses, incompetent government agencies.”
A typical report from the early 1990s talked to people who had purchased credit-card-activated fax machines for $5,500 or more after being told in a TV commercial that high-traffic locations such as airports They will get quick benefits after being placed at places. For public use.
In the segment, the camera focused loss to consumers, the amount on his check is marked in red. Mr. Diaz had paperwork showing who had purchased the machines; He said that “Shame” had called 34 people on the list, and no one had received the device. He traced the Distribution International company to a “boiler-room” operation in a basement in Forest Hills, Queens, where his questions to company president Sherry Cohen went unanswered as she followed him around the office.
When she told Mr. Diaz that some fax machines had been installed, he asked where, but he refused to answer. And Ms. Cohen, like hundreds of others encountered by Mr. Diaz over the years, was inducted into what Mr. Diaz called his hall of shame.
In early 1993, she was charged with wire fraud by the United States attorney for the Eastern District in Brooklyn – whom Mr. Diaz credited with “shame on you” for making the office aware of the case – and he was convicted a year later. He was sentenced to 41 months in prison.
At the time of that report, Walter Goodman, television critic for The New York Times, praised a series of investigations by Mr. Diaz.
Mr. Goodman wrote in 1990, “Anyone who has ever felt disgusted by a car repair outfit, or irritated by an over-the-hill chicken, or irritated by city bureaucracy, One can cry for these mini-exposés, which won two New York Emmy Award nominations last month.
He concluded the review: “Jai Ho! Hail! Hail! Hail to you, Arnold Diaz!”
Mr. Diaz acknowledged in an interview with Newsday in 2022 that he did not invent the type of aggressive consumer scrutiny that has become his hallmark. But, he said, he is proud of how he adapted it for a New York audience.
“New Yorkers love revenge,” he said, “and, even though I didn’t solve their problems, it felt good that we exposed the wrongdoers.”
His reporting led to some anger, Alex Diaz said in a phone interview: People would spit and curse at him. In one instance, he recalled, a jeweler in Manhattan, whom he was investigating for underweighting gold, placed a gun on the table in front of Mr. Diaz.
By his count, Mr. Diaz won 48 New York Emmy Awards — so many, his son said, that he lent some to prop homes for use in the background of TV programs.
Arnold Theodore Diaz was born on June 16, 1949, in Brooklyn, and moved with his family to North Miami Beach, Florida when he was 5 years old. His Cuban American father, Leonard, was an airline mechanic. His mother, Florette (Cohen) Diaz, was a police secretary.
Mr. Diaz earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and media studies from Florida State University in 1971 and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University the following year. He soon joined WPLG in Miami and in 1973 he moved to WCBS, where he remained for 22 years.
Producer Ann Sorkowitz, who began working with Mr. Diaz at WCBS in 1976, said he distinguished himself on breaking news stories and long-term investigations, such as the one on toxic dumping in New Jersey. Their investigation generated viewer mail, including consumer complaints. “Shame on You” reports began in the late 1980s.
“Arnold decided to call it ‘Shame on You’ because there was an old notion of people who behaved badly being publicly shamed,” Ms. Sorkowitz said in a phone interview. “The segments empowered people. They solved their problems or got their money back and expressed their frustration.”
Mr. Diaz left local television in 1996 for the network’s job as a consumer investigative correspondent on ABC’s “20/20.” “I was interested in bringing a sense of outrage journalism,” Victor Neufeldthe program’s former executive producer said over the phone. “He was the perfect local news man. He was very lively and energetic, a warrior.”
But the pace of a network news magazine, where a report could take months to air, “wasn’t his style,” Mr. Neufeld said.
When Mr. Diaz rejoined Channel 2 in early 2003, he told The Daily News of New York: “When you’re in local TV, you think, ‘Oh, if I could only get to the network.’ I’ve been there. I’ve been to the top of the mountain, and the view isn’t any better. Sometimes it’s worse.”
His return to Channel 2 lasted two years. He then moved to Channel 5, where he remained until 2014, and Channel 11, where he remained for eight years before retiring.
Alex Diaz attributes his father’s passionate style to his Cuban background and, at least early on, his upbringing in a working-class neighborhood of Brooklyn.
“I was fascinated by the fact that he used the power of shame as a weapon or a shield,” said the younger Mr. Diaz, who has the word “shame” tattooed on his stomach. “Shame is a call for introspection. It was less like passing a judgment than saying: ‘You know what you are doing is wrong. Become a better version of yourself.”
In addition to his son, Mr. Diaz is survived by his wife, Shawn Callaghan-Diaz, whom Mr. Diaz met when she was a set decorator for the soap opera “Captain Kangaroo” at CBS; his daughters, Shayna Wade and Casey Diaz; a sister, Susan Enslin; and twin grandchildren.
When Mr. Diaz retired last year, he reflected on his reports, including one that said an insurer would not pay for a Staten Island man’s prosthetic leg. Because there was no evidence that he wanted to walk, His reporting prompted the company to review and approve the man’s claim.
“I leave here with no regrets,” Mr. Diaz said. “I may miss the excitement but not the times when I was pushed, spat upon and threatened with guns.”