Early radio and TV newswoman Ruth Ashton Taylor dies at 101

Early radio and TV newswoman Ruth Ashton Taylor dies at 101

Ruth Ashton TaylorJoe CBS newsman Edward R. She was the only woman in Murrow’s postwar radio documentary unit and was widely believed to have been the first female newscaster in Los Angeles. She died on January 11 in San Rafael, California. She was 101 years old.

His daughter Laurel Conklin confirmed his death at an assisted living facility.

“Ruth showed what women could do,” Liz Mitchell, who worked with Ms. Taylor as a production assistant and writer at KNXT-TV in Los Angeles, said in a phone interview. “She could cover small events and big events – all different topics – and no one stopped her.”

As one of the few women in TV news in the 1940s and ’50s, Ms. Taylor dealt with institutional biases about what she should cover and what her reports should look like.

At CBS, Ms. Taylor learned that women were not allowed on the air because their voices were too “creaky,” she once said.

In 1951 in Los Angeles, she was hired by KTSL-TV (later called KNXT and KCBS) to give the women’s side of a nightly half-hour show.

Soon after her TV assignments began, she auditioned to produce and deliver a five-minute daily afternoon report at KNX Radio, promoted as the “Women’s News Desk.”

“It was such a unique thing that everyone thought it was a real oddity,” He told an interviewer for the Washington Press Club Foundation in 1992, “Hey, look at the monkey’s performance! We have never seen anything like this before.”

The topics he reported on included cars, airplanes, and fashion.

Suzanne Habach Marteny wrote, “Taylor says she always presented her stories in some way.” his master’s thesis About Ms. Taylor to California State University, Northridge in 1986. “She justified her attitude by saying that she should give the woman’s perspective because it was her perspective and she was definitely a woman.”

Ms. Taylor left KTSL (now renamed KNXT) around 1952, but she provided her own women’s radio reports for several years while hosting “The Ruth Ashton Show”, a half-hour news and feature program on KNX. He told Ms. Marteny that he resigned in 1959 after a confrontation with management when he refused to cover events such as department store openings.

He temporarily left journalism in 1960, when he took a job as special projects editor at the Claremont Colleges. After three years she returned to radio.

Ruth Arlene Montoya was born on April 20, 1922 in Long Beach, California. His mother, Flora Ashton, sold baked goods in Nebraska and later opened Sis Ashton’s Café in Signal Hill, California, named after her husband, Julian Montoya, who had worked there. A banker, he left the family when Ruth was 4 years old. He soon adopted the surname Ashton.

Ruth graduated from Scripps College in Claremont, California with a bachelor’s degree in American History. In 1944, he earned a master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School while writing part-time news for CBS.

After she graduated, CBS hired her full-time, and she worked for correspondent Robert Trout and wrote for the program “Feature Story”. Mr. Muro encouraged him to find a topic that attracted him for a documentary and he chose nuclear science.

His reporting travels for “The Sunny Side of the Atom” took him to many places, including Princeton, NJ, where Albert Einstein, who had ignored his letters asking for an interview, lived and worked.

A helpful cabbie brought him to Einstein’s house, where he was taking a walk nearby. She got out of the car and approached him.

“I said, ‘Good morning, Dr. Einstein,'” she recalls when she was interviewed by the Washington Press Club Foundation. “‘I’m Ruth Ashton.'”

“Ahh!” He said, “Broadcast lady.”

He agreed to an interview (although he did not tape-record it), and he “talked about things that meant a lot to me, which is whether or not the world has a future.”

The documentary was produced by CBS in 1947 as a non-fiction drama, with actors playing various roles. Agnes Moorehead played Ms. Ashton.

Reviewing it for The New York Times, RW Stewart called it “a brilliant appeal to a broad popular understanding of an obviously important issue.”

Ms. Taylor remained at CBS until 1949. Eager to return home to Los Angeles, she took a public relations job at KNX, which later evolved into an on-air news position.

Following her time at the Claremont Colleges, Ms. Taylor returned to KNX in 1963. He hosted an infotainment show with comedian Pat Buttram, future star of the sitcom “Green Acres”, and reported for the afternoon news and features program. , “Story Line.”

In 1966, she was hired as anchor of the Saturday afternoon TV news on KNXT, making her the first woman to hold such a position in Los Angeles.

“Everybody came out of their houses to see it,” Ms. Mitchell said, recalling watching the first broadcast in the newsroom. “The reaction wasn’t ‘Holy cow, why is a woman anchoring the news?’ But ‘Wow, a woman.’

But many of the calls the station received after that first broadcast were about her hair.

Local anchor Jess Marlow told The Sacramento Bee in 1990, “Here was a woman who had just done something monumental and all she had to say was this.” “She was absolutely stunned.”

After anchoring for about a year, she focused on reporting, but she still had to contend with outdated attitudes toward women in journalism.

“Ruth Ashton proves girls can succeed in the news field,” read the headline of an article about her in The Valley News of Van Nuys, California, in 1968.

joe saltzman“If they sent a guy to cover a criminal trial, they would send him to talk to the grieving girlfriend,” a former senior producer at KNXT said over the phone. She said, ‘I want to be treated like any other reporter. I’m going to cover fires and bank robberies. And ultimately he won that battle.”

He covered political conventions, the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, California state politics, floods, school board meetings and entertainment.

Connie Chung, who was an anchor at KNXT, said by phone that while Ms. Taylor was not nationally famous, “everyone in Southern California knew that every woman who followed her was following in her footsteps. He paved the way for all of us.”

Ms. Chung said that after becoming co-anchor of “CBS Evening News” with Dan Rather in 1993, “Ruth wrote me letters when the old male goats at CBS were giving me a hard time in New York.” Made fun of them and encouraged me.”

Ms. Taylor retired in 1989, but freelanced for many years as a political reporter and moderator of the station’s “Meet the Press” programs, including “Newsmakers.”

In addition to her daughter, Laurel Conklin, Ms. Taylor is survived by another daughter, Susan Conklin; a stepson, John Taylor; One grandson and one great-grandson. Her marriages to Ed Conklin, a news writer, and Jack Taylor, a cameraman, ended in divorce.

Ms. Taylor received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Television Academy in 1982 and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1990.

“Mom, I finally made my mark,” he said at the ceremony. “It’s right here in cement on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.”

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