Fox 11 News reported Friday afternoon that Valdez, whose work at KTTV-TV Channel 5 spanned 35 years, died after a battle with end-stage kidney failure. His son, Steve Valdez, told the outlet that his father died at home. He was 78.
On its social media accounts, Fox 11 Los Angeles announced Valdez’s death, celebrating him as a “legacy” reporter. Fox 11 evening anchor Christine Devine paid tribute to Valdez on Facebook, writing, “He knew this city inside and out.”
“Forever the journalist in front of and behind the camera. RIP my dear teacher, colleague, friend, mentor, and L.A. news icon,” Devine added.
ABC 7 Eyewitness News reporter Sid Garcia also remembered Valdez’s legacy on Facebook. To Garcia, Valdez was a “friend, colleague and mentor.”
Garcia wrote: “Tony was one of the first people I saw growing up in Southern California who looked like me on the TV news. When I returned home to work in Los Angeles Tony Valdez welcomed me home and that’s where our friendship began.”
Dubbed “the docent of Los Angeles” by Garcia, Valdez grew up in downtown Los Angeles and joined KTTV in 1981. According to Fox 11, Valdez served as a the longtime host of its “Midday Sunday” show and co-anchored weekend broadcasts with Devine during the ’90s.
During his tenure Valdez reported on the Watts Riots, the Night Stalker, O.J. Simpson and several Los Angeles elections.
In a statement Friday, Fox 11 ‘s acting news director, Pete Wilgoren, remembered Valdez as a trailblazer who broke the barrier for Latino journalists with his work.
“We are better journalists, and a better community, because of the coverage and compassion of Tony Valdez,” Wilgoren said.
While at Fox 11 News, Valdez nurtured the next generation of journalists as the chair of the 8 Ball foundation, which provided grants to broadcast, digital and print journalists in Southern California. He also served as a union representative.
He retired from the station in November 2016 with several Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards and Los Angeles Press Club Awards under his belt. In his retirement statement, Valdez attributed his perspective on the city to his upbringing.
“I spent the earliest years of my life in a housing project and had an opportunity from that vantage point to see all kinds of people, all skin colors, all races, all ethnicities,” he said in 2016. Valdez added that his life was “so rich” because of those experiences.
Before KTTV, Valdez worked at Southern California outlets KCET-TV Channel 28, KTLA -TV Channel 5 and La Opinión. He also served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, was a docent for the Los Angeles Conservancy and played the saxophone.
Valdez is survived by his son and three grandchildren. The Times will publish a full obituary for the newsman in the coming days.