Paul Wynne, TV Reporter Who Battled AIDS, Dies
Paul Wynne, the pioneering television reporter who grappled with AIDS on the airwaves, died of the disease Thursday at the Veterans Administration Hospital in San Francisco. He was 46.
Wynne became the first television reporter to air a personal and frank account of his battle with the always fatal disease when he began hosting the critically acclaimed “Paul Wynne’s Journal” every Thursday on KGO-TV in San Francisco.
The program stunned some and moved others with its straight-ahead style of dealing with homosexual issues and with its unsettling juxtapositions of the Emmy winner’s handsome features both before and after he contracted the disease.
A mainstay of Bay Area television over the last decade, Wynne had began at KGO in 1969 as a press agent. He moved to KQED-TV to serve as the arts critic, and then to KPIX-TV to host both an evening news program and a weekly public affairs show for young people.
He returned to KGO as an entertainment reporter in August, 1981. He won a local Emmy that same year for Outstanding Achievement, Commentary and Analysis.
“He was a professional,” recalled Jim Topping, KGO-TV president and general manager. “He gave us the joy of his spirit and his friendship--we will all miss his presence.”
He worked at KGO until his contract expired in 1984.
Three years later, he was diagnosed as having AIDS. In 1989, he pitched to the station the idea of a personal diary on his battle with AIDS and it was sold.
On his return to television, he said: “It’s so funny to be here. I have a life-threatening illness, and I’m more excited about life than ever before.”
Even as the program debuted, KGO executives braced themselves for a flood of outrage and criticism that never came.
“The first night, we watched in my office, and hardened news reporters were in tears,” said Harry Fuller, news director at the ABC affiliate.
The first segment opened with a tape of Wynne the husky entertainment reporter. Suddenly, the image segued to Wynne in the newsroom in 1989, swiveling in his chair toward the audience, his bright blue eyes deep in their sockets, his cheeks hollow.
“This,” he began, “is the face of AIDS.”
The show earned Wynne several awards and made him the focus of feature stories in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Wall Street Journal along with other publications.
Wynne is survived by his father, Harold, stepbrother Brad and a half brother, Greg.
Funeral arrangements and a memorial service are pending.