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Pete Noyes, award-winning L.A. television news pioneer, dies at 90

Pete Noyes in an undated photo.
(Liz Gorsich)

Award-winning news producer and investigative journalist Pete Noyes, a Los Angeles television news pioneer and mentor to many colleagues and students who took his broadcast newswriting classes at USC and Cal State Northridge, has died at his home in Westlake Village.

Noyes, who had been in declining health, died Monday night at age 90, according to his son, Jack Noyes, a longtime assignment editor at NBC4.

For the record:

9:58 AM, Feb. 05, 2021An earlier version of this story said that Noyes worked at KOVR-TV in Sacramento. He worked at KXTV in Sacramento

Noyes began his journalism career at Stars and Stripes, the American military newspaper, while serving in the Army during the Korean War. During his decades-long career, he worked at KFMB-TV in San Diego, KXTV in Sacramento, and in Los Angeles at City News Service, KNXT/KCBS-TV, KNBC-TV, KABC-TV, KTTV-TV and KCOP-TV, along with the Fox network newsmagazine “Front Page.“

Along the way, Noyes was honored with TV’s highest award, the Peabody. He also earned 10 Emmys, two Edward R. Murrow awards and many Golden Mike Awards. He also wrote several books, including “Legacy of Doubt,” which linked organized crime to the assassination of President Kennedy.

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After retiring from the news business in 2008, he published several other books, including “The Real L.A. Confidential,“ in which he wrote about some of L.A.’s most notorious crimes, including the Manson family and O.J. Simpson murder cases.

His 2015 book, “Who Killed the Big News,” tells the story of KNXT’s introduction in 1961 of “The Big News,” which was billed as the first 45-minute newscast in the nation and launched the careers of the late Jerry Dunphy and Ralph Story, among others.

Noyes notched many scoops as the show’s city editor, and was named the producer of the newscast in 1963, as it expanded to an hour as the lead-in to an expanded 30-minute edition of “CBS Evening News,” featuring Walter Cronkite.

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Longtime USC journalism professor Joe Saltzman met Noyes in 1964 when both worked for Channel 2.

“He was a tough, hard-bitten newspaper reporter who, like the rest of us, didn’t know what to make of this new concept: television news,” Saltzman recalled in a Facebook post. “He had come from City News Service and took no prisoners — I can still remember him shouting out my name when he was reading a piece of my copy and yelling, ‘What the hell is this?’

Saltzman added: “You always knew when Pete was working on deadline because his white shirt was always half out of his pants as he scrambled about the newsroom barking orders. He was every journalist I had ever seen in the movies and on television and the rumor that he was the model for Lou Grant in ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ was, at least for me, as true as it could be.”

Bob Rawitch, a retired Los Angeles Times editor, said Noyes belonged in the same conversation as broadcast journalists such as Cronkite and Tom Brokaw.

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“Pete belongs in that crowd,” Rawitch said. “In addition to mentoring so many young journalists over the decades at TV stations, for many years he passed along his knowledge to aspiring broadcasters at CSUN and USC where he often taught investigative journalism. To say he will be missed is an understatement.”

Liz Gorsich, Noyes’ sister, said the family should have been aware early on that he was going to be a journalist with a burning desire for answers.

“On long family car trips his mom would pay him 25 cents to stop asking questions,” she said. “He was an investigative reporter in the making.”

Noyes is survived by his wife, Grace; his son; two granddaughters; his sister; and two brothers, Frank and David.

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A Times staff writer contributed to this report.


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