While Bill Schechner was a recognized local news figure with KPFA, KQED, and KPIX who moved on to bigger things at NBC News, he may be most fondly remembered for a whimsical recurring Thanksgiving segment called “Turkey Facts.”
There’s a small number of Bay Area media personalities whose careers spanned four decades, and 18-year KPIX reporter and anchor Bill Schechner was one of them. A voice on the radio waves who transitioned to TV, Schechner would eventually move on to a 10-year stint as a national correspondent for NBC News, before returning to KPIX before his retirement. But sad news for his fans who likely remember his annual “Turkey Facts” segment seen below, as KPIX reports that Schechner has died from complications of a stroke. He was 81.
The Chronicle recalls Schechner’s Bay Area media tenure as “the bushy mustache era of TV newscasters,” and memorializes him as “the master of the light feature.” And Schechner’s quintessential light feature was that annual Thanksgiving “Turkey Facts” segment that KPIX aired for years, which delves into some legitimately interesting turkey trivia, like how the term “turkey” became derogatory.
A New Jersey native and Oberlin College graduate, Schechner started in radio at KPFA inBerkeley in the late 1960s, and moved on to a nightly news show on KQED TV called Newsroom. He would join KPIX in 1976 as a feature reporter, and was with the station for 18 non-consecutive years. They were non-consecutive because Schechner was hired by NBC News in 1981, contributing national segments on NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, and he would also co-host NBC News Overnight with Linda Ellerbee, before turning to KPIX in 1992, co-anchoring the morning news and noon news shows.
KPIX adds that “His ‘Schechner's Journal’ series received two Emmy Awards, and he was the recipient of a DuPont/Columbia University Award, the Edward R. Murrow Award, and the Charitas Award.”
"Smart without arrogance, keen without cruelty," KPIX quotes its former general manager Harry Fuller as saying of Schechner. "Brilliant wordsmith and well-loved work-mate. Helped us during a golden age of local broadcast news."
Schechner actually passed on March 22 from complications of a stroke, and the passing was recently confirmed by his daughter Lilah Nicolaidis and his one-time KPIX colleague Linda Schacht.
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Image: Youtube via KPIX