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Phil Sturholm dies at 80     

Matt Mrozinski, KING 10:05 PM. PDT August 24, 2016


Former KING-TV Chief Photographer and Executive Producer Phil Sturholm passed away at home Tuesday night.   

We reached out to several of his colleagues and friends this morning, and they are heartbroken. Sturholm was set to host a KING-TV reunion breakfast on Friday. The news of his passing is a huge blow to the people who knew and loved him, to photojournalism and storytelling as a whole.  Sturholm is a legend. He is a legend well beyond the halls of KING-TV.

“The word legend is often overused, frequently misused, but in Phil's case it perfectly applies,” said Laddy Kite, a retired KING photojournalist.  “In many ways, he was the cornerstone of KING-TV.  Yes, Dorothy Bullitt founded the station and infused it with her sense of purpose and dedication to community service, but it was Phil Sturholm who hired the best visual storytellers around.  It was Phil who trained and mentored the shooters, reporters, and producers.”

For the photographers, it is hard to say that a man we’ve never met is responsible for us being here now, but in many ways it is true.  Sturholm laid the groundwork for what we have.  He is largely why KING won NPPA Station of the Year in 1979, ’81, and ‘82.  Today, those plaques sit in a glass case in this newsroom.

“He had a profound effect on both his staff and the industry and essentially invented photojournalism in the Northwest,” said retired KING-TV chief photographer Steve Dowd. 

“He set the tone for the NPPA,” adds KING photojournalist Dave Wike. “He set the tone for news photography.”

Even his competitors loved and admired him.  John Larson worked at KOMO-TV during part of his era.

“Phil was a mentor to all of us, even if we worked at other stations,” said Larson.  “He was the standard bearer, the highest road. I worked at a competitor, but in truth? I cared more about what Phil thought."

Sturholm is remembered most for his compassion, both in his storytelling and his relationships.

“Phil was a big man with a delicate touch,” said Dowd.

“A generous soul, a storytelling giant. That was Phil Sturholm,” said KING reporter John Sharify. 

“He was a manager, teacher, and the team spirit,” said Linda Brill, a retired KING reporter.  “He lifted everyone and made everyone proud of each other.  If you did a good job, Phil would give you an ‘atta-boy’.

“Not a note in your file or a Starbucks card, but a hearty pat on the back, a big hug or throw you up in the air with a loud howl of congratulations.”

Laddy Kite added: “Often, after the 5 p.m. newscast, there would be a line of reporters and photographers outside his office door seeking his comments, advice, and encouragement on that day's journalistic efforts. He always had relevant and supportive things to say, sending each person back to work eager to do even better the next day.”

“I was among the lucky ones who heard from him regularly. He was so kind in his comments,” said Sharify.

Dave Wike still has Sturholm’s picture in his gear locker.  “Have you shot your wide shot today?”, it said.  Phil Sturholm hired Wike, the reason Wike is even in the business.  “He smoked cigars and looked like he would tear your head off, but he was the nicest man you’d ever meet.”  He adds, “I wanted to send out a newsroom note today, but the screen was a little fuzzy.”

“Phil Sturholm was not only a teacher and mentor,” said retired KING photojournalist Ken Jones.  “He did teach us the technical side of journalism but also the heart. He taught us by example. What it meant to be a journalist, what it meant to represent KING TV, to care for your colleagues and to have compassion for those whose lives we touched on a daily basis.”

John Sharify said, “When the KING 5 photojournalists produced a show called 'Take a Moment,’ he wrote an email to a bunch of us: ' Wow, now that was a terrific tribute to every photog everywhere.  Just a great show guys. It's really a pleasure to know and see how far you've taken news photography.'”

“Phil was his happiest when he was working with us and having a manager like that was unbelievably empowering,” said Dowd.  “He got the best out of us by showing us how it was done and genuinely caring about us in the process.”

“It is sadly ironic that within hours of the demolishing of the KING building, the man who gave it so much of its meaning and so much of his life, has left it and us,” said Kite.  “Thank you, Phil! Fade to black.”

Written by Matt Mrozinski, Director of Photojournalism at KING 5. 


Saturday, 7 August  2004


Phil  Sturholm
9607 N.E. 198th
Bothell, WA  98011-2328  (15-miles north of Seattle)
Phone:  (425) 483 - 2151
Fax:  (425) 425 - 3854
e-mail:  psturholm@compuserve.com

A great idea - and a great time for a AHTNC update. 

I entered the Army in January 1960 as a Second Lieutenant / Signal Corps.

After finishing 90-days Officer's Basic at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, I
signed in at AHTNC in April 1960 as the TV Branch Chief.

These are some of the names I remember when I signed in.  I'm sure I'll
misspell a good many names here … but I'll do my best.:
        Lt. Co.  Bartoni - Officer in charge
        Major Earl Bilmeyer - Exc. Officer
        Sgt. Charles Kerr - spent 15-yrs there when I signed in.
                     He also worked at the KC Museum.
        Sgt Tom Greene - Radio
        Sgt Bart - Photo Lab  (Can't remember Bart's last name)
        Sgt Ben Howe - Maybe Ben ran Editorial section?
        Dick Kanable - office clerk - ran the office
        Joe Huzl - TV Branch clerk - worked with me in TV section processing and
        editing 16-mm black & white motion picture film
        Chet Weathers - he processed 16-mm b&w film for TV Branch.

My wife Janet and I lived in Independence … about 8-10 miles from the
Records Center Building … I worked on the second floor … sharing it with, I
believe a Marine/Naval group.

When I moved to Kansas City/Independence … the Army told me  - I'm sure the
rest of the AHTNC staff - that we could "live off the local economy" … we
were told it was cheap living - rent and groceries in the Kansas City area
was quite cheap compared to other cities.  RIGHT?

My paycheck came to $310 each month - and that was it.  Our first apartment
was $75.00 a month … the final year we moved.  Dick Kanable, our clerk, was
discharged from the Army … we took over his apartment which was located
near the Truman Library.  We paid $95.00 a month there. 

Within a month or two, I knew that $310 a month would not support me and my wife.  So I took a job as a grocery clerk at Kroger's.  I hadn't yet told
Col. Bartoni I needed the extra paying job … nor did I ask his permission -
which was "sorta, kinda, required.  Wouldn't you know it.  The first night
on the job at Kroger, the colonel and his showed up to show for groceries.
That was on a Friday night … come Monday morning, I was called into his
office to explain my "second job."  He didn't like it … being an officer
and all … but he also knew that $310 a month wouldn't go far.  So he
approved my second job.  The extra $30 on month made the difference between poverty and getting by.
There was an Artillery/Armor group of about 60-80 people (I'm not quite
sure of the proper designation) …above us on the third floor (3).

For whatever reason, Uncle Sam and the US Army decided it was too expensive to live in KC for Artillery folks … so the Army rented and paid for housing
for Artillery.  One floor below … us in the AHTNC … were not able to get
military housing.  Same Army … but different rules.

The nearest PX 50-60 miles was at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.  There was a
small PX on the Richards Gabauer (sp) Air Force base … just outside of KC
but it ways always loaded with people - especially on payday.

When I signed in, the TV  Branch Chief I was replacing had just been
released from the Army … I never met him.  But, thank God, Joe Huzl was
there running the office.

Among many others, it was Sgt Kerr, Sgt Bart, Sgt Greene, Sgt Howe, and Joe
Huzl who trained this new 2nd Lieutenant… trained him in the ways of the
AHTNC.  If it hadn't been for the Army uniform, I'm sure Kansas City didn't
know we existed. 

When I reported for duty in April 1960, the TV Branch consisted of two
desks in  the first room -Joe's and mine …and Chet Weathers' (Chet was a
cilivian employee) office  - which really was an film editing table.  Our
office faced Independence Ave - also known as 24-Hiway.  At least we could
look out at the weather to see what was going on. 

Our job was to receive black & white,16mm films from all of the various
Army commands …process the film … then edit the individual interviews
(about 2-3 minutes long)… and release the to TV stations around the US. 

For those who know .. or actually care … the interviews were recorded on
"optical sound" … the sound was actually photographed along side the
picture.  It was "horrible" audio … if we over-developed the video for
better pictures …we also over-developed the audio - making audio a

Chet's job was to run the 16-mm film processor --- process the incoming
film … then break it down into 2-3 minute interviews.

Joe's job, of course, was to type and label the envelopes and send them out
to TV stations. 

My job, as Branch Chief, was to watch Joe and Chet work … then write
critique letters to the various commands explaining why we did - or did not
- release the work.  There were numerous times we sent back the whole batch of film - with the explanation that we had to "kill" the interviews … the
Army's definition not mine … because the film was over or under-exposed,
the audio was too low or too high, the interviews too long … at times the
Unit designation was longer than the interview - it took too long to say
I'm a member the B-Company, third platoon, as a machiners gunners mate …
you get the idea.

Or course there were times were screwed up on our own in developing the
film or the film processor broke down. 

The film processor was located across the hall from our office … the AHTNC
photo lab (black & white still photos).  The processor- the trade name was
"Filmline Processor." 

The processor was inside the only air-conditioned room on the 2nd floor (I
think).  I have to admit, it was the most over-supervised office at AHTNC.
The rest of the office staff worked in front of those huge Army fans we all
remember for our "basic training" days.  With 30 women typists and 90
military personnel working on the AHTNC floor … probably 8 people received
the benefit of the fans … the rest of us worked in the Missouri humidity.

With a few exceptions, our detachment at AHTC did not have to stand regular
off/hour-duty.  No guard duty, no company formations - but the men did have
to make up their rooms and pass weekly inspections - most often by me.  The
man with the best room got a half-day off duty on Fridays.  I'm pleased to
report Joe got his fair share of off-duty Fridays.

We had about 30 women typist who typed our news stories … their stories
were then sent over to military personnel for duplication and mailing.

At one time, I also functioned as Major Billmeyer's Ex-officer (later
promoted to Lt Col).  When Col. Bartoni was re-assigned, Maj, Bilmeyer took
his place.  Without an ex-officer around … I became his ex-officer for
several months. 

One of the main pillars at AHTNC was Sgt Charlie Kerr.  I'm not certain but
I believe Sgt Kerr helped put together the AHTNC for the Army.  When I
arrived, Sgt Kerry knew everything about everybody - he'd been there for I
think 15-yrs when I signed in.  He was very good and could operate any deck
the colonel assigned to him. 

Sgt Greene ran the Radio Section … that consisted of receiving audio taped
interviews with military personnel stationed at various Army commands … and
like the TV Branch … releasing the interviews to radio stations in the US.
Tom and I wrote each other for maybe 35-yrs.  Tom retired from the Army
after 30-yrs, then took a civilian job at the Pentagon in DC.  The last I
heard from Tom was two (2) years ago … he was in poor health at that time.

In 1961 … when East Germany built the Berlin Wall …a number of us were
supposed to be released from the Army … we'd put in our obligatory two-yrs.
In those days the "Draft" for military personnel was in full swing.  I
believe it was a 2-yr period for those who were drafted into the Army…3 and
4-years for Air Force and Navy.

With the Berlin Wall was built, those in uniform had our "released" date
extended for one more year.  The Army - for the thousands of reservists not
on active duty - called them back to duty.   It was a mess --- wives, kids,
relatives, businessmen all protested to the Army and to Congress -
President Kennedy was in office. 

For us at AHTNC, our daily duties never changed a bit.  We kept cranking
out the hometown news releases.  My tour of duty was extended 9-months … I
was finally released from the Army in August of 1962.  I spent almost 3-yrs
in the Army.

There was a civilian cafeteria on the 2nd floor … actually just a door away
from our main office.   They served breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The men
who lived in the dorm behind our office ate all three meals there - - -
most of the time.  For those who commuted to work, we usually had lunch. 

There was a very small PX down the same hall … you could buy candy,
magazines, shaving gear, etc.  Almost next door was the Military doctor's
office.  The old guy - the doctor in charge - was called "Shaky.  He was
old - or seemed old to us - and his hands shook like hell.  One never knew
where he would shoved the thermometer.  We avoided sick-call at all costs.
It was better - and safer I suppose - to have someone drive you to Ft

I have a few photographs … but I'll need to search the house for those.  As
soon as I find them, I'll e-Mail them to you.


I left the Army in August of 1962.  Drove back to Portland, Oregon, hoping
to find a job as a TV news photographer there at KGW-TV.  Because of the
extended service in the Army, the job that had been offered me quickly
disappeared.  But within a couple of days - in September, a job opened up
in Seattle.  KGW's parent station, KING, had an opening.  I had known and
worked with the guy leaving KING - he signed on with CBS news - so he put
in a good word for me at KING.

On September 19th, I signed with KING-TV (NBC) as a news photographer.  I
spent 24-years at KING … working my up to News Director in 1982-84.  I
became senior producer for the national PM Magazine show out of San
Francisco (3-yrs there), then back to Seattle as Executive Editor at
KIRO-TV (CBS) for an 8-yr stint.  In 1991,  left KIRO to start my own video
business … working as a producer/photographer, editor for PBS and ABC. 

In my years in television, I traveled the world extensively … all on
company money.  I was one of three producers who traveled in China when it
opened up in 1977.  Even though I did not serve in Vietnam … I'm been there
about least a dozens times doing TV specials there. 

I'm now 68-yrs old … I have not retired … repeat, I HAVE NOT RETIRED.  I
teach Broadcast Writing and TV Production at Seattle University (16-yrs
now), I teach TV Production at the University of Washington - I'm helping
them rebuild their TV program that slashed out of existence 10-yrs ago.  I
write and produce videos for Seattle Community college's cable TV system …
and I still do a few outside video projects. 

Just when I thought I'd retire … the projects I'd really love to do
suddenly presented themselves.  I just couldn't say no.  Maybe I'll retire
when I reach 70.

I know this is much longer than you need … I've probably left out a number
of things I'll remember later on.  Anyway … that's  the AHTNC  as I saw it.
I was a terrific experience and I worked with some of the finest men to
put on an Army uniform.  Uncle Sam treated me well - no complaints. 

My very best to all who served at AHTNC.

Phil Sturholm