David Garcia, the veteran television news reporter whose focus on environmental issues earned him the nickname "Earthman" and nudged other news outlets to increase their coverage of the environment, died of liver failure Tuesday at Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Desert. He was 63.
"He carved out a niche before people really even paid attention to the environment," said KNBC-TV anchor Colleen Williams, who worked with Garcia from the mid-1980s to the mid-'90s. "There will always only be one 'Earthman.' He started it for everyone, and he was really passionate about it. He would chase people down and say, 'I've got this great story about . . . ' and it had to do with the environment."
The name Earthman was a gift from KNBC weatherman Fritz Coleman. Garcia's story on the environment was scheduled to follow Coleman's weather report. Coleman joked that "Earthman" was soon to arrive, that he was pulling on his "green tights."
Garcia didn't wear green tights, but the moniker stayed with him.
"I ended up getting mail [at the station] from kids, and it would have no address on it, just the word 'Earthman,' " Garcia said in a 2002 article in the Business Press/California. "That really gave me a glow. I've found that kids learn the environmental issues a lot faster than their parents do."
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, August 30, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part Page Metro Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Garcia obituary: The obituary of TV news reporter David Garcia in Wednesday's California section said Eisenhower Medical Center was in Palm Desert. It is in Rancho Mirage.
Long before he became Earthman, Garcia had a distinguished career in journalism. Born in Temple, Texas, Garcia attended Baylor University in the 1960s. He began his career at a local radio station and was soon invited to join the ABC television/radio affiliate in Dallas. Two years later, he was hired by the ABC radio network in New York, then moved to ABC television.
Garcia worked as a White House correspondent for ABC at a time when few other Latinos held such positions. He was praised as a pioneering Latino journalist with a velvet voice.
"He personified credibility with his voice," said Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. "It was professional, it was warm, the best you can imagine."
Garcia covered the Watergate scandal and the downfall of President Nixon and the administrations of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. During a subsequent stint as South America bureau chief, Garcia visited rain forests, which launched his interest in environmental reporting.
At KNXT-TV Channel 2, which later became KCBS, Garcia was host of a public affairs program, "At Issue/With David Garcia," said Nogales, who was senior producer of the show, which explored issues such as the plight of Vietnamese refugees in Southern California.
From 1993 until 2001, Garcia covered the environment for KTTV-TV Channel 11. By 2002 he had joined KPSP, a new CBS affiliate in the Coachella Valley, hosting a newsmagazine, "Eye on Riverside County." In his more than 40 years of journalism, Garcia's coverage won numerous Emmy awards.
"He had high standards, and you rose to the occasion when you worked with him," Williams said.
Garcia is survived by his wife, Susie Garcia, of Palm Desert; his mother, Evangeline Garcia; a brother and three sisters, all of Temple, Texas.
Memorial donations may be made to the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences-Pacific Southwest and sent to NATAS c/o EASS P.O. Box 850 Desert Hot Springs, CA 92241.