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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Family, Friends Honor Mike Daniels at Memorial by the Sea

A memorial service was held at the California Yacht Club in honor of the beloved broadcast journalist, teacher, mentor and skipper.

Family and friends gathered at the California Yacht Club Sunday to remember and celebrate the life of legendary broadcast journalist and teacher Mike Daniels.

(Alan Mittelstaedt/Facebook)
(Alan Mittelstaedt/Facebook)

Daniels passed away April 11 after a long battle with cancer. He was 76.

Daniels was laid to rest Sunday afternoon at Hillside Memorial Park. Following the interment, dozens of family members, friends, colleagues, students and alumni attended an outdoor memorial service at the California Yacht Club in Marina del Rey.

It was a warm and sunny afternoon with a light sea breeze, a perfect setting to honor Daniels, a sailor who loved sharing his passion for the sea.

Daniels, a lifelong Trojan, launched his broadcasting career during his final year studying at the University of Southern California - back in 1958 - when he began working at KNXT/KCBS-TV. He remained at the CBS affiliate nearly 40 years, working as a producer, manager and newswriter for every newscast. Daniels' stories - ranging from investigative pieces to breaking news - earned him several Emmys and Golden Mike awards.

USC Professor Joe Saltzman introduced the speakers at the memorial and began the service by painting a portrait of the man admired and respected by all he met both in and out of the newsroom.

"All... could be breaking around him, complete chaos with people screaming and running around, but Mike would sit there in the eye of the newsroom hurricane quietly and patiently putting the newscast together," Saltzmand said. "He never lost his cool or his temper and was a calming force in any breaking news situation."

"He spent nearly four decades writing and producing the news -- welcoming and breaking in one generation after another of newswriters, producers, reporters and talent."

Daniels taught broadcast journalism at USC and Loyola Marymount University. Saltzman recalled asking Daniels to help start up the broadcast curriculum at USC back in 1974.

"He said he wasn’t sure he could do it, but would be glad to give it a try," Saltzman said. "For the next four decades, Mike became a master teacher, beloved by all of his students for his professionalism, his generosity of spirit and his kindness."

"He became their mentor, later their friend, and hundreds of students not only remember his class, but they also remember wonderful days spent with Skipper Mike on his boat talking and laughing about almost anything."

Pete Noyes, Daniels' first boss and lifelong friend and a broadcast legend in his own right, remembered Daniels as a "real journalist" who stuck to his principles and high standards of news production. His "quiet dignity," as Noyes described it, made Daniels stand out as an outstanding news man, even as the industry changed rapidly during the course of his career.

(Alan Mittelstaedt/Facebook)
(Alan Mittelstaedt/Facebook)
Dan Gingold, another colleague of Daniels, echoed Noyes' recognition of Daniels' steadfast dedication to journalism. Gingold said Daniels was "first and foremost a writer" whose goal was to always "respect and maintain the highest standards of broadcast news." In the newsroom, Gingold remembered, Daniels always had "a firm hand on the tiller and was a true compass."

Dave Lopez, a longtime KCBS reporter, said Daniels' was "a gentleman and a gentle man."

Lopez remembered how he would "absorb and listen" to Daniels when he shared advice and wisdom about the industry. Lopez attributed his success in broadcasting to Daniels, a sentiment shared by many in the audience.

Joe Sullivan, a longtime newswriting colleague, told stories of his time spent in the newsroom with Daniels and brought smiles and laughter to the audience.

Annenberg TV News Director Serena Cha, who worked with Daniels at KCBS, called him "a teacher's teacher" and told the stories of how he guided new teachers who were nervous to begin teaching.

Whether it was animated PowerPoint presentations or meticulously-created handouts, Daniels "shared everything with everyone." Cha called him "generous and kind" with wisdom from which many colleagues and students benefited and by which they were inspired.

For the students in attendance, it was enlightening to hear how Daniels influenced a generation of USC professors, because those professors in turn have also inspired many blooming careers in broadcasting. This was a testament to Daniels' leadership and influence.

Cha also read from Daniels' own words describing the guidance given to young journalists. He instilled within class after class of young minds the values and principles of journalism and had the faith necessary to send his students off to grow into journalists in their own right.

Former student at LMU and USC Tony Cabrera recalled how Daniels believed in him and pushed him to always strive for more.

"We need more teachers, more mentors, more people like Mike," Cabrera said.

Daniels was the oldest of three brothers. Mark Daniels, the youngest brother, and his wife Jan, said they felt honored to hear how their brother touched so many lives with his work as a journalist and teacher. 

Alan Daniels, the middle brother, remembered his older sibling as a patient teacher when the brothers were growing up together in the 1940's. He recalled how his older brother taught him how to count, spell and tell time, all before grade school.

Zack Snyder, a former LMU student and Daniels' teaching assistant, also spoke and said he felt honored to have learned from Daniels' expertise and compassion.

The ceremony concluded with remarks from Daniels' sailing friends. Lou Varela, a former Channel 2 cameraman whom Mike convinced to join the California Yacht Club, recalled how the two became great boating friends.

Dennis Conneally, former manager of the California Yacht Club, told the story of how Daniels helped to save a Boy Scout camp on Catalina Island.

Bob Harmon, one of Daniels' students at USC who worked with Mike at Channel 2, also knew Daniels as a sailor. They were both members of Marina del Rey's 2800 dock.

John Isaksen, a friend of Daniels, also from the yacht club, conducted a final memorial ceremony. The flag was lowered as Taps was played. A bell sounded eight times as the sun set, and a bottle of champagne was popped in honor of Daniels' life.

Following the ceremony, Daniels' friends and family members enjoyed a meal together in the yacht club dining room, sharing stories and enjoying a slideshow with images from Daniels' life.

On his Facebook page, now filled with remembrances from those who knew him, Daniels explained his philosophy of life: “I grew up at a time when it was unheard of to openly express opinions that went against the belief of your friends and families. Bite your tongue! Go along with the wisdom of your group. And don’t rock the boat. As a lifelong sailor, I know something about boats. They’re much more fun when they’re rocking.”

Each guest departed for the evening with fond memories of a man, a broadcast journalist, a teacher, a mentor and a friend whose legacy will live on in the people who knew him.

Watch the full memorial service below (speakers: Joe Saltzman, Pete Noyes, Dan Gingold, Dave Lopez, Joe Sullivan, Serena Cha, Tony Cabrera, Zack Snyder, Mark Daniels, Jan Daniels, Alan Daniels, Lou Varela, Dennis Conneally, Bob Harmon and John Isaksen):


Former neighbor (apt) across hall from Mike 1974-1989. I walked out of elevator one morning in Beirut Lebanon (on vacation)There was Mike and we went to Dinner on the outskirts of Beirut. After that we became friends instead of polite neighbors.Wonderful Human Being!

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