Phil Sturholm is a name not known by local news viewers, but the style of visual storytelling he taught shaped the way Northwest news is delivered.
“The standard, the threshold we have in the Seattle TV industry was set by him decades ago,” photojournalist Scott Crueger said of Sturholm, a Seattle TV pioneer who worked at KING 5 and was KIRO 7’s managing editor in the late 1980s and early ‘90s.
Sturholm died Tuesday at his Bothell home. He was 80. His cause of death was not immediately known, and services are pending.
“He cared about his people and he cared about their working conditions,” said reporter Amy Clancy, who first worked with Sturholm as a young producer in her 20s. “I hadn’t been here that long, but he made me feel like a valued team member.”
Years later, Sturholm invited Clancy to speak to his class at Seattle University, where he taught after his time at KIRO. He often invited guests to share their experiences -- good and bad -- to help develop aspiring journalists.
“People working in TV news in this market are very desirable hires elsewhere in the country because of how he developed journalists here,” Crueger said. “He was a remarkable man.”
As news of Sturholm’s death spread Wednesday, photojournalists and reporters who are now considered legends themselves reflected on how Sturholm mentored them, and how his style influenced Northwest news.
He taught people to shoot a wide opening shot – “show people where this story is happening” -- with audio from a person in the story underneath. Sturholm despised showing signs in newscast packages, wanting people to show the story in better visual ways instead. And he love visual composition, letting viewers get something out of every image. It was a skill he learned from his early days as a photojournalist shooting on film.
“On my first, oh-so-nervous day at KING-TV, Phil took me to lunch,” Jack Hamann, a former KING reporter wrote Wednesday. “At the end of that difficult day, he gave me a gentle, but genuine, critique of my first Seattle news story. In the weeks and months ahead, he was a mentor and friend like none I've ever known.
“Thirty-three years after I first met him, I still say -- every week – ‘here's what Phil would do.’”
Sturholm’s work earned multiple awards and a
, a prestigious honor given to exceptional journalists with at least 25 years experience.
He also had challenges. In 1989, Sturholm’s brother and co-worker Larry Sturholm was slain in Issaquah. Phil had to endure the killer’s long 1991 trial, but handled that --
-- with grace, co-workers said.
Even difficult conversations in the newsroom -- where emotions can run high -- were handled with that same skill.
“He could scold you in a way that showed he was trying to make you better,” said co-worker Eric Alexander, who recalled being promoted by Sturholm. “He lifted you up so you could be great.
© 2021 Cox Media Group