There used to be a term for people like Chris Burrous, the KTLA news anchor and field reporter who died Thursday at age 43. This term pretty much disappeared when everyone with WiFi and a WordPress blog site considered themselves a communicator. The term is “citizen journalist,” and that’s what Chris Burrous was, and that’s why he will be missed.
Chris was the weekend anchor at KTLA, a Los Angeles-based TV station whose morning news became a juggernaut in content delivery. The news was personality driven, and Chris’ place in the motley crew that occupied living rooms, kitchens and cars every morning was a testament to brilliant programming. He was like the kid brother whose role was eclipsed by the more stalwart, fame-familiar older siblings, and that’s the feeling I got about him when I watched him anchor.
Such is the role of the second-string star whose adeptness at communication was on a par with those who rule morning drive.
Chris, however, was more than a deliverer of news. During the recent wildfires, I remember watching him through the haze of smoke, his arm around a recently displaced home owner, coaxing information while embers scuttled around him.
He would bond with people — returning military veterans, parents of ill children, immigrants. His microphone, when angled in the direction of his subject, was like a bridge of tolerance and understanding.
When Chris turned back to the camera, and finished with, “Back to you,” the subject of his interview would stay huddled with Chris, not willing yet to break that temporary bond.
I remember briefly meeting Chris a few years ago. I was in Riverside, sharing a burrito and a plate of stale chips with a friend. Chris was doing a segment called “Burrous Bites,” in which he would promote a local restaurant, often a dive, with an encouraging if not sympathetic review.
“Who is that guy?” asked my friend, nodding in Chris’ direction.
“Dude, that’s Chris Burrous.”
He shrugged, and wiped some congealing salsa from his mustache. “What’s up with the haircut?”
Chris did present a rather nerdy first impression. The son of a farmer and a NASA engineer, it’s no wonder that there was a duality to Chris. Gushing over some limp taquitos one day, and the next deep into a local tragedy, holding his emotions at bay while reporting dispassionately, professionally… such a loss.
I’m going to miss this guy. When I turn away in disgust at the ungodly news coming from the Oval Office, with the announcement of “Breaking News” heralding a rehash of the same sad story, I would often flip over to KTLA, and see Burrous sitting next to his co-anchor Lynette Romero.
Sam Rubin, the famed entertainment reporter, called Chris “a terrific broadcaster,” and he was.
Rest in peace, Chris. I hear the taquitos in heaven are waiting for your review.