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Former Newsman, Belo Exec Haag Dead at 69

Marty Haag, 69, a broadcast newsman for over 40 years and with Belo Corp. for 27, died Saturday, Jan. 10, of a stroke at Baylor University Hospital in Dallas.

At his retirement as senior vice president of news for Belo in October 2000, Haag was described by then-broadcast-division president Ward Huey as "the architect of Belo’s modern-day television news service."

Commenting on Haag’s death, Robert W. Decherd, chairman, president and CEO of Belo, said in a statement Saturday: "Marty was a news executive of unparalleled ability, creativity and integrity whose belief in fairness framed a deep understanding of the role of a free press in American democracy.

He joined WFAA-TV Dallas in 1973 and ran the news department for the next 16 years before being bumped up to oversee news at Belo’s 18 TV outlets. He helped build a reputation for news at the group that was second to none in the industry. During his tenure at WFAA-TV, the station won five DuPont awards, more than any other station.

Another veteran Texas newsman, CBS Chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer, said Haag made WFAA-TV "a model for the rest of the industry. He showed the Belo Corp. how to make money out of good journalism on television."

Born Herman Martin Haag on May 27, 1934, in Washington, he began his professional broadcast career in 1961 as a reporter for WBAP(AM) Fort Worth after a series of Texas newspaper jobs.

After getting his masters in journalism from Columbia University, he joined NBC news and worked there as a news writer, field coordinator, and overnight news manager.

He also served as news director at WKYC-TV Cleveland, KTTV(TV) Los Angeles and assistant news director at WCBS-TV before joining WFAA-TV. After his retirement, he was a consultant at Dallas-based Audience Research & Development.

Haag was a strong advocate for beat reporting and investigative journalism. He was also critical of the increasing pressure on news departments to make money.

In June 2001, Haag received the only individual Peabody of that year, given for his career’s worth of contributions to broadcast journalism. In it, he criticized the news priorities of ad-supported networks. "They start with the basic premise that the show must get respectable ratings, rather than this is a subject that needs to be illuminated," he said.

Among his other awards were the Radio-Television News Director’s Association’s First Amendment Service Award.

Haag is survived by his wife, Susan, and sons Andrew, Richard and Matthew. Memorial services are set for 2 p.m. Tuesday at Memorial Presbyterian Church in Dallas.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.