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Chet Curtis: The golden age of local TV news

For nearly three decades, Chet Curtis and Natalie Jacobsen reigned supreme as part of a beloved Boston news team at WCVB-TV. It was the golden age of local television news, and viewers tuned in faithfully to watch the married co-anchors who were known, like Beyonce today, by their first names. Chet and Nat were among the first big media celebrities in Boston, but they brought more than good looks and glamour to the anchor desk. They were also dedicated to making the big news of the day accessible to everyone, and they became a part of many local residents’ daily routine. That’s why, in 1999, news that their marriage was ending shocked so many viewers.

Chet Curtis, who died Wednesday at 74 of pancreatic cancer, brought a comforting voice, a gentle spirit, and a talent for ad libbing to the job. He was serious about news-gathering, but in a highly competitive industry he still found a way to help others. Today’s rapidly changing media environment makes it far harder for a future Curtis to emerge. He exemplified an era when the local TV anchors were every bit as recognizable as the governor or the mayor, and he made the most of that stature.