TV Journalists You May Have Not Realized Passed Away

Many TV journalists are celebrities in their own right. Viewers have watched these professionals on their small screens daily, and this makes their deaths all the more heartbreaking. We've lost a shockingly large number of beloved reporters over the years. Soccer journalist Grant Wahl's passing was among the most widely covered in the media due to conspiracy theories surrounding what could have caused his sudden death at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. We'll dive more into this false hearsay and, more importantly, Wahl's legacy below — though he isn't the only reporter whose health issues made headlines that same year.

Al Roker of the "Today" show was hospitalized in November 2022 due to blood clots in his leg that traveled to his lungs. He returned to the hospital just days after his release due to complications, but the fan-favorite weatherman has thankfully since been on the road to recovery. "Listen, it's been a tough slog. I'm not going to deny this," he admitted on "Today" the following month. "It's been the hardest one yet, and you know I've had my share of surgeries. It gives you a profound sense of gratitude for this outpouring of prayers and thanks. I'm a very fortunate person."

As you can see, life-threatening health issues unfortunately aren't unheard of among these news anchors, though some of these professionals have died due to other tragedies. Here are a few TV journalists you may not have realized passed away.

Bernard Shaw

News anchor Bernard Shaw worked for CNN since the beginning. In fact, he was the network's first chief anchor. When Shaw died of pneumonia in September 2022, per CNN Business, he was 82 years old at the time and had long since moved on from his role at CNN, which he left in 2001. 

According to The Guardian, Shaw helped break barriers in the industry while creating a path for Black journalists, as he was momentarily the only Black journalist delivering the evening news on a major network. Other reporters shared heartfelt messages dedicated to Shaw and his legacy following his death. "Thank you Bernie for paving the way!" CNN anchor Don Lemon, for example, wrote in part in a tweet. "For the late-night pep talks & words of encouragement. Your brilliance, courage & humility made the world a better place. REST IN PEACE."

CNN Chairman and CEO Chris Licht also shared a touching statement (via CNN Business) following Shaw's death. "Bernie was a CNN original and was our Washington Anchor when we launched on June 1st, 1980," he wrote in part. "He was our lead anchor for the next twenty years from anchoring coverage of presidential elections to his iconic coverage of the First Gulf War live from Baghdad in 1991. Even after he left CNN, Bernie remained a close member of our CNN family providing our viewers with context about historic events as recently as last year." Licht went on to lend his condolences to the late news anchor's family.

Grant Wahl

Sports journalist Grant Wahl died of a ruptured aortic aneurysm while covering the World Cup in Qatar in December 2022. He was 49. CNN reported that Wahl collapsed while working and was later transported to a hospital, where he sadly did not survive. World Soccer Magazine columnist Keir Radnedge spoke to the news network about watching the tragedy unfold. "This was towards the end of extra time in the match," he said. "Suddenly, colleagues up to my left started shouting for medical assistance. Obviously, someone had collapsed. Because the chairs are freestanding, people were able to move the chairs, so it's possible to create a little bit of space around him."

Wahl's wife, Dr. Céline Gounder, spoke to "CBS Mornings" about her husband's cause of death. She revealed that his aortic aneurysm had likely been worsening for years up until his passing. In a letter shared to Wahl's website, Gounder addressed the previously mentioned conspiracy theories that had surfaced surrounding the tragedy — with rumors previously spreading about unconfirmed causes of Wahl's death on social media, some users even made unsubstantiated allegations that the COVID-19 vaccine had led to the journalist's passing. "His death was unrelated to COVID," Gounder penned in part. "His death was unrelated to vaccination status. There was nothing nefarious about his death."

Gounder also wrote about her late husband's character in her letter. "Grant was an incredibly empathetic, dedicated, and loving husband, brother, uncle, and son who was our greatest teammate and fan," she shared.

Tim Russert

Tim Russert was powerful and influential in the world of journalism, so he left behind quite a legacy when he died of a heart attack in June 2008 at age 58, per ABC News. Russert was known for his work on "Meet the Press," but he was also vice president of NBC News. The reporter had the opportunity to interview a number of well-known politicians during his career, including former President George W. Bush. 

During a news conference the day after Russert's death, Bush shared a touching statement in honor of the journalist. "America lost a really fine citizen yesterday when Tim Russert passed away," the former POTUS said in part. "I've had the privilege of being interviewed by Tim Russert. I found him to be a hardworking, thorough, decent man." Sending his condolences to the late reporter's loved ones, Bush added, "Tim Russert loved his country, he loved his family, he loved his job a lot."

Further details on Russert's death were revealed after medical professional Dr. Scott Monrad spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the journalist's cardiac arrest. "Russert had bad luck because his heart went into arrhythmia, but we don't know who will, or when," he shared. According to the outlet, Russert had a history of heart problems. In addition to receiving an asymptomatic coronary artery disease diagnosis prior to his death, the late reporter's autopsy revealed that he also had an enlarged heart, the latter of which his doctors may not have been aware.

Bill Plante

CBS News' White House correspondent Bill Plante died in September 2022 at age 84. Some might say that the journalist was an expert in his field, because he worked for 52 years, according to The New York Times. Former President Barack Obama's first press secretary, Robert Gibbs, shared insight into why Plante was widely admired in his industry. "I remember Bill as fearless in how he asked questions, unflinching and unafraid to ask the president or his staff to defend their decisions, and never in the least bit worried about offending those in power in pursuit of those answers," Gibbs wrote in an email (via The New York Times).

Plante's fearlessness was apparent when he spoke about his approach to journalism and the importance of uncovering the truth. "I have no wasted sympathy on any occupant of the White House," the late political correspondent said in an interview for Minneapolis Star Tribune in the mid-'90s (via The Washington Post). "They are out to present themselves in the best possible light, and it's our job to find out, if we can, what's actually going on." 

Throughout his decades-long career, Plante covered a number of historical events — with the journalist shedding light on the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, countless elections, and four presidential administrations.

Uma Pemmaraju

Fox News anchor Uma Pemmaraju was a trailblazer who had been with the network since it first launched. She passed away at age 64 in August 2022, and her cause of death has not been released, as of this writing. "We are deeply saddened by the death of Uma Pemmaraju, who was one of FOX News Channel's founding anchors and was on the air the day we launched," FOX News Media CEO Suzanne Scott shared in a statement about Pemmaraju and her impressive career, per Fox News. "Uma was an incredibly talented journalist as well as a warm and lovely person, best known for her kindness to everyone she worked with. We extend our heartfelt condolences to her entire family." 

Pemmaraju attended Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, where she studied political science, and went on to work for San Antonio Express-News before eventually settling in at Fox News. She worked on "Fox News Now" and "Fox on Trends" before briefly leaving the network and returning in 2003.

Pemmaraju and her daughter, Kirina, were seemingly incredibly close — Kirina even once appeared on Fox News to surprise Pemmaraju — and the heartbroken daughter shared a tribute to her late mother on Instagram following her sudden death. "To my very best friend," Kirina wrote in part, "Words cannot express how deeply devastated I am to have lost you. Your bravery, kindness, and all of the laughter & light you filled every moment with has inspired me in every sense."

Peter Jennings

ABC News anchor Peter Jennings died of lung cancer at age 67 in August 2005. Months prior to Jennings' death, he announced his diagnosis on air. "As some of you now know, I have learned in the last couple of days that I have lung cancer," he said while seemingly becoming emotional. "Yes, I was a smoker until about 20 years ago, and I was weak, and I smoked over 9/11 ... but whatever the reason, the news does slow you down a bit." Jennings added, "I've been reminding my colleagues today, who have all been incredibly supportive, that almost 10 million Americans are already living with cancer, and I have a lot to learn from them. And living is the keyword. The National Cancer Institute says that we are survivors from the moment of diagnosis."

According to ABC News, Jennings covered many historical moments all over the world during his time as a journalist. In addition to reporting on the Berlin Wall and the civil rights movement, he was among the first journalists to document the Vietnam War when he traveled to the country in the '60s. Former President George W. Bush spoke about Jennings' many accomplishments following his death. 

"A lot of Americans relied upon Peter Jennings for their news," Bush shared in part (via ABC News). "He became a part of the lives of a lot of our fellow citizens, and he will be missed. May God bless his soul."

Fred Hickman

Fred Hickman is among the many trailblazing journalists who lost their lives, having died of liver cancer in November 2022 at age 66, per CNN Business. The legendary sports reporter was among the first anchors during CNN's 1980 launch. Over the course of Hickman's career, he worked for the news network's "Sports Tonight," as well as for YES Network, ESPN's "Sports Center," and more media outlets. 

Many of Hickman's colleagues took to social media following his death to share memories of working with him. ESPN's Hannah Storm, for example, wrote on Twitter, "So very sad to hear about the passing of Fred Hickman. I was the only female anchor at CNN Sports, and Fred was such a welcoming presence ... always with a laugh, a quip, a story ... and supremely talented. Rest In Peace, my friend."

Not only was Hickman a multi-talented journalist — who happened to also work as a narrator and even did voice-overs in the past — but he was also a businessman. The late sports reporter created Fred Hickman Communications, according to The National Association of Black Journalists, which gave media training for those involved in the world of professional sports.

Hugh Downs

Hugh Downs became a household name through his work on NBC's "Today" show and "20/20" on ABC. He accomplished a lot throughout his long life until he passed away at the age of 99 in July 2020. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Downs actually spent the early days of his career as a children's entertainer on the kids show "Kukla, Fran and Ollie." He also worked at radio stations before snagging a spot on NBC's "Caesar's Hour." He landed these gigs after moving on from working as a network announcer in his home state of Ohio. 

"There was a tendency to think that an announcer was a rich guy who threw his golf clubs in a high-powered car and motored out to the links, but it wasn't like that at all," Downs once said of the job, per The Hollywood Reporter. "There was no glamour, it was hard work." He went on to share that he questioned why he took the job in the first place, because his nerves often got the best of him. 

Luckily, it seems that Downs was able to find a gig he loved with the "Today" show, because he stayed there from 1962 to 1971. The journalist retired from TV in 1999 after impressively breaking the record for the most hours on air.

Bobbie Battista

Former news anchor Bobbie Battista had worked with CNN since the network launched in the '80s. When she died of cervical cancer in March 2020 at age 67, the late journalist's husband issued a statement, which read in part (via CNN Business), "Bobbie was the consummate trooper in her struggle with cancer, she was courageous and fearless in her battle and thoughtful for all the others in her life even as she fought through the pain." 

According to Deadline, Battista's lengthy journalism career started in the mid-'70s with a job as a local Raleigh, North Carolina news station anchor and producer. She would also later host CNN's "TalkBack Live." Battista was recognized for her work with Peabody Award in 1981, having earned the accolade for writing and producing the documentary "Fed Up with Fear."

Following 9/11, Battista reflected on her lengthy career and all of the monumental events she covered on the news. "Whether the Challenger explosion, the assassination attack on Reagan, the Gulf War, certainly this terrorist attack," she said at the time, per CNN Business. "Those were memorable from the anchor desk. As far as 'TalkBack,' we've had some serious shows, and some fun shows. If I had to pick, I'd say I liked 'Free for All Fridays' the best."

Cokie Roberts

Longtime NPR and ABC News journalist Cokie Roberts died of breast cancer complications in September 2019 at age 75. Roberts worked with NPR since the beginning and was even considered a trailblazer for women in journalism after joining the radio station back in 1978, per NPR, an impact she shared with only a few other female colleagues during this time. "We called them the Founding Mothers of NPR," the station's national political correspondent Mara Liasson once noted to The Daily Princetonian, "or sometimes we called them the Fallopian Club."

Roberts' parents, Hale and Lindy Boggs, were prominent politicians who both served as U.S. representatives. The journalist dabbled in the world of politics herself as a congressional correspondent, but she decided not to follow in her mother and father's footsteps by becoming a politician herself. It seems that journalism better served Roberts, as she spoke to Kentucky Educational Television (via NPR) about participating in politics only indirectly through her work: "I do feel strongly that informing the voters about what's going on, trying to explain it in ways that people can understand, and putting the issues out there is a form of participation." 

As for Roberts' personal life, she was married to fellow journalist Steven V. Roberts, who worked for The New York Times and honored his late wife's legacy with the 2021 book "Cokie: A Life Well Lived." The couple had two children.

Drew Griffin

CNN's senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin died of cancer in December 2022. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he was 60 years old at the time of his death. Griffin began working for CNN in 2004 and built an impressive career with the network. Some of his most notable investigative stories included a piece on New Orleans police officers who looted during Hurricane Katrina, a look into defective Ford vehicles that caught fire, and a Peabody Award-winning piece on long delays at Veterans Affairs hospitals that led to the deaths of 19 military veterans, per CNN. Given Griffin's impressive portfolio, you might not be surprised to hear that his work also earned him Emmy Awards and an Edward R. Murrow Award.

CNN CEO Chris Licht acknowledged Griffin's many accomplishments in a statement he shared with staff following his death. He also spoke about the journalist's incredible dedication to his craft. "His work ethic was unparalleled," Licht said (via The Hollywood Reporter). "He spent long hours poring over documents and working the phones. Even as he battled cancer, he refused to give up on the reporting that was so important to him and was even working on an investigation until the day he passed away."