Fred Zehnder, longtime KTVU news director, remembered as instrumental to building station's legacy

The Bay Area news community, and especially those in the KTVU newsroom, are mourning the loss of Fred Zehnder.

As the station's longtime news director, he was a fixture at KTVU and gave many in front of the camera and behind the scenes their start at their dream job. 

Zehnder died Sunday in a suspected DUI crash where he was struck as a pedestrian. 

His impact is still being felt at Channel 2. He was 87.

It would be hard to overstate Zehnder's impact.

 Familiar faces in the newsroom and on television recall a news director, with spot-on judgment, and gentle demeanor.

A photo of former KTVU news director Fred Zehnder.

Traffic reporter Sal Castaneda said he had lunch with Zehnder just last month. 

"The greatest thing that I'm so happy that I saw him because he said 'You know what? Maybe we should keep in contact and talk.' And I was like 'yes!' Get to hang out with Fred. Fred is just the man!"

Castaneda said Zehnder was instrumental in helping him transition from radio to television, giving him a chance on a new show at the time, called, ‘Mornings on Two’. 

"He basically gave me my shot, and I wanted to, over the years make sure that I was doing stuff that he thought was cool and as it turns out, he was happy with what I was doing and he was a mentor," said Castaneda.

Zehnder left KTVU in 1999, after 21 years of working to build the station into a news destination. 

When he retired, Zehnder was still dedicated to journalism, heading up two local newspapers, the San Leandro Times and Castro Valley Forum, which featured a brief history of his life. 

Fred Zehnder alongide his former KTVU colleagues

KTVU's longtime news director Fred Zehnder and Dennis Richmond, on the day of Richmond's last newscast. May 2008.

Former KTVU political editor Randy Shandobil said he met with Zehnder recently, and that his mind and news sensibilities were as sharp as ever. 

"At least as of last month he was happy, he was healthy," said Shandobil. "His mind was still alert. He was fully still appreciating life. He was still doing his long walks. He was still enjoying life."

Shandobil said Zehnder's legacy is still on the air, to this very day. 

"He truly made that station what it is. All the people that you see on the air, that you once upon a time respected, or still respect now, thank Fred for them. Fred hired them. Fred molded them. Fred was that newsroom."

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story reported that Zehnder was killed on Monday. We have updated with the correct information.