New Yorkers knew TV journalist Arnold Diaz for his various “Shame” segments across their local channels that called out wrongdoing. His son knew him for his anger. It was that anger, his son said, that propelled him to greatness.
“Your anger can be a gift,” his son Alex Diaz said. “Injustice is always worth calling out, no matter how it makes people feel, or how it makes you feel sometimes. My dad’s anger was a gift to the world. ”It was a gift he carried to the end.
Diaz died on Tuesday after a private battle with multiple myeloma. He was 74.
Diaz was a native New Yorker, born in Brooklyn’s Kensington neighborhood. He spent his childhood traveling, eventually attending college at Florida State University, where he developed his passion for journalism after studying under his mentor, Donald Ungurait. He later started his career in Miami before ending up at New York’s CBS affiliate. It was there that he began his “Shame on You” segment, where he would investigate local corruption to root out “scumbags,” Alex said.
“It was sort of rooted in the idea that these scumbags he would go after, he would expose, knew they were scumbags,” he said. “Shame is something you feel about yourself, and my dad, he believed there was a good person inside of everybody, even scumbags.”
After a 22-year, 25 Emmy-winning run at WCBS, Diaz became 20/20’s consumer investigative reporter. But the draw of local news was too great: he revived his “Shame on You” segment at WCBS in 2003, continuing it under various “shame” names at different New York stations (“Shame Shame Shame” at WNYW, “What a Shame!” at WPIX). He retired from journalism last year, but his son Alex said he couldn’t fully remove himself from the news.
“He was a journalist even after he was a professional journalist,” said Alex, a producer at News12 New York who said he worked on pitches with his father before his death. “You just could not stop him.”
Outside of journalism, Diaz was an avid fan of nearly every sport and a music lover, one who “outwalked all of us” during a trip to this year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and was happy to see Rage Against the Machine, Alex said. He also maintained a dedication to working out, ordering dumbbells as recently as this past summer, Alex said.
“Indefatigable was the word to describe my dad,” Alex said. His passion was not just in rooting out “scumbags,” Alex added, as Diaz long believed there was a humanity in them that should be exposed, too. “There is a good in everybody,” his dad would say.
“Everybody’s human,” Alex said. “If you are a human, shame is a thing that you feel. It can be a force for good, and that’s what he did with it. He was just doing good his whole life.”