Arnold Diaz, a brash investigative reporter for three New York City television stations who brought righteous passion to segments that shamed crooks, business owners, scammers, government bureaucrats and d others who defrauded consumers, died October 24 in Greenwich, Connecticut. was 74 years old.
The cause of death, which occurred at the hospital, was multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, said his son, Alex.
Mr. Diaz not only wanted to solve the victims’ problems, but also to embarrass the perpetrators for their misdeeds. He confronted them, chased them down, and shoved microphones in their faces in search of answers.
At WCBS, Channel 2, where he spent more than 20 years, his “Shame on You” investigations were introduced with a short animation featuring a jingle and a hand with a wagging index finger. When the segment moved to WNYW, Channel 5, it was renamed “Shame, Shame, Shame”; later, on WPIX, Channel 11, it was called “What a Shame!”
“I was lucky enough to have a dream job, defending the little guys and going after the bad guys,” Mr. Diaz said. said on Channel 11 last year, when he retired. He added that his reports “give voice to victims whose complaints are too often ignored – complaints about bad landlords, greedy corporations, incompetent government agencies.”
A typical report, from the early 1990s, told of people who purchased credit card-enabled fax machines for $5,500 or more and were told, in a television commercial, that they would reap quick profits after being placed in high traffic locations like airports. for public use.
In the segment, the camera focused on consumer losses, the amounts circled in red on their checks. Mr. Diaz held documents indicating who had purchased the machines; he said “Shame” called 34 people on the list and none received the materials. He found Distribution International in a basement “boiler room” in Forest Hills, Queens, where his questions to Sheri Cohen, the company’s president, went unanswered as he followed her around. office.
When she told Mr. Diaz that fax machines had been installed, he asked her where, but she refused to answer. And Ms. Cohen, like hundreds of others confronted by Mr. Diaz over the years, was inducted into what Mr. Diaz called his Hall of Shame.
In early 1993, she was accused of wire fraud by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Brooklyn. Mr. Diaz said the office credited “Shame on You” for alerting him to the matter. Ms. Cohen was convicted a year later and sentenced to 41 months in prison.
At the time of this report, Walter Goodman, television critic for the New York Times, praised a series of investigations by Mr. Diaz.
“Anyone who has ever felt ripped off by an auto repair shop” Mr. Goodman wrote in 1990: “either ended up with a chicken off the hill or were exasperated by city bureaucracy can shout amen to these mini-exposés, which earned two New York Emmy Award nominations last month. »
He ends the review: “Hello! Hail! Hail! Hello, Arnold Diaz!
Mr. Diaz acknowledged in an interview with Newsday in 2022 that he did not invent the aggressive type of consumer investigation that has become his trademark. But, he said, he was proud of how he adapted it for New York audiences.
“New Yorkers love revenge,” he said, “and, although I didn’t solve their problems, they loved that we exposed” the wrongdoers.
His reporting led to some angry encounters, Alex Diaz said in a telephone interview: People were spitting at him and swearing at him. In one case, a Manhattan jeweler, whom Mr. Diaz was investigating for missing gold, menacingly slid a gun onto the table in front of him.
By his count, Mr. Diaz has won 48 New York Emmy Awards — so many, according to his son, that he has lent some of them out to support houses for use in the background of television programs.
Arnold Theodore Diaz was born on June 16, 1949 in Brooklyn and moved with his family to North Miami Beach, Florida when he was 5 years old. His Cuban-American father, Leonard, was an airline mechanic. His mother, Florette (Cohen) Diaz, was a police secretary.
Mr. Diaz earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and media studies from Florida State University in 1971 and earned a master’s degree in journalism the following year from Northwestern University. He soon joined WPLG in Miami, and in 1973 he moved to WCBS, where he stayed for 22 years.
Ann Sorkowitz, a producer who began working with Mr. Diaz at WCBS in 1976, said he distinguished himself with breaking news stories and long-term investigations, such as the one on toxic spills in New Jersey. Its investigations generated viewer mail, including consumer complaints. The “Shame on You” reports began in the late 1980s.
“Arnold decided to call it ‘Shame on You’ because of the old-fashioned idea that people with bad behavior are publicly shamed,” Ms. Sorkowitz said in a telephone interview. “The segments empowered people. They resolved their problems or got their money back and expressed their frustrations.
Mr. Diaz left local television in 1996 for a job as a consumer research correspondent on ABC’s “20/20.” “I wanted to introduce this feeling of outraged journalism” Victor Neufeld, the program’s former executive producer, said. “He was the perfect local journalist. He was very lively and energetic, a crusader.
But the pace of a network news magazine, where it took months for a story to air, “wasn’t his style,” Mr. Neufeld said.
When Mr. Diaz joined Channel 2 in early 2003, he told New York’s Daily News: “When you’re on local television, you think, ‘Oh, if only I could get to the channels.’ I was here. I’ve been to the top of the mountain and the view is no better. Sometimes it’s worse.
His return to Channel 2 lasted two years. He then moved to Channel 5, where he stayed until 2014, and Channel 11, where he stayed for eight years before retiring.
Alex Diaz attributes his father’s passionate style to his Cuban origins and his upbringing, at least early on, in a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn.
“I was fascinated that he used the power of shame as a weapon or a shield,” said the younger Mr. Diaz, who has the word “shame” tattooed on his abdomen. “Shame is a call to introspection. It was less about passing judgment and more about saying, “You know what you are doing is wrong. Be a better version of yourself.
In addition to his son, Mr. Diaz is survived by his wife, Shawn Callaghan-Diaz, whom he met when she was a set decorator for soap operas and the children’s show “Captain Kangaroo” on CBS; his daughters, Shayna Wade and Casey Diaz; a sister, Susan Enslein; and twin grandsons.
When Mr. Diaz retired last year, he reflected on his reports, including one in which an insurer said it would not pay for a Staten Island man’s prosthetic leg. because there was no evidence that he wanted to walk. His reporting prompted the company to review the man’s claim and approve it.
“I’m leaving with no regrets,” Mr. Diaz said. “I may miss the excitement, but not the times I was pushed, spat on and threatened with weapons. »