Gabe Pressman, the pioneering newsman who practically invented street reporting on television and whose career as a reporter stretched for more than six decades, died on June 23. He was 93, a longtime Silurian, and winner of the 1988 Peter Kihss Award. An affable man whose collegiality toward his fellows extended even to reporters from rival news organizations, he was ferocious when it came to holding politicians’ feet to the fire and relentless where the First Amendment was concerned. Along the way, he established a reputation for honesty and integrity, and a passion for getting the story and getting it right that remains unmatched. Hypocrisy and bully-boys and crooks and phonies got his juices flowing and he was always ready to nail them for it.
Bill O’Dwyer was the mayor when Pressman started covering City Hall for the World Telegram & Sun in 1949 and he hasn’t stopped shooting questions at all the mayors since then. Some wouldn’t dare start their press conferences unless he was there. He moved into radio in 1954 at WRCA (now WNBC) as the station’s first “roving reporter,” and then to television in 1956. With the exception of eight years at WNEW-TV in the 1970s, he was with NBC ever since. He never retired, but held the title of senior correspondent for WNBC-TV and kept reporting until he died.
Reviewing the scope of his coverage is like reading a history of our times: the sinking of the Andrea Doria, all the New York City blackouts, the tumultuous Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, civil strife and transit strikes, riots in Newark and New York, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, endless campaigns for mayor and governor and president. In addition, there was all that reporting from Israel and the specials about the homeless and the hungry and the mentally ill that brought him an avalanche of awards: 11 Emmys, an Edward R. Murrow Award, a Peabody Award, a Deadline Club award and many, many others. He was the man with the microphone and, as one of his obituaries said, it seemed as though he was always there.
Herb Dorfman, a television news writer, producer and director, and a veteran Silurian, died on June 22. He was 88. Following graduation from Brooklyn College in 1951, Dorfman went to Norway on a Fulbright Scholarship in journalism. When he returned to the U.S., he worked for several television organizations. He was executive producer of the Emmy-winning “Channel 2 Eye On” and was a head writer at ABC’s “Good Morning America.”