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 July 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.”
Pete Bowles, a veteran Newsday reporter and part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1974, died of a heart attack on April 20 at Brooklyn’s Methodist Hospital. He was 79. Bowles was with Newsday from 1968 until 2005, when he retired. For much of his career there, he covered major crime and court cases, including the trials of John Gotti Sr., and was sent to Washington to report on the Watergate scandal. Bowles was one of the Newsday reporters and editors whose 32-part series won the Pulitzer. Called “The Heroin Trail,” the series traced illicit drug traffic from Turkey to France to the New York metropolitan area. Before joining Newsday, the Oklahoma-born Bowles started his career at The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, later moving to The Albany Times Union and The Buffalo Evening News.
David Steinberg, a veteran Silurian who became an award-winning business writer for The New York Herald Tribune, a chief executive of PR Newswire and chairman of Canada Newswire, died on March 8 following complications from surgery. He was 85. Starting as a copy boy at The Herald Tribune while still a freshman at City College of New York, Steinberg eventually became a copy editor in the business and financial news department. He switched to reporting in 1956 and wrote investigative articles, covering developments in a variety of industries. In 1958, he won the first Loeb Newspaper Award for “distinguished newspaper reporting.” He also penned a weekly column, “World Tradewinds” and became the first American journalist invited by Fidel Castro to see “La Habana Nueva.” In 1963, after 15 years at the newspaper, Steinberg joined PR Newswire, eventually rising to president and ceo. He retired in 1992, continuing as vice chairman of PR Newswire and chairman of Canada Newswire until 2002. He was also a governor of the New York Financial Writers Association.
Charles Novitz, a longtime Silurian and a stalwart of ABC News for almost 20 years, died on April 5 of complications following a stroke. He was 82. In addition to his lengthy career as a reporter, editor and television producer, Novitz was president of the Deadline Club New York City in 1969 and national president of the Society of Professional Journalists in 1981 and 1982. Since 1999, he had been president of the Deadline Club Foundation. A native of Chicago, Novitz graduated in 1956 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.A. in Journalism. He later earned postgraduate degrees from Columbia University and New York University. He broke into journalism in 1956 as a reporter, writer and editor at Chicago’s famed City News Bureau. A year later, he moved to UPI’s Chicago bureau. In 1959, he was hired by NBC News as an editor, writer and field producer. A year after that, joined ABC News, where he remained until 1979, first as a news writer, then as manager of the network’s daily electronic feed, providing news to ABC-affiliated stations. Novitz rejoined NBC News as a producer in the 1980s. Since 1994, he was the head of NovaNews, a communications consultant. Novitz also taught journalism, at NYU, Long Island University and Lehman College.