He almost single-handedly invented television news reporting in New York. Gabe Pressman and his six decades in the industry were honored Friday at the Fair Media Council’s Folio Awards. His award became a lifetime achievement appearance for the irreplaceable Pressman, who received two standing ovations sandwiching his speech and short video of his legendary career.
Pressman tells Tuned In, “It’s been a very interesting lifetime. I wouldn’t trade it for it any other experience.”
The pioneering broadcast journalist who turned 91 in February has been with NBC for more than a half-century.
“You are privileged to be a witness to interesting things that happen,” Pressman says. “I’ve had a whole lifetime of that.”
Perhaps Pressman’s most famous coverage came on November 22, 1963 in the hours after President Kennedy was shot. He left an assignment to wait for word from Dallas.
“I knew there was going to be an announcement imminently as to whether he was alive or dead,” Pressman recalls. “So we set up on a sidewalk outside NBC where people were listening on a new-fangled thing called the transistor radio.”
Where reactions were needed throughout the day and weekend, Pressman’s reports were given a national audience on NBC News. He says the camera was rolling as the official word came in that Kennedy was assassinated.
“[The camera] caught some moments of sheer bewilderment [and] sadness at the tragedy.” Pressman remembers “a woman gasping for breath. It was a moment.”
Pressman began his amazing run in broadcasting at WRCA radio in 1954 as the roving reporter. Two years later, he moved to the TV side, at the precursor of WNBC.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Pressman was also a pioneering anchor at Channel 4, first solo, then with Bill Ryan.
After a stint at WNYW (then WNEW) in the 1970s, the Bronx-born Pressman returned home to WNBC in 1980 where politics has been his focus ever since. He says TV news gathering has changed exponentially in his remarkable seven-decade career.
“You can see by just going to any news conference or any scene of a crime or disaster, see all the [media] that are there. There was nobody. It’s changed a lot.”