Florence Sando Manson, a pioneering female newscaster in radio and the early years of television journalism who hosted Pittsburgh TV series “The Florence Manson Show,” died November 25 in Riverdale, N.Y., from complications related to dementia. She was 95.
Breaking out of the usual confines of gossip and fashion coverage to which women broadcasters were relegated, Sando spent 18 years as a popular on-air personality in Pittsburgh, tackling the leading hard news of the day in a career that ran until 1959.
She interviewed public figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt on radio as well as celebrities including Danny Kaye and Louis Armstrong on TV. Some of these interviews are available at the Museum of Broadcasting in New York.
Sando also produced the earlier hard news broadcast “Women’s Angle.” The innovative 15-minute morning show did not condescend to its audience, presenting news of the world to women rather than the lowbrow mix of fashion and decorating tips others dished out to female audiences.
“It was easy when the news was about Madame Chiang Kai-shek, or the 10 best-dressed women, or Mrs. Roosevelt or Senator Margaret Chase Smith or Oveta Culp Hobby, but when the story was about some returning prisoners from Indochina or a Supreme Court ruling on desegregation, then I would have to introduce it with some ridiculous little line that seemed to indicate that it related to women, and then I would get into the story as it was,” Sando told author and educator and former broadcaster Lynn Boyd Hinds in “Broadcasting the Local News — The Early Years of Pittsburgh’s KDKA-TV.”
She was so popular that KDKA-TV asked her in 1957 to host “The Florence Manson Show,” now using her married name after her wedding to film executive Arthur Manson. Her TV shows were always committed to public service as well as entertainment. She cooperated with government, civic, social and cultural agencies in support of the war effort during WWII and presented stories and interviews that contributed to Pittsburgh’s post-war development. The show had a successful run until the Mansons moved to New York in 1959.
Born in Pittsburgh, Sando graduated from Westminster College in 1939 and received her Master’s degree in drama from Case Western Reserve the following year.
Sando’s pivotal role in television in the years just before the advent of the Women’s Rights Movement were also noted by the author Patricia Bradley in “Mass Media and The Shaping of American Feminism 1963-1975.”
Manson also had a career onstage, appearing at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and in summer theater productions of the White Barn Theater in Irwin, Pa.
After moving to New York with her husband, she became active in theater and community affairs in the city. She was a member of the board of the Ensemble Studio Theatre.
In addition to her husband Arthur, Manson is survived by a daughter, a son and five grandchildren.
There will be a private family burial this week with a memorial to follow at the Riverdale Presbyterian Church on December 7 at 11 a.m. Donations may be sent to the Riverdale Presbyterian Church at 4765 Henry Hudson Parkway West, Bronx, NY 10471.
(Associated Press contributed to this report.)