Gabe Pressman, a New York TV news icon whose career spanned the evolution of the medium, died Friday in the city he covered for more than 60 years. He was 93.
Pressman spent nearly half a century at NBC’s flagship New York station, WNBC-TV. He began his TV career anchoring a five-minute daily news report for what was then WRCA-TV in 1956. He continue to cover events for WNBC until his final months. His last on-air report for the station was coverage of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, but he remained a presence in the newsroom and posted reports on WNBC’s social media platforms as recently as this week. He delivered a speech at the New York Press Club’s annual awards dinner earlier this month.
“This is an incredibly sad day for the WNBC family. Gabe Pressman was a television icon who served our viewers for more than 50 years,” said Eric Lerner, WNBC president and general manager. “He was truly one of a kind and represented the very best in television news reporting. Gabe was still coming to work and thinking about the next story. He was a treasured colleague and friend to all of us and he will be missed.”
Pressman was known as New York’s first TV reporter, an intrepid force who was among the early reporters to bring his own camera crew out of the studio to offer live on the scene reports on everything from fires to murders to natural and man-made disasters. He interviewed generations of New York leaders as well as national and international figures ranging from Fidel Castro to Golda Meir. He covered seminal events in the life of his native city ranging from the arrival of the Beatles in 1964 to the great power blackouts of 1965 and 1977 to the devastation of 9/11.
Tributes to Pressman poured in on Friday.
“Gabe’s contributions to the field of journalism extended far beyond what his viewers saw on television. It was his hard work behind the scenes that kept the cameras rolling when some would have preferred they be turn off; he kept public meetings open, when some would have preferred they be closed,” said New York Press Club president Steve Scott. “When he delivered his annual Freedom of the Press message at the Press Club’s Journalism Awards dinner on June 5, he was crystal clear: The First Amendment is under attack, and we can’t let our guard down. We can’t give up. We have to keep fighting for our rights as journalists.”
Born in the Bronx, Pressman attended NYU and graduated from Columbia School of Journalism in 1947. He worked as a reporter for the Newark Evening News and he toured Europe for 15 months on a Pulitzer Scholarship to file reports for Overseas News Agency.
In 1949, he joined the staff of New York World Telegram and Sun as a City Hall reporter. His ubiquitous presence in the city made him a natural choice to join WRCA’s radio news team in 1954. Two years later he was tapped for the daily news report for WRCA-TV, the predecessor of WNBC. The program expanded to a full half-hour report in 1963.
Pressman left WNBC for rival WNEW-TV (now Fox O&O WNYW) in 1972 but returned to WNBC in 1980.
Survivors include his wife, four children and eight grandchildren.
A host of notable figures took to social media to remember Pressman.