SIGN-OFF: Stan Brooks

Courtesy CBS New York

To his colleagues, he was Brooksie.  A child of the Bronx, legendary 1010 WINS news reporter Stan Brooks who reported on the goings on of City Hall to the riots at Attica, has passed on at age 86.  Brooks career with WINS dates back to when it was a top 40 radio station.  Fifty years ago next December,  the bosses at Westinghouse (WINS’ owners at the time) asked Brooks what he thought about changing the station format from Top 40 to all-news.  He missed World War II in 1945 being sent into post-war duties…playing the trombone in a swing band entertaining the troops in Hawaii.  After graduating from that media powerhouse school Syracuse, he would work for Newsday until 1962, when WINS came calling.

He arrived at WINS to do a two-minute top of the hour newscast alongside other NYC radio icons like Jack Lacey and the so-called fifth Beatle. Murray the K.  As to the switch in ’64, he answered, “All-news? What’s that?”  Well the that he referred to became the often imitated, never duplicated  All News. All The Time.  He would serve as the station’s first News Director.

Three years after the switch, he was named National Correspondent for Westinghouse Broadcasting, whose list of stations included WBZ Boston, KYW Philadelphia, KDKA Pittsburgh, WOWO Fort Wayne, IN and KFWB Los Angeles among many. Brooks covered the major stories of the past two or three generations: civil rights; Watts; Chappaquiddick; the Vietnam War protests; the ’68 Democratic National Convention in Chicago; Malcolm X’s funeral; TWA Flight 800; 9/11 and  others. He would return to reporting for WINS where he was their heart and soul.

Stan was quite the music fan who loved playing the trombone (he cited Tommy Dorsey as an idol, along with Yankee icons Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio, as well as The Brooklyn Dodgers [boy try doing that with the Mets!].  And one of his favorite lines from rock came from Neil Young’s “My My, Hey Hey.” When it came to retirement, Brooks quoted the line “…Better to Burn Out Than to Fade Away.”

Brooks loved radio and tuned in to what can be considered the medium’s golden age, something that is a hobby of your not so humble correspondent.  He told Eve Berliner, former editor of The Silurian News he listened to the kids program Uncle Don (did he know about that infamous incident where he called the kids the other b word?) and the old radio serial shows.  But news was his calling reading the New York Post amid other papers, even writing for his school’s newspaper.

One of the first major stories Brooks covered the Attica prison riots of 1971. On September 9th that year about 1,000 of the jail’s 2,200 inmates rebelled and seized control, taking 42 staff hostage. During the next four days of negotiations, authorities agreed to 28 of the prisoners’ demands, but said no to their call for amnesty from criminal prosecution for the prison takeover or for the removal of Attica’s superintendent. By order of then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller, state police took back control of the prison. When the uprising was over, at least 43 people were dead, including ten correctional officers.  At WINS’ website they have an audio of Brooks in the eye of the storm choking on tear gas as he reports on state troopers and guards storming the prison yard.

The last story Brooks covered was in his beat…City Hall.  On this writer’s mom’s 75th birthday Brooks reported on the outgoing mayor Bloomberg, the incoming DeBlasio and the NYC budget.  Bloomberg had a trick up his sleeve for Stan.  Last week, Bloomberg re-named the radio reporter’s room in Stan’s honor.

Tough? yes.  He often got into verbal tussles with elected officials. He frustrated them, even lashing out at him (the sign I guess of doing your job in the otherwise cutthroat  world of the corporate media).  But he was no purveyor of so-called gotcha journalism (like at say MSNBC, just saying).

Growing up in the NYC tri-state area, I have had two all-news radio stations to listen to: WINS and then competitor now sister station WCBS 880.  And Stan Brooks was one of the many voices I have heard growing up listening to radio.  I still listen to both stations.  When one has a sporting event on (WCBS most of the time), the switch goes to WINS.

Speaking of voices, one of them, WCBS’ Rich Lamb called Brooks “one of the hardest working, most talented radio reporters I’ve ever known.”

“Stan Books, 1010 WINS News.”  That was his outcue said in an honest voice.  And that is this post’s outcue.

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