“I’m a lucky son of gun!”
Reflective comments by Art Browne, now into the 7th decade of his life.
“Expressing that because during my turn at the wheel of professional development in broadcasting I had the grand fortune to rub shoulders with icons of communication in my life and to not just learn so much but to also fulfill employment dreams and the first was to me forever more: WNEW Radio – 11:30AM, the Queen of independent radio in America with a western reach as far as Chicago, a southern reach as far as Atlanta and an eastern and northern reach that brought our clear radio channel signal into Canada and across the Atlantic to England and the Scandinavian nations. What a daily thrill it was for me to arrive at 565 Fifth Avenue and to work with and learn from some the best news people I would ever encounter and to be along the way associated with the legendary figure of New York radio, William B. Williams, who was a mentor to me starting when I was just a kid in high school. There were many others as well, the names to me are etched in gold in the history of radio excellence.”
“I grew up in New Jersey with WNEW Radio. These were the years of WWII and WNEW was part of my family from morning to night and it was in that time that I decided I wanted to have a broadcasting career at some point in my life. Little did I ever dream that the day would come when I would indeed start a career in broadcasting and that I’d become a member of the WNEW Family! That time and experience, those memories, are priceless to me, 1961-63.”
Browne began his career in New Jersey radio and then moved on to the New York Journal American before transitioning to WNEW. At one point he initiated an investigation into migrant farm worker conditions in New Jersey and participated in a series of newspaper reports that led to federal legislation providing greater protections to migrant farm workers.
“I believe a requisite for every good news person is to have print experience in his or her career file,” says Browne.
“When I moved on career wise, WNEW Radio remained a part of me professionally and personally in my home life. There was never any other radio station that we were tuned to and my children gratefully grew up to the personalities and the music of America as I call it through WNEW which was part of our family day in and day out. I learned so much from so many sharp people I had the great and good fortune to associate with in that grand newsroom, that most splendid time of my life.”
“As an example, Ike Pappas later of CBS TV was a friend through the years, Pappas who was the individual that Jack Ruby shoved aside to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Pappas who was a mainstay of CBS TV news coverage in DC for decades. Ike was a colleague of mine and just then another guy on that superb WNEW team that delivered 7/24 to the listeners, the best in Radio news coverage and the greatest music of America with a few very rich radio personalities thrown in for good measure. What a great place and what great people.”
“Throughout my career in New York City, WNEW was always traveling with me, the personalities and the music and through so many of them but particularly Willie B., I had the great fortune to establish ties with entertainers who were pronounced in our lives then and still flourish today, often in our memories.”
With admitted misgivings, Browne moved to ABC Radio Network in 1964 in NYC for new challenges and during his time at ABC covered the civil rights movements in the south that extended to Mississippi and is known to the American public through the motion picture, “Mississippi Burning,” among many other memorable national news events.
Several years later, Browne moved on in the ABC system to Channel-7 in New York that became during his time the #1 rated station in New York City. Browne wrote and produced several award winning and nominated documentaries and then created an award winning investigative unit that would be lauded by the Southern District of New York’s Attorney General’s Office.
Browne then became the first sports director of Channel 7’s Eyewitness News operation with a staff of Howard Cosell, Jim Bouton, Frank Gifford and Rick Barry. “These were salad days working with people of that class and style. The walls were rubberized to deflect their egos,” reflects Browne.
During this time frame West Point called upon Browne to come back home as the Voice of Army Football on Mutual Radio and the Army Black & Gold Network. It was in 1971 in this capacity that Browne, while still working at Channel-7 in New York, created the broadcast role of a sideline reporter bringing into the voice of Army Football All American Bobby Anderson to fulfill that role. Browne’s friend and later superior, Roone Arledge, took note and told Browne in 1972 that he would create that coverage element in the ABC TV Football coverage package in 1973 and indeed he did using Jim Lampley and Don Tollefson. It is now a common element of coverage at all sporting events, the sideline reporter.
Eventually Browne moved onto ABC TV Network and became national editor for network TV news encompassing all of the Western Hemisphere, covering daily breaking news and during this stint, ABC TV News became #1 in the national ratings. It’s been said by more then a few, including a WNEW alumnus of a different era, Mike Stein, senior writer for ABC World News Tonight, that Browne was the best national editor ABC TV News ever had. It was at this time that ABC TV News put Browne under contract, a step never taken for his position in the network’s history, perhaps triggered by the competition trying to lure him away.
As the years added up, Browne worked as news director at WTNH in New Haven and later was drawn back to ABC again, this time in Chicago where one of the highlights of that time was developing a friendship with Katharine Hepburn while both were staying at the Whitehall Hotel.
Later Browne worked as a managing editor at the CBS affiliate in Washington, DC, WDVM where his leadership resulted in several Emmy winning news reports and series and then as vice-president of an independent TV news agency in DC, Newslink, Inc. During this time frame, Browne collaborated with others to write, produce and direct a nationally syndicated radio version of The Make Believe Ballroom, in tribute to his mentor, William B. Williams that utilized the hosting talents of music and vocal entertainers identified with the “Great American Songbook,” bridging all the figures of that era starting with Frank Sinatra and his colleagues to song writer Sammy Cahn, Artie Shaw, Nancy Wilson and Billy May and so many others.
Browne moved on to a Vice-Presidency for Viznews, a division of NBC at Rockefeller Center in New York City and at the tail end of his broadcasting/news career became senior editor for CNN in New York at which time he pushed CNN to cover the devastating Malden Mills fire in Massachusetts. It became a national story of consequence during the Christmas/Holiday season of 1995. The owner of Malden Mills would later be honored by President Clinton at his State of the Union Address in 1996.
By the turn of the century, Browne was president of the Thomas Alva Edison Museum in Edison, New Jersey, the birthplace of recorded sound and where the light bulb and electricity was discovered. During this period Browne also helped to organize a school student safety program established by Middlesex County government in the wake of the Columbine tragedy. He then scripted and produced the annual Middlesex County, NJ “Stars and Stripes Forever Concert” in the wake of 9/11 that featured the West Point Glee Club and the Garden State Symphonic Band, one of the few Sousa type professional bands still in existence. This activity was a continuation of Browne’s involvement in the music world, first honed at WNEW. Through the years he’d produced, directed and arranged concert performances by many of the headline entertainers identified with the “Great American Songbook.”
Twice in this new century Brown has scored winning fights with cancer. These days, he weekly is active as a media consultant for the Cancer Treatments Centers of America that has a facility in northeast Philadelphia where he has joined a growing parade of patients who have experienced the phenomenal success of CTCA facilities across the nation.
“Lucky? You bet,” says Browne, “now I’m fulfilling my life at a cancer facility that daily renews people’s lives, where patients thrive and get new leases on life. Making positive differences in the lives of others, that’s what it’s all about! Who could ask for anything more?”
Browne and his wife Kathy now live in Bucks County, Pa. They adopted three children, Christian Kennedy, Ryan Kelly who is deceased and Kathleen Ryan. He and Kathy refer to these adult children as being “ The Prize, The Treasure and The Gift,” of their lives.