Class of x1947
For more than 40 years, one of the first voices heard by many New Yorkers almost every morning belonged to Stan Brooks, reporting the news over 1010 WINS, a radio station whose format he helped to create. Until his death in 2013 at the age of 86, Brooks was a constant, a reassuring voice that carried reports of crises and crimes in calm, measured tones that were at once familiar and authoritative — and he often did it in dispatches that lasted from only 30 seconds to a minute.
“You want to get to the spine of the story,” he told The Daily News in 2012, when he was celebrating 50 years with WINS. “When you’ve got 35 seconds, you’ve got to tell people what they need right away.”
|With Rudy Giuliani, 1988|
Brooks began doing that — telling people what he felt they needed to know — before he was a teenager. He was born in the Bronx on Jan. 24, 1927, and when he was 12, he acquired a toy printing press and created The Walton Avenue News, a one-page chronicle of neighborhood news. While attending DeWitt Clinton High School, he wrote a column for the school newspaper. Its title: Babbling Brooks. It was only natural that when he entered City College at 16, he was drawn to student publications. During his freshman year at the downtown school, he was on staff at The Ticker. Transferring to St. Nicholas Heights as a sophomore, he reported for The Campus. The following year, he reported for the U.S. Army, and when he was discharged a couple of years later, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill and left tuition-free City College for Syracuse University. He graduated with a degree in journalism in 1949.
His professional career began as a $40-a-week reporter at County News Bureau, the wire service in White Plains, N.Y., that fed the Macy chain of Westchester dailies. That was followed by a stint with a short-lived daily paper in Kingston, N.Y. By 1952, he was at Newsday. There, over the next decade, he morphed from young reporter into ace rewrite man, helping the paper win its first Pulitzer Prize, a public service award in 1954.
In 1962, Brooks left Newsday for WINS, then a popular rock-and-roll station that had recently been purchased by Westinghouse Broadcasting. Within a year, he was news director, helping hatch a plan to make the station New York’s first all-news outlet. He hired the on-air and editorial staffs, worked out the format and on April 19, 1965, launched 1010 WINS – “All News. All the Time.” Its coverage of the Great Blackout on November 9, 1965 and the transit strike that followed on New Year’s Day 1966 made the value of a 24-hour news outlet immediately evident. In 1967, Brooks returned to reporting, his first love, as national correspondent for Westinghouse (or Group W Broadcasting, as it was then known), based in Washington, D.C. He came back home to WINS in 1971 as a general assignment reporter, a perch he occupied for the rest of his life.
|With Michael Bloomberg, 2012|
Through the years, major breaking stories have been his forte. From the race riots of the civil rights era to the attacks of 9/11, Brooks was on the job, and on the scene. He reported on plane crashes, municipal fiscal crises, tall ships and terrorist attacks. He could be heard choking on tear gas as state troopers stormed the yard at Attica. He was at Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001 while the ash was still falling, and even closer to the action two years later, when a gunman killed a New York City councilman at City Hall. First Brooks delivered a concise live report. Then, instead of his usual smooth signature, he announced, “I’m outta here,” and took cover beneath his desk.
His honesty, tenacity and professionalism commanded respect, even from the politicians he covered, including every mayor from John V. Lindsay to Michael R. Bloomberg. In 2005, he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York Press Club, which three years later made him and Gabe Pressman its first two inductees to its Hall of Fame. In 2006, the Society of the Silurians, an organization of veteran journalists, presented him with its Peter Kihss Award. Brooks delivered his last report on Nov. 20, 2013. He died a month later, on Dec. 23, a month shy of his 87th birthday. About a week before his death, he learned that one of Mayor Bloomberg’s final acts was to name the room at City Hall where radio reporters file their stories “The Stan Brooks Radio Room.”