Time Out New York, October 27, 2005
Hot Seat: Stan Brooks
Dialed in: For 43 years, Stan Brooks has been delivering the news
at 1010 WINS—and leaving his opinions out of it.
By Bruce Kluger
microphone in 1964, Lyndon Johnson was President,
Mickey Mantle was in centerfield, and "spin" was
something a disk jockey did—not a newscaster. Today,
Brooks, 78, still punches the clock for the same joint:
1010 WINS radio in New York, which this year celebrates
its 40th anniversary as an all-news radio station.
On the scene at almost every major news event of the
past half-century—from the Vietnam War to September
11th—Brooks has seen his share of frontline action.
"What with Attica, the '68 Democratic Convention and the
student riots at Yale," he recalls, "I've been teargassed
says his love affair with round-the-clock radio news began on Day One.
York City blackout. We stayed on the air all night, connecting by phone to the
transmitter in New Jersey. The next day, someone took out an ad that said your
radio was glowing last night. That was pretty nice."
TONY caught up with Brooks off-air at the 1010 offices in midtown.
were jammed with music and almost no news.
Stan Brooks: Right. When I came into radio, it was wild rock & roll with Murray the
K. News was very skimpy. Most places were just rip-and-read.
TONY: Right off the newswires?
SB: Yeah. No background in the stories.
TONY: So in late '64, your bosses at WINS tell you they're going to an all-news, all-
the-time format. Did you think, "These guys are nuts"?
SB: I didn't know what to think. Until then, we did five minutes on the half-hour and
ten on the hour. But all news, all the time—24 hours? Everyone asked me, "What
are you going to do when you run out of news?" [Laughs] But there's always news.
TONY: You started in management. How did you end up behind the mike?
SB: One day my wife commented to me, "I've heard you say, 'Boy, did I cover an
exciting story today.' But I've never heard you say, 'Boy, I went to an exciting
meeting today.'" She was right. A couple months later, I offered my services as a
TONY: Legend has it your debut was a little...rocky.
SB: Right. I was covering an election. When you're nervous your voice tightens and
you get hoarse. When I finished my first report, the program director came over and
said, "I've got you some hot tea, with a little shot of bourbon in it." I tried that. Then I
did the eight, the eight-thirty and nine o'clock reports. The hot tea and bourbon
kept coming, but I still sounded nervous. The next morning I got a message from
the managing editor that said, "If you want your old job back, it's yours." [Laughs]
TONY: What was your saddest moment on the air?
SB: I used to live out on the Island near Kennedy Airport. A plane had gone down,
and they called on me to go there. Because I knew the roads, I came in a back way,
before everything was sealed off. I got to the crash site pretty fast, and saw a
smoldering pile of bodies and three clergymen—a rabbi, a minister and a priest—
saying prayers. The smell of burning flesh. That's something unforgettable.
TONY: That was straight-on reporting. It's probably inconceivable to younger
people nowadays that somebody who sits behind a microphone...
SB: ...doesn't have an opinion?
TONY: Exactly. So how do you restrain yourself from throwing in your two cents?
SB: I usually say something out loud before I start to write the story, and get it out
of my system. Like "Wow, this is a lot of bullshit." Then I'll write my story. After 12
years on a newspaper, you're trained to keep your opinion out of it. Go with the
story. Forget the embroidery.
TONY: So what's your take on the Limbaughs, Hannitys and O'Reillys who now
dominate talk radio?
SB: I heard Hannity a few times when Giuliani was his guest, and I fumed as they
had this great old time trashing liberals. But as a rule, I don't listen to these guys.
TONY: Do you take their presence as a personal affront? They are, after all, in the
same business as you.
SB: No—because I don't consider them in my business. They're another whole
thing to themselves.
TONY: If you hadn't been a newsman, what would you have been?
SB: A biologist or biochemist. I was fascinated by the idea of doing science through
a microscope. But I was a shy kid, and I decided that if I worked in a lab, I'd never
be anything but shy. I thought that being in radio would force me to change.
TONY: Any plans on retiring?
SB: It's funny. I had a cold one week and stayed home from work for three days. On
the last day, I got up, had breakfast and went down to the health club. I read the
whole Friday paper, did the crossword puzzle. Around 12:30, I looked around.
There were, like, ten old ladies and two old men. And I thought, Is this what I want to
do? I decided, Forget that. No retirement.