Monday, January 23, 2006

Bob O'Brien's next move

A lucky break for one New York City TV newsroom. The New York Daily News reports that Bob O'Brien, one of the best and best-loved TV news reporters in the city, could be on the market, having been cut free last week from WWOR-TV across the river in Secaucus.

O’Brien is among the most respected and recognizable street reporters in New York City history. He was an architect of the legendary Channel 5 Ten O’Clock News, a foot soldier who started his career there as a very young producer back in the 70s, before moving to the other side of the camera. The big, energetic, mustachioed Irishman has been a whirlwind for about thirty years now, identified with and, especially post-9/11, a part of NYC, like the firemen and the cops and the New York Post.

A few years ago, when Channel 5’s owner Rupert Murdoch bought the lowly WWOR-TV, a passel of Ten O’Clock News powerhitters, including O’Brien, was transferred across the river to the swamps of Secaucus to put the new sister station on the map. Now that the job’s done, the UPN station is letting a lot of them go.

Penny Crone, the gravelly dame and famed Howard Stern foil, got her walking papers from Channel 5 a few weeks ago, and walked right over to the Stern 100 team at Sirius radio. A great move by Howard!

Now, maybe Bobby's saved his money and he’s going to write that movie about dolphins he’s always talking about. But more
likely, negotiations are already in place for his return to the New York City airwaves. O-B will certainly show up in a top spot back on the correct side of the Hudson River, in the town that loves him.

And for the great minds that let him go, just remember Jim Ryan. He left Channel 5 and was scooped up by WCBS-TV.

We hear CBS News still has an anchor slot available… but O-B wouldn’t take it. He’s a classy Irish street dog. And he’s not one of those wrinkly old elder statesmen that each station keeps around. We saw him last summer (WWOR’s newsroom was downstairs from the ill-fated A Current Affair’s offices), and he was just as young and vital and busy as always, running and appearing in the Press Club’s Inner Circle show, and hopping in his Jeep to the next story.

Bob O’Brien, who's featured in Tabloid Baby, has many greatest hits. Our favorites might be a little offbeat, and not make it to his highlight reel. He dressed up as a killer bee for a story once, he donned scuba gear to play the Underwater Reporter for the Ten O’Clock News, and he got yelled at by The Pope. O-B was covering Pope John Paul II’s United States visit in 1987 when the Pope came out to address the press pack, and O’Brien, excited and at the head of any pack, hopped and down, yelling to get his attention: “Holy Father! Holy Father! Holy Father!’ The Pope stopped his speech, turned toward O’Brien and in his great Bela Lugosi accent, said, “You talk too much! You be quiet!”

Yelled at by the Pope.

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