Kathleen Maloney Profile
by Scott Benjamin

KathleenMaloney1981s.jpg (43359 bytes)
WABC News Anchor Kathleen Maloney

(photo courtesy John Meagher)


Kathleen Maloney had a long career at WABC beginning during its final years as a music station.
Here is a partial aircheck from one of her WABC newscasts:

Scott Benjamin caught up with Kathleen for a profile.
This is an interesting piece because it gives a behind the scenes
look at working in radio news:


On Tuesday, Dec. 10, 1980 at about 2 a.m. Kathleen Maloney received a phone call that the news department at Musicradio77 WABC wanted her to come to the station to be the morning anchor that day. 

Former Beatle John Lennon had been fatally shot overnight and the news department knew that Kathleen was well acquainted with the music legend. She had done several interviews with him in Central Park through the 1970s as he released solo albums and did projects with his wife, Yoko Ono. 

“He was very accessible and very friendly,” she recalled in a July 7, 2006 phone interview with Musicradio77.com. “He was quite a philosopher, and he didn’t see himself as a huge celebrity.” 

John’s death outside the Dakota on West 44th Street in the New York City borough of Manhattan turned out to be the biggest story of a career in which Kathleen went from a news-writing intern at the most listened to station in the nation, to a reporter and weekend anchor to the news director of WABC during some of its early years as a talk station. 

Kathleen said that her coverage that began that day on Dan Ingram’s morning show at WABC continued for several days and that she helped produce a documentary that aired that weekend. 

She had grown up in the New York City borough of the Bronx listening to WABC in the 1960s when it was playing the Beatles songs straight out of the box and Dan Ingram was her favorite air personality “because of his intelligence and quick, but often sharp-edged wit.” 

Musicradio77 WABC had a close association with the Fab Four. 

Former  Musicradio77 WABC night air personality Cousin Brucie was the master of ceremonies during the Beatles’ historic concert at Shea Stadium in August, 1965.  

Former Musicradio77 WABC morning air personality Herb Oscar Anderson has said a lot of the station’s success in the 1960s was due to its promotion of the Beatles. The air personalities called the station W-A-Beatle-C. 

Kathleen stated in a July 7, 2006 e-mail message to Musicradio77.com that she “never envisioned” herself becoming an air personality or a news reporter. 

She wrote that she “liked the sciences” and wanted to become a veterinarian, but that “it was impossible” at that time for women to get in to schools in the United States for that profession. 

In the early 1970s at Fordham University in the Bronx, she initially majored in Chemistry toward a career as a research chemist.

One day as a freshman she and some friends went to the studios of WFUV-FM, the campus station, “to see what it was all about.” 

At the time WFUV was a completely student-run operation that allowed the undergraduate members the opportunity to learn the equipment and learn from their mistakes. 

The 50,000-watt station now is a National Public Radio affiliate and features personalities such as New York City radio veteran Dennis Elsas in addition to the student staff members. 

She found the news operation “interesting and exciting,” partly because the reporters were treated by public relations officials in the same fashion as the commercial broadcast outlets and the newspaper reporters in the city. 

Kathleen also took Communications courses at Fordham, a highly regarded school, where she earned a bachelor’s degrees in both Communications and Political Science. 

She had a class with Lou Adler, who was then the news director and morning co-anchor at 880 WCBS, which had gone all news in 1967. That led to the opportunity to go out on some stories with the venerable Irene Cornell, who is still a reporter at WCBS. 

Kathleen said that there are “5 or 6” staff members at her current station,WINS, including anchor Chris Reilly, that have worked at WFUV. 

The roster of notable alumni also includes Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, CBS Sunday Morning host Charles Osgood, WPIX-TV Channel 11 sportscaster Sal Marchiano and New York Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay. 

As a freshman Kathleen worked at WRKL in Rockland County, N.Y., where the news director was the Art Athens, who went on to work at WABC when it became a talk station in 1982. In fact, he interviewed Dan Ingram and Ron Lundy on May 10, 1982 at noon during the first talk show after the format change. 

Kathleen said being in New York City gives the WFUV staff members exposure to the New York City media, which in her case led to a news-writing internship at Musicradio77 WABC in the summer 1972. 

She impressed news director Paul Ehrlich so much that before long she was covering stories and then began anchoring newscasts on overnight air personality Jay Reynolds’ show. 

Former WABC news anchor Bob Hardt stated in a June 10, 2006 e-mail message to Musicradio77.com that more women were starting to enter radio news. 

“In the ‘70s it got easier for women to get into newsrooms of radio and [television] as the stations and networks came under more pressure to be equal opportunity employers (an outgrowth of the feminist movement, in part),” he wrote. 

Bob stated that Kathleen immediately made an immediate impact. 

“[She is a] hard worker, great on the air, and always [had] a smile to greet you,” he wrote. 

“I was in awe of that news department,” Kathleen said of WABC, which in 1973 received a handful of awards from the Associated Press  for its coverage on the Six O’clock report. “It had a feel for the pulse of New York City. Paul Ehrlich and the whole staff knew the city. 

“Even though it was a music station, with the size of the audience that we had, we never had trouble getting the mayor or the governor on that station,” she said. “Everyone wanted to be on WABC.” 

There have been estimates that at one point in the 1970s the station had 8 million listeners a week. 

“One of our news cars that I drove a lot was a white station wagon with big black letters saying, “WABC,” Kathleen recalled. “Whenever you parked that car there would be people coming up for autographs and asking questions.” 

She said that she was particularly impressed with Bob Hardt, who anchored the Six O’clock report and was labeled by Dan Ingram as “The World’s Skinniest Newsman.” 

 “His voice was phenomenal,” Kathleen said of Bob who moved in 1979 to the ABC American Contemporary Network, where he stayed until retiring in January 2004.   “His writing was very crisp. He also asked a lot of questions of the reporters so that he could understand a story better.” 

She said that due to the relaxation in Federal Communication Commission (FCC) regulations and the growth of media conglomerates, WABC and other stations have devoted less time to news through the years. 

“It was a huge news room when I got there and over the 18 years that I was at WABC it dwindled,” said Kathleen, who was news director of WABC after it later became a talk station. “By the time I left it was just a morning drive anchor and an afternoon drive anchor.” 

She said the relaxation of community service regulations resulted in fewer newscasts, which has made it difficult for news reporters to find positions in small- and medium-sized markets. 

“It’s not just the starting people, but there aren’t many jobs in the small and medium markets for people who have been in radio news for a while,” Kathleen said. 

Additionally, Kathleen said that, “There is no way for some [non-profit] organizations to get their message out now because there aren’t a lot of public affairs shows and those organizations can’t afford commercials.” 

She said that the newscasts, as was at WABC the case with the music programming, needed to have momentum.  That often was accomplished through crisp, concise writing, brief audio excerpts from interviews with newsmakers and short reports from the staff in the field. 

“You had to keep it relevant,” she said of the story selection “You covered more rock & roll and entertainment stories at the expense of crime and politics. Of course you had the major stories and you had the scores for the local sports teams.” 

Kathleen said that among the air personalities she became best acquainted with Ron Lundy and Chuck Leonard since she did the newscasts on Ron’s Saturday mid-day show and Chuck’s long shift on Sunday, which started at 10 a.m. 

“He was a big teddy bear,” she said of Ron who spent 17 years at Musicradio77. “There always was a smile on his face and he was very gracious. His engineers loved him.” 

Kathleen dropped by WCBS-FM on Sept. 18, 1997 during Ron’s last show at the oldies station. 

“Chuck also was someone who smiled a lot and was very down to earth,” she said. “He also had a devilish streak. He would get into a discussion on the air with me about some story coming out of the news and then we would end up in Rick Sklar’s office on Monday. 

“Rick would tell us that the news was to be a separate entity from the music programming,” Kathleen said, referring to the former legendary Musicradio77 WABC program director. 

While covering New York City, Kathleen got to know some of its most prominent politicians. 

“When he was a congressman, Ed Koch would sometimes back away from reporters,” she said. “He was a little reticent when you would see him at a subway handing out his leaflets for some program. He became more outgoing once he ran for mayor [in 1977].” 

“Hugh Carey was a character,” Kathleen said of the former governor of New York state, who served from 1975 to 1983. “He would tell all kinds of jokes after the news conferences.” 

She continued at WABC through the uncertain times of the late 1970s and early 1980s as the highest rated station in the country fell victim to the growth of FM stations and then, in 1982, changed to a talk format. 

The move to talk radio generated new opportunities for her. 

In 1984 Kathleen became the station’s news director and from 1987 to 1990 she co-hosted the first hour of Rush Limbaugh’s show. 

“The [program director] at the time, John Mainelli, felt Limbaugh’s show was too political, and he wanted me to try to get Rush talking about other issues,” she wrote. 

Also during that time she co-hosted the morning drive time talk show with, first, Dave Dawson, and later Steve Kane. 

After leaving WABC in September 1990 she did free-lance reporting for WABC-TV Channel 7, WNEW AM and FM and WEVD AM and then landed an anchor position at WYNY. When WYNY became WKTU she became the public affairs director and did celebrity and newsmaker interviews. 

Starting in the mid-1980s, she had to balance the responsibilities of being either a news administrator or reporter with those of being the mother of a growing family. 

Kathleen and her husband, Alan, a banker, have three children – Audrey, 21, who recently graduated from George Washington University; Glen, 19, who is a student at Boston University; and Brian, 15, who is a high school sophomore. 

“There were times when my kids were young and I was the news director at WABC that I would be leaving the house at 3 a.m. and not be home until 3 or 4 in the afternoon,” Kathleen said. 

The family lives in Westchester County, N.Y. – about 20 minutes from New York City. 

Even when she is not at work, she is following the news to stay abreast of developments in stories that she might have to cover. 

“When I am in my convertible I listen to all-news stations,” she said.  

“My kids tell me that someone driving a convertible should be listening to music,” Kathleen added with a laugh. 

She said that many people probably “don’t understand or appreciate” the busy and unpredictable schedule of a radio news reporter. 

“You get called to go out on stories at all hours of the day and night,” Kathleen said. “Once I had a house full of people at our home for a party and had to leave because I had to go out on a story about a police officer that had been shot.” 

Starting in 2001 Kathleen became even busier after she landed a position as a general assignment reporter for 1010 WINS – an all-news station that for decades has promoted itself by saying, “You give us 22 minutes, we’ll give you the world.” 

“At WINS, it is so different than a music or a talk station,” she said. “You have to crank out the stories and be ready to provide an update every 20 minutes. It is very hectic.” 

Kathleen said that WINS operates an all-news operation on a shoestring budget. 

“They could use another five reporters there,” she said. “We all have to cover a lot of territory. I have put 200 miles on my car in one day covering stories.” 

Kathleen said that digitization has changed the role of radio news reporters. 

“You never before thought that being a good photographer would be part of a job description for a radio news reporter,” she said, noting that the reporters at WINS are equipped with a lap top computer and digital camera so that they can transmit stories and images for the station’s web site. 

Former Musicradio77 WABC morning news anchor John Meagher, who was an anchor at WINS from 1983 to 1998, has said that WCBS, the station’s all-news competitor in New York City, has some features that he admires. But he said in an Apr. 15, 2005 interview with Musicradio77.com that he was not sure if those features have attracted many listeners. 

John, who now lives on the outer banks of North Carolina, said that WINS has regularly generated higher ratings than WCBS, in part, because, “It is a good beer and potato chips all- news station.” 

“I agree with that, but I would add that WINS also is recognized in every neighborhood in the city,” Kathleen said regarding John’s comments. “When you go out with that WINS microphone logo, you almost always have people that say, ‘That’s my station.’ 

“If something is happening in New York City, people know that WINS is there,” she added. “I think in my five years there, I have traveled on every street in New York City.” 

Kathleen said that she listens to WABC Rewound each Memorial Day, when the station devotes 12 hours to playing tapes from the shows that the air personalities did during the 21 and a half years that it was a music station. 

One of her newscasts was included on Rewound 2006 during an air check of a Ron Lundy show. 

“I considered it a privilege,” she said of the experience of working at the most listened to station in the country. “There will never be another era like that and another station like that in radio.”


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