Paul Ehrlich, who was the news director at Musicradio77 WABC from 1968 to 1981, said that "being the president of the ABC network is more illustrious, but I always thought that the best job around was being a reporter and talking to the people on the street."
Paul said in a Dec. 15, 2006 phone interview with Musicradio77.com that "he was happy being a reporter" for the popular Top 40 station in the 1960s and figured that if he was ever asked to become news director that he would "say, 'No.' "
In 1968, he was offered the position after Ed Hardy left. Ed, who had arrived at WABC from WXYZ in Detroit, had just hired Bob Hardt and John Meagher as the first reader-writers on the news staff. They both worked at stations in Detroit immediately before coming to WABC in the early months of 1968.
The news had largely been delivered prior to that by a group of ABC staff announcers that had 27 members in the mid-1960s. It included such legends as Milton Cross, the voice of the Metropolitan Opera; Fred Foy, who had been the announcer and narrator on the popular Lone Ranger radio and television series; George Ansbro, who was the announcer for the long-running soap opera "Own Ma Perkins"; and Joel Crager, who was one of the top voiceover announcers in the business.
"We never had any major problems with the staff announcers," Paul said, noting that even with two reader-writers added to the news department, the staff announcers still handled several of the newscasts, which came twice an hour all day and night.
"They were nice guys and professionals," he added.
Paul said that despite his strong interest in being a reporter, he accepted the news director's position when Ed Hardy departed.
"At the time that they asked, I couldn't say 'No' because I felt an obligation to do it," Paul said.
Bob Kimmel, who worked as a news writer and editor at Musicradio77 WABC for three years in the mid-1960s, said in a Nov. 30, 2006 phone interview with Musicradio77.com that while they worked together he could see that Paul had the potential to become the news director.
Paul accepted the promotion on the condition that he be allowed to proceed with his plans to cover Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon and Bobby Kennedy through the presidential primaries of 1968. That year turned out to be one of the most historic of the 20th century as the Rev. Martin Luther King and Kennedy were assassinated just two months apart and the country experienced a surge of college protests over the Vietnam war.
Paul said his two weeks covering Nixon, a Republican who narrowly won the election that November over Democrat Hubert Humphrey, were "quiet, dull and boring."
Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather has written that Nixon was largely a loner who didn't excel at small talk.
Paul said that his time on the campaign trail with Rockefeller, who was then the governor of New York state, was "marvelous fun. His campaign plane was jumping and alive."
He said he was in and out of the convention hall in Chicago in late August as anti-war protestors disrupted the Democratic National Convention that nominated Humphrey for president. The convention is still remembered for the strong-arm tactics employed by then Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and the massive police arrests of demonstrators in the streets outside the convention.
In the mid-1960s, Paul became the first broadcast reporter assigned regularly to New York City Hall, covering the early stages of Mayor John Lindsay's administration.
"He was not warm and fuzzy," he said of the former mayor, who served from 1966 until New Year's Day 1974
"He was a little slow to bend," Paul recalled regarding Lindsay's efforts to end a transit workers strike that began on Jan. 1, 1966, the day he took office, and wasn't resolved for 13 days. "He got taken over the coals."
When Paul became news director of Musicradio77 WABC in the spring 1968, the department was starting to mature with the addition of Meagher as the reader-writer in the morning on Herb Oscar Anderson's show and Hardt, who handled the newscasts during Dan Ingram's afternoon show and the Six O'clock report, a 15-minute newscast.
During his tenure as news director, Paul was the host for Report To The People and WABC Press Conference, two of the shows that ran during a block of public affairs programming on Sunday from 9 p.m. into the wee hours of Monday morning.
He said that as a reporter it is sometimes frustrating to become thoroughly knowledgeable in an issue and then have only 30 seconds to report on it during a newscast. However, he said that the Sunday public affairs shows allowed him and other news staffers to provide more elaborate coverage.
Paul said, for example, that Perspectives usually included two 15-minute reports that were similar to the mini-documentaries that have been broadcast for years on National Public Radio.
"I had contact with the newsmakers through those [public affairs] shows, but I still missed being out on the street reporting on stories," Paul recalled regarding the duties that went along with being news director.
He said that even the most prominent politicians wanted to be on the public affairs shows even though they didn't' generate anywhere near the kind of ratings that air personalities Dan Ingram and Cousin Brucie had.
"The people who were experienced in the media knew it was worth being on WABC, because even if the show was on at 1 a.m. there would still be an audience and there was a good chance that we would use excerpts from the interview in the newscasts," he said.
Paul was born in Austria. His family escaped from there in the late 1930s shortly after German dictator Adolf Hitler had his armed forces occupy the country.
Paul earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard University and then a master's degree in International Studies from Johns Hopkins University. He speaks fluent German and Italian.
He had taken a test to work for the Central Intelligence Agency and was aiming for a career in the foreign service after earning his master's degree.
One day while driving to his parents' home in Newark, N.J. "almost like a magnet" Paul drove into an empty parking space at WNTA - a commercial television station there.
He said in a Dec. 4, 2006 phone interview with Musicradio77.com that he was hired and proceeded to write newscasts and review plays for the station. He also was the producer for the Betty Furness Show, which was hosted by consumer advocate who later worked for President Lyndon Johnson and after that did a segment on NBC's The Today Show.
However, WNTA was sold to the Public Broadcast Service four months after he was hired, and he proceeded to take the ABC writers' test and was hired as a summer replacement at the network news operation. He was later offered a permanent job.
At one point, he was helping to produce ABC's television news coverage during the weekends. This was shortly after James Haggerty, who had been President Dwight Eisenhower's White House press secretary, became the first president of the network's television news division.
During this time, Paul became friendly with Roger Sharp, who he described as "a marvelous reporter."
Roger anchored some of the ABC newscasts as the network began to establish a full-scale news operation. He later became a noted political reporter for WABC-TV, Channel 7, in New York City.
In the early 1980s, shortly after he left Musicradio77 WABC, Paul worked in a public relations firm that was operated by Roger's wife and handled press outreach for AT&T while it was going through some major changes.
After working in the ABC television news operation in the early 1960s, Paul became a reporter for Musicradio77 WABC, a position he held until his promotion to news director in 1968.
Through this period, Paul was part of a team of reporters that in the later years included former newspaper writers Joe Fahm and Gus Engleman - who contributed stories to the one hour and 20 minute Newscope each night.
After that program was terminated, he reported on the Six O'Clock Report, which was a 15-minute broadcast that was anchored by Bob Hardt and also featured a 5-minute Speaking of Sports commentary from Howard Cosell.
Paul said that he has suffered three hernias, one of which occurred while he was still lugging heavy tape recorders around the streets of New York City as a reporter for Musicradio77 WABC. He said they happened five years apart, but that they might all be attributed to the strain of using the heavy tape recorders of that era.
"The joke among some of the news room folks was that Paul's hernia was triggered because he had to lug around a Nagra tape recorder," John Meagher stated in a Dec. 4, 2006 e-mail message.
"It was one of the priciest - and heaviest - portable tape recorders at the time - although it was probably one of the best, technically," added John, who now lives in North Carolina.
Paul said that at one juncture an engineer was needed to help cue up the tape machines, which were far less accessible than the portable units that were available even by the 1970s.
Interestingly, he said that he agreed with Musicradio77 WABC program director Rick Sklar's decision, which was made before his tenure as news director, to place the newscasts. :25 and :55 on the premise that some listeners would tune to another music station for five minutes and then switch back to Musicradio77 WABC when the other station started its newscast at the top or bottom of the hour.
Paul said he saw the benefit for the station and that people interested in news would stay at WABC during twice hourly newscasts and some people might even initially tune in to listen to the news because they knew it was coming five minutes sooner than on many other stations.
In an article on the Musicradio77 WABC news operation written in 1978 and posted at www.nyradionews.com/wabc, Paul was paraphrased as saying that he "believes that no matter how long or short the newscast, crisp writing is key to getting a point across effectively."
[Tailoring to the audience] does not mean that we. . . try to imitate a rapid-fire machine-gun paced disc jockey," he was quoted as saying. "No. What it means is that we won't give you an Encyclopedia Britannica type language."
"I don't think that our language is really any different from Walter Cronkite, for instance," he said, referring to the former longtime anchor of the CBS Evening News.
Paul said in the Dec. 4, 2006 phone interview with Musicradio77.com that he has much admiration for Rick Sklar, who became legend in the radio industry as WABC was transformed into the most listened to station in the nation.
"Rick never insisted that we do stories on rock stars or entertainment figures," Paul said. "He let me do the news the way that I wanted to do it."
"He was a wonderful gentleman who never raised his voice around me," he added.
Paul said that Rick also had tremendous foresight about radio..
"When we were on top in the ratings, Rick said during an administrative meeting [in the early 1970s] that in 10 years the AM band will be all talk and news," Paul said. "He could see the impact that FM was going to have on the radio market."
Paul said that he also didn't encounter obstacles with the sales department, which was headed in the mid to late 1960s by George Williams, who later became the general manager of Musicradio77 WABC.
"There always was a curtain between sales and the news departments," he recalled." We weren't forced to do stories to please advertisers."
Paul recalled that he "inherited a large news department that got whittled down through the years" as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relaxed its regulations on news and public affairs programming.
On another topic, he said that he also believes that the establishment of ABC's American Contemporary Network on Jan. 1, 1968 was a "terrific" boost for Musicradio77 WABC and the other affiliates of the service that provided concise network news and entertainment features.
The establishment of the American Contemporary Network was considered an important step in lifting Musicradio77 WABC's ratings since the station no longer had to run The Breakfast Club. It also eliminated the long Newscope.
With fewer interruptions, it emerged, according to former WABC assistant program director Julian Breen in an April 1, 2005 phone interview with Musicradio77.com, as the top station in New York City within six months. In just more than two years, WMCA, which was Musicradio77 WABC's chief rival for the Top 40 audience, had switched to a talk format.
"I thought that it was great that they got it through the FCC, because now you had four different ABC radio networks and stations within a short distance of each other could be affiliated with ABC and not be part of the same specific network of newscasts and features," Paul said. "I thought that there might be some objection to it over the anti-trust laws."
ABC radio established networks that suited its various affiliates.
By the early 1970s, Musicradio77 WABC's news department was winning awards and began to demonstrate that in some instances it could compete with the all-news giants 880 WCBS and 1010 WINS.
Former colleagues attribute some of that success to Paul's leadership.
"Paul was a bright, ethical, understanding person who was a very good journalist and knew how to manage people," Bob Hardt, who now lives in California, stated in a Dec. 4 e-mail message regarding his former colleague "He also had a lot of contacts in New York City."
Paul was a very easygoing guy," John Meagher wrote. "I can remember only a few times when he raised his voice."
Paul said that the Six O'Clock Report, which Bob Hardt anchored, was named at one point the top newscast six times in seven years by the New York Associated Press Broadcasters Association. He added that most of the mainstays of the late 1960s and of the 1970s received awards for their reporting.
The former Musicradio77 WABC news director said he probably is most proud of the awards for best single day news coverage from the New York Associated Press Broadcasters Association. He said it was a major accomplishment to be able to achieve that distinction while competing against WINS and WCBS, which had more reporters than the staff at Musicradio77 WABC.
On a separate part of the topic, he said he believes the reason the WINS often has finished ahead of WCBS in the ratings through the years is that it provided local news, weather, subway and traffic information through the early minutes of each hour, while WCBS was running a CBS network newscast that would likely be reporting on anything from the presidential campaign to unrest in the Middle East.
Paul said he was able to establish a raft of contacts in New York City and at the State Capitol in Albany partly as a result of being a member of professional news associations.
He said that he and Bill Beutel, a former longtime anchor at WABC-TV Channel 7, were the first broadcast journalists to belong to the Inner Circle - a group of New York political reporters. He said that Gabe Pressman of WNBC-TV Channel 4 had been a member earlier, but had initially been admitted while working as a print journalist.
Paul said he also was active with the New York Associated Press Broadcasters Association - even serving a term as its president in the 1970s.
He also was noted for encouraging young reporters who sought positions at WABC.
Paul said he still receives comments from reporters who said they received an encouraging rejection letter from him.
"If not for Paul Ehrlich, I may never have had a career in radio!," stated Kathleen Maloney, who began as an intern at WABC in the early 1970s.
She became news director in 1984 after WABC became a talk station.
"He took a kid with raw talent, and threw me into a sea of seasoned professionals...but it wasn't sink or swim, because Paul was behind me all the way," she added in a Nov. 28, 2006 e-mail message. "He was my boss, my mentor and my friend. I don't think there's anyone in the world I respect more than Paul."
"During the musicradio days, he ran a tight ship ... demanded a lot, but was always available to talk about a story or issue," continued Kathleen, who now is a reporter for 1010 WINS and co-host of a talk show for 1160 WVNJ. "He has an incredible intellect."
"He wasn't hovering, or nit-picking," she stated. "He let the newspeople do their jobs, but knew how to fine-tune a newscast, a report, or a documentary to make it the best it could be."
Paul said that when he arrived at ABC News in 1961 there was only one woman on the staff - a news writer.
A decade later, women and members of minorities were starting to become more established in the broadcast media.
Paul said in the 1960s when he covered a school controversy in Ocean Hill Brownsville for Musicradio77 WABC, he returned to the news car with the station's call letters painted on it and found that three of the four tires had been slashed.
"After some of the race riots, management at the stations became aware and even fearful," he said. "They began to realize that there would have to be more coverage of minority groups and efforts to hire more minorities at stations."
However, Paul said that, for example, African Americans that he hired in the news department at Musicradio77 WABC handled a wide range of assignments. They weren't sent on each assignment in Harlem because they might be more familiar with the people in that neighborhood since they were of the same race.
He said he did that because he wanted the reporters to be able to handle any assignment that came into the newsroom. He said that he wanted African-American reporters to be able to cover stories in predominantly white areas and white reporters to be able to handle coverage in the minority neighborhoods.
Following his long tenure at Musicradio77 WABC and the short stint in public relations, he was a reporter and anchor for the Financial News Network from 1983 to 1991.
Paul then taught for about two years as an associate professor in the Communications program at Lehman College in New York City borough of the Bronx. After that, he worked from 1993 to 1995 as a writer for Harry Smith and Paula Zahn on the CBS television morning news show that competed against Today on NBC and Good Morning America on ABC.
From 1995 to 2003 he worked for Bloomberg, serving at one point as the second highest executive in the broadcast news division.
"Mike Bloomberg is a terrific guy," Paul said of the current second-term mayor of New York City. "He's a dynamic person and very fair."
Although now retired, Paul, who lives in New York City, leads an active life, which includes frequent ski trips to Colorado, Utah, Vermont and Europe. He also plays tennis and attends concerts and plays.
Apparently he made the right choice when he chose broadcast news over being in the foreign service.
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