Buffalo in the ’80s: Pioneering female news anchor Carol Jasen

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

When 28-year-old Carol Crissey came to Buffalo at the tail end of the 1970s, her resume boasted a working knowledge of four languages (German, Spanish, French, plus Greek and Latin) and four instruments (cello, guitar, oboe and piano).

Buffalo News archives

Leaving Buffalo 25 years later, she was Buffalo’s pre-eminent and “most watchable” news anchor.

Often described as “elegant” in the pages of The News by reporters and critics, readers also voted Carol as the “Sexiest Woman in Western New York” several years running in the late ’90s.

With Kevin O’Connell, 1990. (Buffalo News archives)

Carol was there as the world and the world of TV news became increasingly less misogynistic. At stodgy, stuffy old Channel 4, where until recently the TV news anchors hadn’t changed much since the ’50s, Carol was the first woman to anchor the news regularly on weeknights. It was news — glimmer of hope for humanity variety — when she signed a contract that would allow her to anchor the news into her 40s.

“There was a time when I thought I wouldn’t have a job in my mid-30s,” she told News Critic Alan Pergament in 1987. “When I started in broadcasting in 1973 … women weren’t allowed to age on television.”

Another glass ceiling was broken when she signed a contract that would send her into our homes at 6 and 11 past her 50th birthday.

“Isn’t it wonderful?” she reflected in 1998. “When I heard that women in their mid- to late 40s were considered very valuable, it did my heart very good. I’m told it’s because baby boomers are watching other baby boomers.”

Buffalo Mayoral debate, 1985. (Buffalo News archives)

Through the 23 years she worked at WIVB-TV, Carol Jasen (who is noe known as Carol Crissey-Nigrelli) anchored at various times the noon, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts with a long list of co-anchors. Her first assignment was co-anchoring with John Beard in 1980, then Bob Koop in 1981, Kevin O’Connell in 1990, Don Postles in 1993, and occasional stints with Rick Pfeiffer, Rich Newberg and Kathy Polanko, among others.

On set with Bob Koop, 1986. (Buffalo News archives)

Through most of those years, Carol and her co-anchor were No. 2 in the ratings, as the less theatrical alternative to Irv, Rick and Tom on Channel 7. After one late ’80s ratings jump closed the gap with Eyewitness News, News Critic Anthony Violanti prophesied, “Move over Uncle Irv. Here comes Aunt Carol.” After Irv Weinstein’s retirement in 1998, Carol and Channel 4 took over the No. 1 spot until she retired and beyond.

With Jasen becoming Buffalo’s most popular and longest-tenured news anchor with Weinstein gone, in Irv’s book– handing the hairspray-can-baton over to Carol seemed to be as good a choice as any.

“Carol is not only one of the best anchors, she’s also got class,” Weinstein said upon Carol’s induction to the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame. “We were competitors, but we were enemies who thoroughly respected each other.”

Buffalo News archives

Carol retired from TV news in 2002 and married former Channel 4 reporter Craig Nigrelli, who is now a news anchor in Omaha. Looking at television news today, she’s glad she played her part when she did.

“If I was a success at Ch. 4,” she told News critic Jeff Simon in 2011, “it was because I was surrounded by professionals. The anchors, producers, reporters and photographers all had years of experience. In the age before the Internet, every newsroom had walking, talking encyclopedias who could tell you the history of the city, the history of an issue, the movers and shakers in town — and they were willing to teach anyone who was new.”

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.