The pioneering women of broadcast journalism in Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Our week long look at the women who had pioneering roles in Buffalo radio and TV continues, with a look at the first women of television news in Buffalo.

1962

From the earliest days, there were relatively few women on Buffalo TV– and even fewer in what we’d now consider journalism roles.

In 1962, the Courier-Express reported that WKBW Radio publicist Joan Marshall was about to become Buffalo’s first “lady newscaster” on TV. Doris Jones did the weather on Channel 2.

The first stand-out woman on the air with real news chops was the late Liz Dribben on Channel 7.

Liz Dribben, Eyewitness News.

She’d anchor morning newscasts before co-hosting Dialing for Dollars with Nolan Johannes. She left Buffalo and became a CBS News writer and producer, working with Mike Wallace and Walter Cronkite among others.

Susan King, WGR-TV 2. She was the lead anchor on the 6 and 11 newscasts on Channel 2 for several months after Ron Hunter left but before Rich Kellman was hired.
Rich Kellman and Sheila Murphy

Channel 2’s Susan King was Buffalo’s first full-time woman journalist on TV when she joined the Ron Hunter Report in 1972.  She anchored the 6 o’clock news after Hunter left, and before Rich Kellman arrived. She’s now the dean of the UNC School of Journalism.

When King moved on from Buffalo, she was followed by Shelia Murphy at Channel 2, who co-anchored with Kellman before moving onto politics.

Carol Crissey (later Jasen) broke the 31 year streak of men on the Channel 4 anchor desk when she anchored with John Beard and then Bob Koop. Carol joined Marie Rice who had started at 4 two years earlier as a tough street-reporting journalist at Channel 4.

Carol Jasen was at WIVB for 23 years, Marie Rice 27 years.

Channel 4 staff, 1979. Top row: Gary Gunther, Larry Hunter, Marie Rice, Allen Costantini. Middle Row: Kevin O’Connell, Carol Crissey (Jasen), John Beard, Van Miller. Bottom Row: Brian Blessing, Sandy White, Rich Newberg, Suzi Makai

Susan Banks began her Buffalo career on Eyewitness News in 1977. She’d go on to anchor at Channel 2 and Channel 7 before retiring from TV news 29 years later.

These ladies are just a few of the pioneering women of Television journalism in Buffalo.

Buffalo in the ’70s: Nolan Johannes and ‘Dialing for Dollars’

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Nolan Johannes asking some lucky viewer at home, “Do you know the count and the amount?” (Buffalo Stories archives)

“A lot of friendliness and little schmaltz seem to work just fine for ‘Dialing for Dollars’,” wrote News Critic Gary Deeb in 1971, by which time, the show had already been a midmorning mainstay on Channel 7 for seven years.

Nolan Johannes on the set of Dialing for Dollars, inside WKBW-TVs Main Street studios. (Buffalo Stories archives)
Nolan Johannes on the set of “Dialing for Dollars,” inside WKBW-TV’s Main Street studios. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Nolan Johannes came to WKBW-TV in May 1964 — and by the end of the year, was the permanent host of the brand new “Dialing for Dollars.” His first co-host was Liz Dribben, who left Channel 7 to eventually join CBS in New York as a writer for such luminaries as Walter Cronkite and Mike Wallace.

Liz Dribben and Nolan Johannes sitting on the hood of a car offering a word from our sponsors.
Liz Dribben and Nolan Johannes sitting on the hood of a car offering a word from our sponsors.

The half-hour show grew to 90 minutes, and in 1969, weatherman and “Rocketship 7” host Dave Thomas joined Johannes as co-host.

Nolan Johannes and Dave Thomas
Nolan Johannes and Dave Thomas (Buffalo Stories archives)

Aside from phone calls trying to give away money, the show was filled with interviews of the everyday women in the audience, twice-weekly exercise tips from UB’s Dr. Len Serfustini, syndicated features from “The Galloping Gourmet” Graham Kerr and “Fashions in Sewing” with Lucille Rivers.

And even nearly 40 years after the show went off the air, most Buffalonians of a certain age will be able to recall without hesitation the names of the guys in the “Dialing for Dollars” band — Jimmy and Johnny.

Jimmy Edwin, drums, and Johnny Banaszak, accordion, on the set of Dialing for Dollars. Banaszak was also the man inside the Promo the Robot costume on Rocketship 7.
Jimmy Edwin, drums, and Johnny Banaszak, accordion, on the set of Dialing for Dollars. Banaszak was also the man inside the Promo the Robot costume on Rocketship 7. (Buffalko Stories archives)

In 1978, Thomas left Channel 7 for Philadelphia, and “Dialing for Dollars” was reformatted to become “AM Buffalo.” Johannes left Channel 7 in 1983 to become a news anchor in Scranton, Pa. Johannes died in 2015 at the age of 81.

In September, 2016, Thomas returned to his hometown for Johannes’ posthumous induction in to the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Thomas was inducted in 2001.