Television wasn’t even 3 years old in Buffalo when this photo was snapped inside WBEN-TV’s “Studio D” on the 18th floor of the Hotel Statler in 1951.
Buffalo News archives
Channel 4 was still Buffalo’s only television station, and its offerings of live, locally produced dramas were among the most popular shows that The News-owned station broadcast.
This one in particular, “The Clue,” is perhaps the best remembered. It was written and directed by Buffalo theater icon Fred A. Keller, and it starred Evening News Radio-TV columnist Jim Trantor as Private Eye Steve Malice. He can be seen in the scene wearing a hat.
It wasn’t long before local dramas were pushed off local stations around the country as networks began creating more high quality content for those stations to use.
Pioneer announcer and journalist Lou Douglas has died. He was 85.
The Korean War vet came to WBEN-AM/FM/TV in 1957 and his unflappable, smart, level-headed approach to news anchoring and interviewing was part of the fabric of the station for 30 years. Douglas was considered by most as the dean of broadcast journalists.
In his early years as a junior announcer at The Buffalo Evening News stations, television still played second fiddle to AM radio. Many of his early assignments were on Channel 4, including regular 6pm walks from WBEN’s Statler studios to The Buffalo Evening News’ building near the foot of Main Street. There, he’d read the 6 o’clock news as prepared by The News’ staff, broadcast–as was announced at the beginning of each newscast– “From the Editorial Floor of the Buffalo Evening News.”
Douglas would continue to appear as a reporter, host, and announcer on TV through the 1970s, but he is best remembered for his work at WBEN Radio.
It was his voice that anchored coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s visit to Buffalo in 1962. He broadcast from inside the prison complex during the Attica uprising. Living in Kenmore, his home was closest to the WBEN’s Elmwood Avenue studios– which meant extended duty for Lou during the Blizzard of 1977.
He always sounded even-keeled on the air, and was the same way in the newsroom, where he was remembered for reading the Wall Street Journal and never being afraid to pick up the phone to calmly make the most outlandish and seemingly impossible interview requests for his afternoon and evening interview spots.
In spanning three decades, Douglas really had two separate careers; one as a staff announcer, and one as a journalist. Through the 1950s and 1960s, the people you saw on Channel 4 and heard on WBEN were announcers– and only announcers. Union rules dictated that they could not and would not write their own news scripts or conduct news interviews or gather information.
By the mid-1970s, those rules had changed, and most of the “announcers” who had been bringing Buffalo news and weather since the ’40s and ’50s were gone. Not Douglas, though– his abilities as a staff announcer complimented his ability to gather the news, interview the newsmakers, and write his own newscasts.
He retired from WBEN in 1987, and spent a brief period at WWKB Radio a few years later before retiring for good.
In 2010, I spoke to Lou about his days in radio, and the possibility of the Statler building facing the wrecking ball. This interview wasn’t meant for broadcast, but is wonderful none the less. That interview, along with some career highlights, are listed for playback below. Please feel free to use any of the audio or photos in the celebration of Lou’s life in any media.
Steve with Lou Douglas, 2010:
WBEN’s Election 85 coverage: Kevin Keenan, Lou Douglas, Brian Meyer, Mark Hamrick, and John Murphy
WBEN News with Lou Douglas, 1973. Attica uprising, will Mayor Sedita resign?
WBEN News with Lou Douglas, January 1977. The Blizzard of ’77.
WBEN’s Coverage of JFK’s Visit to Buffalo, 1962. Lou Douglas live from Niagara Square.