The pioneering women of broadcast journalism in Buffalo

By Steve Cichon

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.


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: TV reporter chased with a hatchet at ‘Deep Throat’ debut

By Steve Cichon

Nationwide controversy erupted when the pornographic film industry took a step toward legitimate films with the release of “Deep Throat” in 1973.

Unlike previous adult flicks, this one featured a plot along with actual attempts at acting and cinematic values.

According to an Associated Press account, the film was “sneaked into Buffalo” one weekend in the fall of 1973 and played at the Allendale Theatre on Allen Street. That Monday, State Supreme Justice Theodore Kaiser viewed the film, along with co-feature “When the West Was Fun,” and ordered the films seized and the theater manager, 73-year-old Benjamin Solomon, arrested and charged with violating obscenity laws.

That weekend, as word spread of the controversial film being shown in Buffalo, a Channel 2 news crew set up outside the Allentown theater to talk with people on their way into watch the movie. When Solomon saw this, he bolted from the ticket booth wildly swinging at reporter Susan King and cameraman Steven Cocklin with a hammer hatchet.

He tried to hit King and missed. King, who was Buffalo’s first female television news anchor after coming to WGR-TV in 1972, filed a report with police and Solomon was charged with menacing and harassment on top of the obscenity charges.

First as the local news anchor during the “Today” show, then as a featured reporter and weekend evening news anchor, King had quickly become one of Buffalo’s favorite television personalities in only about two years in Buffalo. She also spent several months as the primary weekday anchor at Channel 2 after Ron Hunter left the anchor chair. She received widespread critical acclaim, but was ultimately replaced by Rich Kellman.

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At the time, there were wasn’t a television station in the country that employed a permanent, solo female news anchor. Channel 2 and King weren’t bound to be the team to cross that historic threshold, but there was no disappointment in an interview with The News.

“I can’t say that they lead me on,” King told The News in 1974. “It was a wild summer and I learned a lot,” she said, making reference to Watergate and Richard Nixon’s resignation, all which came during her time in the anchor chair.

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Within a few months, King went from Buffalo to a station in Washington, D.C., before moving to ABC as a White House Correspondent.

Susan King is now the Dean of the UNC School of Media and Journalism in Chapel Hill, NC.

As for “Deep Throat,” in the end, the owners of the Allendale were fined $3,000 for showing the film. Theater manager Solomon admitted to swinging the axe at King, pleaded guilty, and was given a suspended sentence. The 103-year-old Allendale Theatre is now the home of the nonprofit Theatre of Youth Company.

Controversy erupted again in Buffalo the following summer when the Granada Theatre on Main Street in University Heights started showing “The One and Only Throat.” A judge put a ban on the showing of the film under that name as well — but not before ads made it into papers around Western New York.

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