Broadcast Pioneers member Dave Stanley, a native Philadelphian, has had a very long & remarkable career in broadcasting that lasted almost a half-century.
That Dave Stanley was destined to become a broadcaster was never in question. At least not since the first time he heard what was coming out of that big box in his tiny living room in Strawberry Mansion back in the 40’s. According to Stanley, he didn’t know how they did it; he just knew he wanted to do it too.
That Dave Stanley would make broadcast history in Philadelphia would happen many years later, on the morning of February 23rd 1981, a day that would forever change the face of morning television in Philadelphia. It would also forever serve as a personal reminder of just how wonderfully blessed he was to have been chosen to anchor KYW-TV’s “3-Today” - Philadelphia’s first-ever morning television newscast. It also earned Stanley a coveted spot on KYW-TV’s “Wall of Fame.” Getting to this point, however, would not come easy.
Though his dream of becoming a broadcaster never changed, the vision turned murky when, at the age of 9, Stanley became an orphan and was sent to the Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pennsylvania where farming suddenly became the main focus of his life. That is not to say that his goal was totally waylaid by a bunch of cows. It just became a lot more difficult.
Following graduation, after a year of teaching himself how to type, attending the Charles Morris Price School of Advertising at night and working as a shipping clerk during the day at the Lutheran Publication House in East Falls, Stanley finally got his first, big break when he was hired at WCAU as a copy boy. Between pulling copy, getting coffee and making lunch runs, the writers would teach him to…well…write. To this day, Stanley would tell you he got the far better end of the deal. The highlight of the week would come on Sunday nights when he would write a one-minute news update for Gene Crane that would air during the Ed Sullivan show.
Dave Stanley’s first on-air gig came at WIFI when he got the opportunity to host the nightly program “Wi-Fi Folk.” At the time, folk music was all the rage and with the number of colleges and universities in the Philadelphia area, the program generated an audience that was substantial. (Unfortunately, that did not carry over to his paycheck.) In truth, however, given all that he learned at WIFI, Stanley would be the first to admit he should have been paying the station. To supplement his income, Stanley worked during the day as an announcer at a department store in Germantown. Not radio, but it was fun.
In the years that followed, Dave Stanley would work at a number of radio stations in and around Philadelphia that included WBCB, WEEZ, WRAW, WRCP, WTMR and WLDB. This gave Stanley the opportunity to cover most formats and genres from rock to country to MOR to talk.
It would seem only fitting that Dave Stanley’s last radio station, before shifting his career to television, would be a Philadelphia broadcasting icon. WPEN, indeed, was big-time radio. So, when Tom Brown called – yes, “the” Tom Brown – and asked him if he was interested in working at WPEN, Stanley’s “radio” dream job, after almost 10-years in the business, was fulfilled.
In between his on-air gigs, Dave Stanley also ventured out into other areas of the industry such as running the Jerry Blavat School of Broadcasting. As its executive director, Stanley was responsible for every aspect of the school’s operation, from staff and students to its curriculum and budget. Stanley would also join the staff at WDVR radio as its creative director and worked in sales at WKBS-TV, where he doubled as the station’s staff announcer.
During this time, Dave Stanley also owned and operated a successful advertising agency. Among his many clients were Heritage Carpets, On the Town Magazine and his favorite, Cooper Furniture. These and others not only paid the bills, but gave Stanley a lot of welcomed television exposure. That is, until he attempted to make the switch to television news. For that to happen Dave Stanley and his family quickly realized they would have to pack up, move and start over.
As Dave Stanley’s late friend and mentor John Facenda might say, “Welcome to the frozen tundra.” No question, it was chilly in Green Bay, Wisconsin, but for Stanley, in transitioning from radio to television, WFRV-TV was the perfect place to learn the trade as its primary news anchor and executive producer. It took about a year and a half, but Stanley was able to help bring the station from third place to the city’s number one contender.
Soon thereafter Stanley would join Smith Broadcasting at WAAY-TV in Huntsville, Alabama, as its primary news anchor and executive producer. A rare mom & pop operation, the family put together the 5th highest-rated newscast in the country. As lead anchor, Stanley’s ratings brought him to the attention of many television markets from around the country, such as Seattle, Minneapolis, New Orleans and, most importantly to him, the opportunity to return home and become part of broadcasting history in Philadelphia.
KYW-TV was looking for someone who had a lot of radio experience, a successful television news background and someone who “knew” the city and its people. They were searching for someone who could anchor --- an idea that had never been done before in Philadelphia --- the city’s first-ever morning television newscast. It was to be called “3-Today.”
Though there is no escaping the historic significance and ratings success of “3-Today,” there is another element to Stanley’s electronic journalism resume that cannot be overlooked – reporting. Among his many notable successes as a reporter was Dave Stanley’s exclusive interview with the late, Nazi war criminal, Wolodmyir Osidach, who was involved in the persecution of Jews in Poland. For his own protection, Osidach, would be escorted by U.S. Marshals in and out of the federal courthouse to a secret location. Keeping as far away as possible from the general public, his path would take him near reporters sitting together in the jury box. Stanley, whose wife is Ukrainian, asked her how to say “good afternoon” in the Ukrainian language. The next day, as Osidach walked by, Stanley leaned over and whispered, “dobryy den.” That opened the door for the exclusive interview that allowed viewers to actually see Osidach for the very first time since proceedings against him began many years before.
Stanley, however, has always considered one of his major accomplishments at KYW-TV (in addition to his signature series “Employment Line” in which he found thousands of jobs for area viewers desperate for work) to be a 20-part series called “Radio Revolution.” It focused on the rapidly-changing radio industry that had audiences shifting between AM and FM. It aired during the 6PM newscasts in May of 1983 in what may be the first and only series of this length in the history of Philadelphia broadcasting. At the very least, it was a major gamble for Channel 3. But it was a gamble that paid off big in the ratings. In fact, it was so successful it was updated a few months later and turned into a half-hour, prime time special called “Radio: Red Hot and Right Now” which also did very well in the ratings.
Unfortunately, what was not doing well in the ratings was Stanley’s 6 pm newscast which he was solo anchoring near the end of his contract. The ratings were “okay” but not good enough. That the 5 o’clock lead-in newscast was getting only asterisks didn’t help. KYW-TV was loaded with wonderfully gifted and talented people, but the 80’s were not good times for the station.
Stanley’s next move would take him to WCBD-TV as its primary news anchor in one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the world, Charleston, South Carolina. Though the station quickly grew leaps and bounds in the ratings and was named AP’s newscast of the year, according to Stanley it was more like working at a resort … fun at first, but after a while, boring. By this time his children were attending colleges in the Carolinas, so Stanley moved to nearby Charlotte, North Carolina where he accepted a position at WCNC-TV as anchor and investigative reporter. It turned out to be a very wise decision. As of this writing Stanley’s ratings remain some of the highest in the station’s history. In addition to his weekend shows, which had gone from number three to fighting it out for first place in the ratings, Stanley’s reporting also garnered a lot of attention from much larger markets.
Most notable was the only one-on-one, exclusive interview with Susan Smith, the mother who drowned her two young boys by rolling their vehicle into a lake in Union, South Carolina and blaming it on a carjacker. What had begun as a regional news story very quickly became one of the biggest national/international news stories of the decade, after Stanley’s interview appeared on the Today Show the following morning. It would also result in Stanley being the only journalist subpoenaed to testify at her trial.
At about the same time, another story was breaking half-way around the world in Rwanda that, seemingly, didn’t have anything to do with the Carolinas. Stanley convinced station management otherwise. He explained there were many local dimensions to that overseas crisis: soldiers from Fort Bragg, North Carolina were heading to Rwanda to provide security; relief workers from Samaritan’s Purse out of Boone, North Carolina were on their way; and massive cargo planes from the air force base in Charleston, South Carolina were flying in supplies. Less than two weeks later Stanley would see, first hand, what hell on earth could look like when he landed in Kigali, Rwanda as part of a very small contingent of reporters able to make it into the country. Once again, job offers began rolling in.
Two big stories came down to a choice between two, enticing opportunities. One was in Detroit at WDIV and the other was in Miami. Maybe it was the weather, but Stanley chose WFOR-TV, the CBS owned and operated television station in Miami, where he signed on as an anchor and reporter.
Unfortunately, as much as Stanley enjoyed Miami his wife, Irene, did not. As she told him when they first arrived, “I just want you to know one thing. When Debbie (their married daughter) gets pregnant I’m going back to Charlotte – with, or without you.” Well, at least the timing worked out. Just as his contract was coming to an end Dave and Irene’s daughter Debbie called with the wonderful news.
Back in Charlotte, Dave Stanley accepted a position at WBTV as new anchor and consumer investigative reporter. Considering WBTV’s long, distinguished history (when it first went on the air in 1949, it was only the 13th television station in the United States) it seemed only fitting that – just like historic WPEN would be Stanley’s final radio station before switching to television - WBTV would be the final stop in his career. He had pretty much done it all.
Retired now, after 45-years in the business, Stanley can honestly say that, all in all, it was a pretty incredible ride. His childhood dream had been fulfilled in more ways than he could have ever possibly imagined.
Over the years Dave Stanley has received numerous awards and recognitions. Among them: Emmy Award, Miami, FL – reporting; RTNDA (Radio Television News Directors Association) Southeast U.S. – reporting; Associated Press, Florida - 1st Place, reporting; Associated Press, North Carolina – two, 1st Place awards, reporting; Green Eyeshade Award - Southeast U.S., reporting; Emmy nomination, Philadelphia - television news anchoring; Emmy nomination, Philadelphia - television news reporting; Philadelphia Press Association - 1st Place, reporting; Philadelphia Magazine - Gold Medal, reporting. Dave Stanley was also the President of the Huntsville Press Club, a very large and active organization.
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