By Bob Nesoff
Photos by David Handschuh
Over the years respect for government officials has tumbled from its high point with Washington and Jefferson until today many are considered to be members of the World’s Oldest Profession.
Journalists have taken a precipitous tumble as well from the Ivory Tower inhabited by the likes of Ben Franklin and Walter Cronkite and the standards of ethics they set. Today even the venerable Grey Lady-The New York Times and NBC-TV have had scandals in faux reporting that have led many in the public to view members of the Fourth Estate as only slightly elevated from the level of politicians.
There are those, however, who truly believe in what they are doing, in the public’s right to know and treasure the integrity of their reporting.
Television is a medium not known for longevity. Reporters are on screen one day and gone the next, replaced by a talking hairdo from another part of the country who will also suddenly disappear.
So where does any consistency come in?
Check out Fox-TV News and the venerable Ernie Anastos.
Anastos has been a fixture in New York City television for more than 35 years, almost unheard of in this profession. In all that time there has never been a hint of professional or personal impropriety.
In a business where egos rage, Ernie Anastos has managed to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground with a mutual respect that he offers to those around him and is returned from co-workers and strangers alike.
Sitting in the television studio while Anastos is involved in his broadcast, Chris, the floor manager, ambles over to a pair of guests and nods toward the newscaster.
“He really is a nice guy,” Chris offers. “He’s great to work with and knows what he is doing.” Chris then ambles back to cue the participants in an interview.
Finishing his interview Ernie does not walk away from his guests, but stands and chats with them. The entourage accompanying the guests walks to the set and he takes time to pose for every picture request. No rush job; no patronizing; no lofty airs. He’s simply “Ernie.”
On a personal side in conversation he refers to his wife and family in loving conversation. He talks about their achievements in school and life and includes his son-in-law as an integral part of the family.
This is no humble act. He really is that way.
Ernie’s Aunt Eva has a tradition of calling him at the end of every broadcast and critiquing his tie while imparting her love. He is on the telephone with her when his office door opens and sports anchor Russ Salzberg sticks his head in.
“Aunt Eva?” Salzberg smiles. Anastos nods his head and Salzberg withdraws. It seems everyone knows about Aunt Eva and her ongoing tradition.
“People may not remember what you said nor did,” he muses, “but they’ll remember how you made them feel. I believe this applies to my role as a New York television anchor for more than three decades.
“I’m the luckiest guy in the world. What an honor to be on television all these years in the best city with the best people. I cherish my relationship with millions of viewers. Wherever I go there’s a real familiarity in all our great neighborhoods filled with people of all ages and diversity.”
Anastos, obviously of Greek heritage, is descended from a prominent lineage. His grandfather was one of the early priests ordained in the faith and was well-known by other clergy, a point of immense pride for him.
Anastos offers an anecdote about his religion. In Army basic training a drill sergeant was trying to determine the religious mix of his recruits. He ordered Catholics to stand at one point, Protestants at another and Jews at a third.
Anastos and three other young soldiers were left standing by themselves. When the sergeant asked what their religion was, the three responded “Orthodox.” They were immediately placed with the Jewish soldiers. The sergeant mistook them for Orthodox Jews.
“Worked out great,” he says. “I got off from duty for everyone’s holiday.”
As a youngster growing up in New England he was involved in many things but he always knew he wanted to be in broadcasting. Young Ernie set up his basement as a broadcast station. At age 16 he stopped in at radio station WOTW and when manager Dick Corbin heard his voice, offered him an on-air position as a “teen-talk” host…at minimum wage.
“Minimum wage?” Anastos said. “I didn’t care. I was given an opportunity to do what I loved.”
In those days’ ethnic names in broadcasting and entertainment was a major no-no. Anastos became Ernie Andrews. That lasted until he took a post in Providence and decided he wanted truth in broadcasting.
Ernie met with the station manager and said he wanted to change his name. The manager responded “I was thinking about that. Suppose we call you Keith Andrews?” After a few seconds of discussion Ernie Anastos became Ernie Anastos and never looked back.
He’s run the gamut in New York television but has been happily ensconced at Fox-TV for decades. Always a news journalist first, he covered some of the top stories in the world. He was there after the World Trade Center collapsed. When Princess Diana was tragically killed as she was chased by paparazzi in Paris, he felt that only an on-site report would suffice and he was off to London where he covered the story by getting the feelings of common, ordinary Londoners and transmitted their grief and heartbreak to New York audiences.
With all that hard news reporting, how does he manage to stay upbeat?
“I’ve always had a positive attitude due in large part to my family and upbringing. We were always filled with optimism and there was a positive environment. I look at issues and problems that I report on with a sense of finding solutions and a belief that we can make things better. It’s called ‘hope.’
“I love it that people are at ease to talk freely to me. I think that’s the result of trust and credibility and genuine respect people have for my years of responsible reporting on the different stories that have shaped New York City. People can sense that I care about the nature of the news and about people’s lives. I try to convey a sense of hope when I am reporting tragic news. It is, though, much better when the news is positive.
It’s really all about sharing social history together and caring about where and how we live…and about each other.
Ernie Anastos is truly New York Lifestyles first New York Icon. •