Anchoring more than one newscast per shift is nothing new. That is standard operating procedure. What is uncommon, though, is anchoring two newscasts for two different TV stations.
Welcome to the world of Harry Martin. With apologies to the late, great James Brown, when it comes to the local news scene, Martin may very well be the “Hardest Working Man in Show Business.”
Delve into Martin’s day and you see just how special it is.
The veteran anchor has been a mainstay on WWOR and Fox 5 several years. Since 2009, however, Martin anchors for WNYW, followed by sister station My9 each weeknight.
“We’re all on the same page,” Martin says. “There’s a lot of trust there.”
FishbowlNY recently spent the day with Martin as he prepared for each newscast.
In the morning, Martin wakes up to Good Day New York, checking to see what the potential stories will look like in the evening. His actual work day begins around 1:30 p.m. at the WWOR studios in Secaucus, N.J.
Despite the fact that Martin lives in the Garden State, it actually takes him longer traveling to the My9 studios than from Secaucus to New York.
He’s there to pick up the company car and head across the Hudson to Fox 5/WNYW. If time permits, or warrants, he’ll begin a day-long contact with his My9 producer, and VP/news director Jim Driscoll.
“Harry is one of the hardest working anchors I’ve ever worked with,” Driscoll says. “He genuinely cares about the quality of the newscast we deliver and wants to connect with viewers.”
Of course, dealing the traffic makes Martin’s feat even more amazing. Therefore, by 2 p.m. Martin needs to hit the road to reach Manhattan’s Upper East Side by 3.
Even in transit, Martin still is preparing.
“I’m constantly trying to keep everyone in the loop to where I am, and by the same token, if there’s a story that’s developing on my way over then I’ll do that.”
Once at Fox 5, amid the symphony of sounds in his office from a Blackberry buzzing constantly and desk phone ringing, Martin begins to assemble stories for 6 p.m. Ultimately, he will write the majority of the newscast himself.
The anchor also takes a proactive role at both stations in terms of coordinating what stories to run.
“He brings so much to the table off the air when it comes to the news gathering process that the viewer never gets to see,” Driscoll says. “He’s very much involved in the production of the newscast.”
To that end, Martin, who joined WNYW in 1993, touches base with his reporters to find out what they are working on.
“So I can make the intro more compelling.”
Martin also speaks to the reporters in an effort to eliminate intros that repeat what they have in their opening line.
“There’s nothing I hate more,” Martin admits.
But there’s certainly no hate for the staff at both stations.
“There’s a lot of moving pieces, it’s not just me. …to get to a newscast and then once you’re in a newscast it’s all over the map as well,” Martin says.
Martin, 59, does three reports in the 5 p.m. show, each from a different venue.
On this particular afternoon, Martin, a psycho-biology major from Albright College in Reading, PA, is intrigued by the story about a potential new life form discovered by NASA.
Martin researched the topic, scouring the Web for facts and pictures. Those pictures would be front and center for his live report from the “Web room,” showing items from the Internet blown up on a large monitor for the viewing audience.
Aside from the “Web room,” Martin teases what’s coming up at 6 directly from the newsroom. Moments before his newscast, Ernie Anastos throws it to Martin, now set up in the studio.
“There’s nobody in the business like Ernie,” Martin admits. “Just being around him, seeing his approach to stories, the way he presents them, it’s just made me a better anchor.”
Closing in on 40 years in broadcasting, Martin is remembered by viewers from reporting and anchoring at WABC in the 1990s. While there, Martin met his future wife, veteran Channel 7 reporter Sarah Wallace. The couple has two children.
Martin, an avid photographer, has published several books showing off his other talents.
Despite being written and prepared, Martin knew this newscast could be thrown a curveball. As he begins, the House censure vote for Congressman Charles Rangel is expected to be completed at any moment.
As live TV showed its real impact, Martin showed off his real talents. He winged it as the vote wrapped up and Rangel subsequently spoke. What viewers didn’t see was a calm, yet urgent Martin, rushing to jot down quotes from Rangel’s speech and recap moments later in his usual smooth demeanor.
“I could never be an anchor that just walks in, picks up the script and walks on the set and reads whatever is in the prompter,” Martin admits.
As you might expect, the breaking news scenario could lead to some communication issues. Martin was overheard in the next commercial break mildly complaining that he wasn’t given a signal when to dump out of Rangel’s speech. Using his decades of experience, he suggested how to rectify the situation in the future using better coordination.
Following the 30-minute newscast, Martin has to rev it up again for a taped interview to air at 10 p.m.
It’s now 6:45 p.m. and Martin has completed the halfway point in his marathon day.
Accounting for each minute, he grabs his typical dinner of tuna or chicken from the corner deli and eats it on his way back to WWOR.
On the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel, Martin is ready to start the next wave of his day.
“I touch base with the producer, find out what our lead story is…. any calls I can make, anything I can do for the 11 o’clock,” Martin says. “And then I sit down and I take a breath because I need a little decompression time…I’m not good in traffic.”
With that in mind, Martin has keep alternate travel plans to get from point A to point B.
“There’s all different routes that I take depending on the traffic.”
He needed those other ways to reach New Jersey on one night, when he was running late for a scheduled interview with Senator Frank Lautenberg.
“It was tough. …I was running way behind. But it worked out.”
Interviews like that, with a strong focus for New Jersey based WWOR, have plenty of interest to Tri state viewers on Fox 5.
That theme of synergy means Martin will return to Fox 5 at 10 (now based out of the My9 newsroom) with a report from an aforementioned pre-taped interview, or something fresh. He gets back on the phone to New York with his producer to coordinate. He’ll usually do that at least three times a week.
“It’s kind of like filling in the holes.”
Then its time for the 11 p.m. newscast, where he is joined by longtime My9 anchor Brenda Blackmon.
“Brenda’s one of the most wonderful people you would ever want to meet in the world,”
Despite Martin being at the center of some highly talented anchors, writers, and producers, occasionally there are those times when the weekend can’t come soon enough.
“There are certain weeks when I’m really glad Fridays are there,” Martin laughed.
He points out that those feelings usually happen after major breaking news events.
Beyond that, Martin is thrilled to be exactly where he is.
“I love it. I’m always busy. There’s always something new. There’s always something stimulating…I get to work with two of the best news staffs in the entire city… I love the people I work with.”