As we examined last week, staffers are finding their way since the break up two years ago from Bloomberg LP.
One of those is Mitch Lebe, now a fill-in news anchor primarily on 77 WABC.
Lebe is a radio lifer, in the business for more than 50 years.
Last year, this reporter began a campaign to get Mitch inducted into the New York State Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
While waiting for a decision, FishbowlNY reached out to some friends and colleagues that know him best. Needlessly to say, there was a consensus.
Mitch began his radio career at WINS in 1958 billed as “The Teenage Disc Jockey.”
There were several stations over the years, but his greatness was solidified with stints at WYNY/66 WNBC, WCBS-AM, and WBBR (Bloomberg).
“Mitch is one of these people who does his job as anchor, reporter, writer, inside or outside interviewer with a minimum of off-air conversation,” former WCBS colleague, and another New York radio news veteran, baritone Bob Gibson says. “When Mitch arrived at WCBS Newsradio 88, a little more than twenty years ago, I recall training him most of the time. As two native New Yorkers who knew one another by our work, but had never met, we got along well and it was comforting to see how quickly Mitch adapted to a lot of intricate details.”
Mitch didn’t just adapt, he was the reliable pro during his 10-year run at WCBS. While he wasn’t full-time, you’d never know it, hearing him any day on any given shift.
Prior to joining WCBS, Mitch was well established in the market with more than a decade at NBC Radio. He was mainly heard on WYNY, the local FM, while also providing news updates on the flagship across the hall–WNBC-AM.
“I think the world of Mitch. Not only has he been a fine newsman in the city of New York for so many years, but he is also a very decent human being,” says Bill Rock. “He and I worked together at a few places over the years. His voice is one that can be identified as a familiar NYC broadcaster.”
Rock is famed DJ, most notably guiding New Yorkers from Adult Contemporary to Country formats at WYNY.
Sure Mitch has the longevity, and 50 years should be the milestone equivalent to 3,000 hits or 500 home runs for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame. But, how did Mitch survive for so long in a business that is infamous for spitting out talent?
Mitch has been able to separate himself from the pack of news anchors with an ability to maintain a smooth delivery no matter what news is being reported. His conversational on-air style can be taught in broadcasting schools.
One of the most natural, Mitch and radio news are one and the same.
Another one-time colleague (and like Mitch, a Long Island native), veteran TV anchor Mike Schneider says Mitch has brought something else during his decades on the air—class.
“Mitch has demonstrated talent, versatility, durability, and a true passion for broadcasting. In short, Mitch Lebe is a pro’s pro, worthy of the ‘Hall of Fame,’” Schneider says.
While only at WABC for less than a year (through Metro Networks and occasionally for the station directly), news director Laurie Cantillo understands what she has in Mitch.
“I do know from having him fill-in for us that he is always very professional and a totally classy guy.”
Picking up on the classy point, Gibson adds, “Saying something negative might be even more challenging because if this man has a bad side, I’ve never seen it, and remain convinced it’s non-existent.”
My efforts to have Mitch enshrined in the state’s Hall of Fame began by creating a Facebook page. Once there, people were encouraged to give any feedback toward Mitch’s induction.
A spokesperson for the NYSBA says a decision will be made next month on this year’s honorees.
Roy Whitfield has known Mitch for more than 50 years. Without a doubt, he stands behind seeing his best friend immortalized as a New York radio great.
“Mitch is a consummate professional, totally dedicated to his craft,” Whitfield says. “In addition, he has always been generous with his time and efforts to train and help young people on the road to broadcasting careers. Mitch has both talent and integrity, a combination rarely seen these days. I’m proud to call him my friend!”
So to recap, those not familiar with Mitch’s half-century of work, and not sure if he’s Hall-worthy, can get a dose from another former Bloomberg co-worker, Ed Newlands. He is succinct in making the case to have the Hall open its doors for Mitch.
“Mitch is one of the most professional air personalities in the entire industry,” Newlands says. “He was one of the greatest guys to work with. [Mitch] … definitely belongs in the Hall of Fame.”
It is a feeling that anyone who has been privileged to work with, come in contact with, or been informed by Mitch on the air over the years would agree with.
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