Al Primo

Albert Thomas Primo (born 1935) is a television news executive who was credited with creating the Eyewitness News format. More than a hundred markets have taken the Eyewitness News name to label their own featured local newscasts and others are using Primo's concept under different names for their own formats. [1] "Eyewitness News was the first newscast to put [news] reporters on the set," which Primo states in his biographical book, Eyewitness Newsman.[2] The New York Daily News described Primo as the man "who almost single-handedly changed the face of broadcast journalism." [3] Station newscasts were only 15 minutes long and he supervised the transition to thirty minute programs. As part of the expansion, Marie Torre, of the New York Herald Tribune was hired. Primo trained her and she became one of the first women in broadcasting to write, report, and anchor a newscast.

Early life and educationEdit

Primo was born July 3, 1935, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He attended North Catholic Boys School and Perry High School, graduating in 1953, the University of Pittsburgh and graduated in 1958.[4]


He began in the business in 1953 as a mail boy at WDTV in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, moving up the ranks as the station switched dial positions (from channel 3 to channel 2), owners (from the DuMont Television Network to Westinghouse Broadcasting) and call letters (to KDKA-TV), working as news writer, cameraman, reporter, and anchorman.[4] In February 1963, Primo was named assistant news director of KDKA-TV.[5]

Primo moved from KDKA-TV to KYW-TV in Cleveland, Ohio to become the news director there in 1964.[6] While in Cleveland, Primo hired Tom Snyder when the previous anchor, Jim Axel, left.[7] When Westinghouse switched their Cleveland station for NBC's WRCV in Philadelphia in 1965, Primo moved to Philadelphia.

Eyewitness NewsEdit

It was in Philadelphia where Primo launched the Eyewitness News format (the name itself had been used for some years before that by Westinghouse's TV stations for its local newscasts, and in fact was first used by KYW itself in 1959 when it was based in Cleveland, Ohio).

In September 1968 he moved to WABC-TV, the ABC affiliate in New York City, to become director of news there.[8] He refined the Eyewitness News format at WABC, hiring minority and women reporters whom he placed in prominent positions in the newscast (including the addition of "on-camera exchanges between anchors and on-set reporters, which Chicago-based media critic Morry Roth dubbed "happy talk" when the format was introduced on WLS-TV's newscast), and the Eyewitness News name and format radiated across the United States from here.[4][9]

He also chose the musical score from the Tar Sequence in the movie Cool Hand Luke (composed by Lalo Schifrin) as the news theme to WABC's Eyewitness News, a move which also exposed many other TV stations in the United States (and by extension, their viewers) to Schifrin's work.

At WABC-TV, Primo assembled the legendary anchor duo of Roger Grimsby and Bill Beutel, which garnered high ratings for 16 years until 1986, when Grimsby was let go from the station.

ABC NewsEdit

Primo was made vice president in charge of news for ABC's owned and operated stations in May 1972.[10][11]

In February 1973, ABC launched a half-hour newsmagazine, The Reasoner Report, featuring veteran newsman Harry Reasoner as anchor. When executive producer Ernest Leiser left The Reasoner Report to become executive producer of ABC Evening News (which Reasoner also anchored), Primo was brought in to replace him.[12]

The Reasoner Report was cancelled in May 1975, and Primo left the network the following year to become a consultant.[13]

In 1999, Primo worked with Jonathan Braun to launch, a web site which featured streaming broadcasts from international news, hiring Peter Arnett as an international correspondent.[14][15] The following year,, Inc. became, launching three additional web sites:, and[16][17]

In 2002, Primo launched Teen Kids News as a project to give young people an opportunity to develop an interest in the news industry through delivering news and information to their peers. The program is starting its 15th year, seen on 220 TV stations covering 95% of USA, 1000 locations in 175 countries via American Forces Network and sent by PBS satellite and streamed on Internet to 12,600 schools each week.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Primo, Albert T. (2008). Eyewitness Newsman. Old Greenwich, CT: Albert T. Primo. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-4363-2558-5.
  2. ^ Primo, Albert T. (2008). Eyewitness Newsman. Old Greenwich, CT: Albert T. Primo. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-4363-2558-5.
  3. ^ "Al Primo Bio". Premiere Speakers Bureau. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Michael D. Murray (1999). Encyclopedia of television news. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 197. ISBN 1-57356-108-8. As principal architect of local television's Eyewitness News, Primo established techniques that became the standard at both local and national levels. Born in 1935 and raised in Pittsburgh, Primo received his bachelor of arts degree in ...
  5. ^ "Channel 2 Promotes Newsman". The Pittsburgh Press. February 28, 1963.
  6. ^ "Primo Moves". The Pittsburgh Press. November 8, 1964.
  7. ^ Primo, Albert T. (2008). Eyewitness Newsman. Old Greenwich, CT: Albert T. Primo. pp. 47–49. ISBN 9781436325592.
  8. ^ "WABC-TV Names News Head". The New York Times. August 21, 1968. ProQuest 118359374.
  9. ^ Sterling, Christopher H. (2009). Encyclopedia of Journalism. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications. p. 359.
  10. ^ "No title". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. June 8, 1972. p. 31. Cite uses generic title (help)
  11. ^ Primo, Albert T. (2008). Eyewitness Newsman. Old Greenwich, CT: Albert T. Primo. p. 215. ISBN 9781436325592.
  12. ^ Daniel, Douglass K. (2009). Harry Reasoner: A Life in the News. University of Texas Press. pp. 142–3. ISBN 9780292722170.
  13. ^ Brown, Les (May 29, 1975). "Jack Anderson Signs With ABC". The New York Times. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  14. ^ Kurtz, Howard (May 12, 1999). "Peter Arnett Falls Into the Net". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 20, 2018.
  15. ^ Byron, Christopher (May 26, 1999). " IPO Features Little Besides Dead Air". TheStreet. Retrieved September 20, 2018.
  16. ^ ", Becomes". December 29, 1999. Retrieved September 20, 2018.
  17. ^ ", Formerly, Announces New Trading Symbols". January 3, 2000. Retrieved September 20, 2018.

Further readingEdit

  • Powers, Ron. The Newscasters: The News Business As Show Business (revised edition). New York, Leisure Books, 1980 (pp. 193–203).

External linksEdit