In the News: A Q&A with Pat Kiernan

Since taking the role of morning news anchor at NY1 in 1997, Pat Kiernan has become one of the city’s most familiar faces. The Canada native is a fixture in the daily routine for many New Yorkers, sifting through the headlines in his “In The Papers” segment and covering everything from the World Trade Center terrorist attacks to Superstorm Sandy.

In an interview with City & State Senior Correspondent Jon Lentz, Kiernan talked about his lifelong love of journalism, the string of public corruption scandals in the state and the radio show he launched last year.


The following is an edited transcript.

City & State: I understand that you get up around 3 a.m., finish your morning shift around 10 a.m. and then it’s off to your afternoon nap. 

Pat Kiernan: That’s pretty much the way things work here. We started early yesterday for storm coverage, so I shaved another hour off my sleep last night. But we were back to the regular 3 a.m. wakeup and 4 a.m. in the office yesterday.

C&S: About a year ago, you added a radio show, The Ride Home with Pat Kiernan and Rita Cosby, which airs at 5 p.m. How do you manage that?

PK: Actually, I’ve been scaling back my role at WABC for the last month here. I did the radio show full time for a year, and that was one of the factors in my decision. I felt like it was too much burning the candle at both ends. There’s still a lot going on every day, but I’m not at the radio station every day in the afternoon, so that gives me a little more flexibility. My kids have a full slate of activities that still cut into my afternoon nap after I finish at NY1. I’ve tried all approaches to dealing with the 3 a.m. wakeup over the last 17 years, and the afternoon nap is one that seems to work for me—although it still doesn’t make the 3 a.m. alarm clock any earlier.

C&S: How is the radio show different than TV news? 

PK: The thing I enjoy in doing the radio show is you have the ability to be anywhere immediately, on the phone. After all these years of doing TV, it’s heavy on logistics. You’ve got to get a camera into place, you’ve got to get a live truck into place, there’s a lot of coordination required to make things happen on TV. Thankfully with as big a team as we have at NY1 we can get those pieces into place fairly quickly. An interesting thing when I was reintroduced to radio in January of last year was the feeling that anybody I wanted to book was only a phone call away.

C&S: Did you always want to be a TV anchor?

PK: From the time I was 7 or 8 years old, I was fascinated by the idea of broadcasting. There was a chance I had to go down to the local radio station on Saturdays and Sundays. The announcers would go out and do live commercials from some place, and they would make a big event out of how they were broadcasting live. I remember convincing my dad that we had to go to the Boutique of Leather store because the morning man, Howard Langdale, was there. He was this guy standing in the corner with a microphone and twice an hour he did a 60-second commercial and then he would shake hands and greet people the rest of the time. I’m not sure what I got out of that visit, but that was one of the signs of my early fascination with broadcast. I would draw pictures of TV trucks and think about that stuff. I loved the news as well. I delivered the local afternoon paper at the time, The Calgary Herald, and the people of my paper route always criticized me for being too slow with the deliveries. Part of the problem was I walk along inattentively reading the newspaper rather than just rushing it to the door. I would read it myself before actually delivering to my customers.

C&S: One of the biggest headlines has been the corruption allegations against then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, which is just the latest political scandal. Is it ever disillusioning?

PK: You can’t help but get jaded with the number of corruption cases involving politicians. You almost make the assumption that there’s going to be a headline of some sort of misbehavior. That doesn’t change the fact that these are important stories and they’re making important decisions and that we need to cover it and that the audience is interested in it, but it does color your perception of all of this and you wish that you didn’t have to be as skeptical as you are. But there’s been nothing to indicate that it gets any better. It’s just one after another.

C&S: You’re a fan of pop culture and you’ve even done cameos as yourself. Do people recognize you around the city?

PK: To the point of my visit at 8 years old to Howard Langdale, if I was that fascinated by meeting my local radio personality, I’ve got to assume that if you reach a certain level of success in TV news people are going to recognize you. That doesn’t come as a surprise. It is very frequent that people recognize me on the streets or at an event. People across all demographics will come up and say, “Hey, I watch you every morning, I couldn’t live without you guys every morning, you’re part of my morning routine.” So that’s gratifying and it’s nice to know that what we do is meeting the needs of the audience, that they appreciate the fact that NY1 has an emphasis on the stories that really matter to New York, and that we’re not wasting a lot of time on fluff. All of that is well received by people, and when they spot me on a subway or see me at a movie, the interactions are 99 percent positive. It’s good.