Reuven Frank, former NBC News President and NBC board member who pioneered election coverage and was instrumental in teaming Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on the evening news, then picking successor Tom Brokaw, has died of pneumonia at age 85, according to NBC spokeswoman Allison Gollust, who said a family member had reached out to NBC with the news.
Frank joined NBC News in 1950 as a writer and was the producer of the Huntley-BrinkleyReport, which established the mold for news anchor teams, from its inception in 1956 to 1962, when he was named executive producer. He was named a VP of NBC news in January 1966 and an executive VP two years later.
He was also named president in 1968, a that saw journalists working overtime to cover the Tet offensive, and the events surrounding the Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy assassinations. "There has been no time for TV anybody in TV News to take a breath," he told B&C at the time.
He served until 1973, then did a second tour of duty as president in 1982-84.
Frank's legacy includes pioneering the half-hour news format when he was helping develop the Huntley-Brinkley Report, as well as pioneering presidential convention TV reporting, teaming his two nightly news anchors for the coverage and introducing floor reporters, elevated cameras, and an internal wire service.
Like many a TV newsman of his era, Frank got his start in the newspaper business, having spent three years as a reporter, rewrite man and night city editor on the Newark (N.J.) Evening News before joining the network.
Frank was born in Montreal Dec. 7, 1920, and served in the U.S. Army in World War II for four years, including two years in Europe, joining the paper after his discharge and getting a degree in journalism from Columbia.
Brokaw said Monday of Frank: "I had the privilege of starting my journalism career when Reuven was producing The Huntley Brinkley Report, which was a model of incisive reporting, astute analysis and engaging story telling in a new medium that required a deft combination of the visual and the narrative form. Those broadcasts became a school for a new generation of journalists coming of age in a new medium and I am forever grateful for what I learned from him.
"Reuven had an uncanny ability to balance the serious imperatives of journalism with a keen appreciation for the absurd. As a result he was always not just wise, but entertaining."
NBC News said in its statement: "Reuven Frank was a giant of broadcast journalism, who in many ways was a founding father of the modern form of broadcast journalism."
A full Frank bio can be found at the Museum of Broadcast Communications:
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.