Pat Harper

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Patricia "Pat" Harper (1935 – April 3, 1994) was an American television news anchor and reporter, and a fixture for nearly two decades on two New York City television stations. In 1975, she became the first woman to anchor a television news program in New York.[1]

Harper, who grew up in New York, worked at TV stations in Chicago and Philadelphia before making history as the first female news anchor in New York when she joined WPIX in 1975.

She was initially paired at the anchor desk with her then husband, Joe Harper (reporter), who had anchored the station's nightly newscast since 1973.

Despite a major advertising push, the ratings for Action News remained way behind The 10 O'Clock News on WNEW-TV, and the on-air pairing ended in early 1976, by which time they had been divorced in their private life. Joe Harper summarily retired from broadcasting after his run on WPIX ended (he died in 1983). In 1977, Pat returned to the anchor desk after an overhauling of Action News and the addition of a 7:30 P.M. edition, in addition to the already existing 10 P.M. newscast. Her co-anchor for most of the rest of her run at channel 11 was Steve Bosh, formerly of WCBS-TV.

Beginning in 1979, she was paired on the 10 P.M. edition with Bill Jorgensen, who had just left WNEW-TV. In 1980, Harper, Jorgensen and Bosh were named anchors of a new, nationally syndicated newscast called Independent Network News; with that, Pat became the first female co-anchor of a national news broadcast.

Following Jorgensen's retirement from the station in 1983, and Bosh's departure in 1984, her co-anchors would include Brad Holbrook and former CBS News reporter/anchor Morton Dean. During her run with WPIX, the station took home two Emmy Awards for outstanding local news coverage, in 1979 and again in 1983.

In 1985, Harper left WPIX for WNBC-TV, where she replaced John Hambrick as Chuck Scarborough's co-anchor on the 6 P.M. edition of News 4 New York. In her years with channel 4, the station won five consecutive Emmy Awards for best local newscast. Harper herself won an Emmy for a special report in which she spent a week on the streets of New York as a homeless bag lady, as part of a look at the homeless problem that was then plaguing the city.[2][3]


After Harper's run on WNBC ended in April 1991, she retired from the news business and moved to Capileira, Spain. She died there three years later of a heart attack at age 59. She was survived by three children and several grandchildren.

References[edit]

  1. ^ WPIX's Pat Harper Will Go to WNBC-TV. The New York Times, March 8, 1985.
  2. ^ Pace, Eric, "Pat Harper, 59, Emmy-Winning News Anchor", The New York Times, Monday, April 4, 1994
  3. ^ Chavez, H.F., Pat Harper Obituary.

    "While at WNBC, Harper won another Emmy for her groundbreaking work on an undercover investigation in which she left her luxurious East Side apartment with 80 cents in her pocket and spent five days living on the street 'to learn what it's like to be homeless.' Harper spent the days wandering the streets in the icy January rain and her nights sleeping in doorways, subway stations and public shelters. She began to realize that most homeless people were not much different than she. Several people helped, giving her food and advice on how to survive without money. In one particular scene, a well-dressed woman wearing a mink coat passed the disguised Harper, then walked back to her and pressed some money right into Harper's hand. She was so moved by the act and she later explained that it made her realize that there are still some very good people in New York City, and that many homeless are simply normal people who have been hit with financial problems from which they have not been able to rebound."

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