Off Air & On the Record
News 12 TV Anchorman Brian Conybeare
As an award-winning news anchor and reporter for News 12 TV since 1995, Eastchester resident Brian Conybeare usually is the one asking the questions. During his time at News 12, he has investigated issues such as Internet pedophiles, gang violence, and illegal drag racing—all right here in Westchester. We decided to turn the tables and interview the interviewer.
Is it really that convivial on the set? No spats or disagreements with Janine Rose or your other co-
We are like one big family, and any family has its issues. But it’s less competitive and backstabbing than other newsrooms I’ve seen, but that’s not to say there’s no pressure here.
Former news anchor Barbara Walters recently revealed her two-year affair with a married senator in her autobiography, Audition. Any big explosive secrets you want to share with us?
I don’t have any secret nearly as good as Barbara Walters had. I would leave it as I am a happily married man and plan to stay that way the rest of my life!
Who would be your fantasy or “best get” local interview subject?
My fantasy interview would actually be two Westchester couples: Hillary and Bill and Al and Jeanine [Pirro]. What makes them so interesting is their complicated relationships; they’re all such public people with such interesting and complex personal lives.
Have you ever had any heated Tom Cruise/Matt Lauer-like “moments” with an interviewee?
No public figure has really ever gotten in my face. However, several years ago, I was interviewing New York State senatorial candidates. They got so nasty with each other that I ended it as politely and safely as I could. Afterward, they jumped up and nearly came to blows, and I literally had to separate them. Neither is currently in office and one eventually ended up in jail.
You’ve done a lot of investigative reporting at News 12. Which report are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my ongoing work on suburban street gangs, a subject that was ignored because the powers that be didn’t want to admit that we had street gangs in the lovely suburbs.
Have you ever experienced any attempted reprisals for your investigative work?
I certainly have gotten some nasty phone calls from people and some residents who were very unhappy that street gangs were active in their neighborhoods, saying, “You’re ruining my property values” and “What the hell are you doing?”
Ever feel threatened?
The closest I actually ever felt to being threatened with physical violence was with an attorney who came after me in the parking lot after a very heated on-air political discussion. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed.
Who are your own anchor idols?
My first hero was Ted Koppel. He’s the best line interviewer I’ve ever seen. I wanted his job at Nightline—I thought that was the coolest job ever. Peter Jennings was another.
What if the Today Show called?
I’m currently under contract and very happy with my life and lifestyle. But if my dream job came along, I’d be an idiot not to pursue it.
What Westchester news story were you surprised to see get so much attention?
The police dominatrix case in Greenburgh. It kept going and going. It was so sordid and so icky, but people couldn’t take their eyes off it.
To me, Westchester is fascinating. It is the number one major city suburb in the nation, and it is incredibly diverse. The same day we are reporting on gangs, we could be covering the US equestrian Olympic hopefuls in a horse show; all that is going on in the same county. I’ve lived in a lot of places and the combination of Westchester and its access to New York City makes it my favorite of all. This is where I want to make my life.
How is working for a local news station is different than working for a national one?
We cover different issues. Certainly we’ll cover the presidential race like the national news but we are still more in touch with local cities and towns; we’re more hyper-focused on the county.
Do you ever get the “you look familiar” comments when out and about in Westchester at the A&P or the bank?
That happens every time I am grocery shopping: “Where do I know you from? You look familiar.” I’ll say, “You must have cable TV.” And they might say that I look much taller in real life. People are very nice and it’s fun to meet them; I get some of my best ideas by talking to them.
What’s the Westchester news story you most want to report?
I’d love to be able to one day say that street gangs are no longer a problem in Westchester and that all Westchester teenagers are pursing more positive pursuits, but that may be wishful thinking.
You’re usually the one asking all the questions. So, what would you like me to ask you?
How about what do I do in my free time? I love watching and playing basketball; I play in leagues and pick-up games in New Rochelle, Yonkers, Greenburgh, and Bronxville. I wanted to be a sports reporter for a while but I knew too many guys who did that and they wound up hating sports. There are also more jobs in news; in any newsroom, there are dozens of job in news but only two or three in sports.
Where do you keep your three Emmy’s?
On a bookshelf that my wife had built in the living room. In journalism, there are a lot of awards given out but the ones that I am most proud of are the Emmy’s and my five Edward R, Murrow awards. I have a huge box in my attic of other awards that I don’t display because it all seems a little more pompous than I want to be.
What would you say was your most memorable interview?
Certainly my most harrowing one was on September 11. I was living in and reporting from Manhattan. After working my way south from Murray Hill on foot, I spoke with a young man whose brother was in the Twin Towers, just a few hours after it happened. It was the biggest story I have ever covered.
What’s your favorite question to ask an interview subject?
My last question is usually “Is there anything I’ve missed and that you want people to know?” That’s when you often get people to speak from the heart.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I came from a family of lawyers: my father is a lawyer, my brother is a lawyer, and both my sisters are lawyers married to lawyers! In my family, those were the two things you do— be a lawyer or a doctor. But I worked as a DJ at the University of Michigan campus, and I loved music. After college, I traveled around—I hitchhiked around Europe, lived in London, tried to learn how to surf and waited tables in LA, lived in Maui, and bartended in Chicago. When I finally got a job at a radio station in Hammond, Indiana—on the news side, not music—the station call letters were—fittingly–WJOB.
What’s your best advise for aspiring news anchors?
Keep an open mind and learn how to write. Writing is critical; they are too many poor writers in the TV field.
Tell us about your most embarrassing on-air experience.
The time I sneezed on camera because of allergies wasn’t one of my better moments; it’s always better to try to do that during the commercial break.
How do you feel about having to wear make-up on air?
Wearing make-up is the worst part of my job. I use as little as possible but I have to wear it; I’d look stupid on TV without it. My five-year-old asked me. “Daddy, why do you wear make-up? My answer was that I wouldn’t wear it if I weren’t on TV.