Fordham mourns the loss of Joseph T. Dembo, a professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies for 21 years, and an esteemed executive and correspondent for the CBS Radio Network. Dembo died on March 15 in Manhattan after a battle with cancer. He was 83 years old.
Dembo is most widely known for his pioneering work in creating the now-familiar all-news radio format, first established in the 1960s at WCBS in New York City, according to the radio station.
Dembo, who originated the “Up-to-the-Minute” news concept, began his broadcast career in the 1950s, as a producer and reporter for the NBC network and its local television station, WNBC-TV, in New York.
In 1960, Dembo moved to CBS, where he enjoyed a 28-year career, which included serving as vice president and general manager of WCBS Radio, anchoring “News-on-the-Hour” national broadcasts in the late 1970s, and acting as bureau chief for CBS News in Rome and Athens from 1971 to 1974. Dembo also was the executive producer of “The CBS Morning News” network television broadcast from 1974 to 1976.
Dembo joined the Fordham faculty in 1988 as a visiting professor. He remained at Fordham until 2009, teaching on journalistic ethics and the history of broadcast journalism, most notably in his course on Edward R. Murrow and his era, titled “The Murrow Years: 1938-1965.”
“The world has lost an important voice today,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham. “The broadcast industry knew Joe Dembo as the journalist and executive who transformed radio news. The University community knew him as a dedicated, generous teacher and mentor. But Joe Dembo belonged not just to Fordham, or to broadcasting, but to the ideals of truth and fairness. His passing marks the end of an era. I know the Fordham community joins me in prayer for Joe, and for his family and loved ones.”
In June 2009, Dembo was named visiting professor emeritus of communication and media studies, in recognition of distinguished career at the University.
“Professor Dembo was a riveting raconteur of broadcast history,” said James VanOosting, Ph.D., professor and chair of communication and media studies. “But he rarely spoke about himself. There was a beautiful and soulful mystery to this man.”
Dembo also served as acting president of National Public Radio, and for three years was a member of the NPR Board of Directors. In 1988, he received the Orson Welles Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Radio Advertising Bureau.
Born on March 13, 1927, in Vienna, Austria, Joseph T. Dembo soon immigrated with his family to the United States and grew up in New Brunswick, N.J. He received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Rutgers University in 1950.
Dembo is survived by his wife, Margot, and his three children, Wendy, David and Robert, and grandchildren, Elly and Jesse.