Bob Teague, one of New York City’s first black TV journalists, passed away on Thursday, 28, at the age of 84. Here’s what you should know about Teague’s legacy in journalism and his saddening loss.
1. He Died of Lymphoma
According to his wife, Jan, Bob Teague passed in New Brunswick, New Jersey at the age of 84. He died due to complications of T-cell lymphoma. WNBC gave this statement on Teague and his contributions to broadcast news:
Bob Teague was a broadcast pioneer with a passion for news and for serving his New York viewers. We were saddened to hear of his passing and send our most sincere condolences to his wife and the entire Teague family.
Teague was born in Milwaukee on January 2, 1929, to a mechanic and a maid. He was a standout football player at the University of Wisconsin, winning all-Big 10 honors. He became a journalism major in college and soon started writing for The Milwaukee Journal. In 1952, he joined the Army. In 1956, he moved back to New York and worked as a radio news writer for CBS. Afterward, he worked for the New York Times as a sports copy editor.
2. He Worked 30 Years for WNBC, Starting in the Time of Race Riots
WNBC, the NBC-owned TV news station in New York, hired Teague in 1963. He ended up working as a producer, reporter and anchor for WNBC for more than 30 years. During the 1960s, Teague was often sent into minority neighborhoods in order to cover the racial tensions present at the time. Teague conducted an interview with the Associated Press in 1981 and spoke about why he was given these roles to cover:
They felt black reporters would be invulnerable in a riot.
WNBC posted a video detailing Teague’s career and accolades, which can be seen above.
3. He Was Critical of the News Industry
The New York Times reported on Teague’s feelings about the news business and their practices:
Just two years after being hired, Mr. Teague was given his own weekly program, “Sunday Afternoon Report.” He also became a frequent replacement on NBC network news and sports programs. But even as he carved a niche at NBC, including occasional service as anchor, he grew disillusioned with many aspects of the TV news business. In his 1982 book, “Live and Off-Color: News Biz,” he complained that executives’ lust for ratings led them to prefer spectacle over serious news. “A newscast is not supposed to be just another vehicle for peddling underarm deodorants,” he wrote. “The public needs to know.” He criticized the major stations’ practice of all scheduling their news programs at the same time of day, saying this meant they all provided the same information. He suggested that each channel present the news in a separate time slot. The slots could then by rotated so all would get access to the most popular times.
4. He Published Letters to a Black Boy, Written for His Son
In 1968, Teague published a book titled Letters to a Black Boy. The book was written in the form of letters that were meant to be read by his son Adam (who was one at the time). When Adam turned 13, he was meant to read these letters and get more of an understanding about race relations. He also wrote three other children’s books, such as Agent K-Thirteen The Super Spy.
5. Another Man Became the First Black Network TV Reporter
Malvin Russell Goode is notable for being the first black network television reporter in 1962. The New York Times reported that “he was assigned to the ABC News United Nations bureau because network executives feared his presence in the main studio would be too disruptive.” Bob Teague was hired by WNBC the next year.