I love the news business.
But if my editors put me on a shift that started at 11 p.m. and ended at 7 a.m., I would quit.
Not NBC10′s Pete Kane. He actually prefers the overnight shift. Long after the rest of us have gone to bed, the legendary photojournalist is monitoring police scanners and racing to crime scenes in search of breaking news for early morning programming.
There comes a time, though, when even someone as well respected as he is has to move on. After nearly 47 years at NBC10 and Telemundo62, Kane’s last day will be Friday.
His family must be relieved. Roaming around Philly all by yourself in the wee hours while toting expensive camera equipment is nerve-racking — not to mention potentially dangerous, especially given the city’s recent uptick in gun violence.
“The scariest thing for me right now on the overnight is Kensington,” Kane told me this week. “I had three quadruple shootings in the last month up in the Kensington area. And you get up there, there’s needles everywhere. I wear boots at nighttime when I’m out in the street.”
The mean streets of Philly have gotten a whole lot meaner since Kane’s early years in TV.
His career began in November 1973, after NBC10 hired him to work in the mail room. He did that for seven years, while also attending night school and freelancing as a photographer for The Inquirer and the Daily News, among other publications.
He became a full-time technician at the station in 1983, but made a name for himself during the 1985 MOVE bombing, after secreting himself in an upstairs bedroom of a nearby house — which enabled him to get exclusive footage during the nightmarish confrontation that he narrated live on the air.
Afterward, he was hailed a hero, and began getting stopped on the street by people who recognized him. In the TV news business, it’s usually the on-air talent who are the stars — not the camera operators. Kane really is something of an anomaly, which is why I decided to write about him, as opposed to other respected TV veterans who also are retiring — such as Fox 29′s Joyce Evans, 6ABC’s Terry Gilmore, and NBC10′s Gary Watson.
I wasn’t in Philadelphia when Kane was making headlines, but I have heard stories about his exploits. I don’t know him personally, but have seen him around. At crime scenes and news conferences, he’s never elbowed me out of the way or blocked my line of sight, the way some others have. He always comes across as friendly and polite.
“When I think of Pete, I think less about journalism and more about the amazing stories he has told about Philadelphia,” said Kathleen Gerrow, NBC10′s assistant news director. “I think more about the kind of man he is, the people he has gotten to know on the streets of Philadelphia.
“To me, that’s his legacy,” she added. “His legacy at NBC10 is one of, ‘Wow! He was the guy who was hiding across the street in a house when MOVE went down. He was the guy who has shot and/or just simply told… all kinds of award-winning stories. While all of that is fabulous and wonderful, it’s really the man. It’s Pete Kane the man who makes the biggest difference.”
He’s known for being a “bottomless resource” of information.
“If anybody still knows the word Rolodex,” Gerrow said, “he’s a human Rolodex of not phone numbers but of people, of what they do and how they impact Philadelphia and how they have a great story to tell.”
At a time when mistrust of media is disturbingly high, the name Pete Kane stands for something positive, and these days, that’s saying something.