One Reporter’s Journey

“Minute by minute. Hour by hour. If we lose our history, we lose our power.”

That is an old African proverb that Arthur O. Eve once shared with me. The former New York Deputy Assembly Speaker was emphasizing history’s role in helping us define who we are as a people.

Buffalo’s strength lies, in part, in its rich and colorful history. Lessons have often served as a beacon of light to the nation and the world.

Journalists help define history by the subjects they choose to focus upon, and the way in which the material is presented.

Buffalo’s journalists, with a long tradition of commitment to their community, have produced an invaluable chronicle of the times that often illuminates the issues and challenges we continue to face today.

During my 37 years reporting for WIVB-TV, I had the privilege of producing a wide range of documentaries and television specials with some of the most gifted photojournalists of our times.

Thanks to a dedicated news station, these pieces are now available here with the click of a mouse.

I hope you find value in their content.

— Rich Newberg, Senior Correspondent, Retired

“One Reporter’s Journey” 

Produced by Rich Newberg and Mike Mombrea, Jr. (2015)

Rich shares personal insights into major stories he covered for WIVB-TV from 1978 to 2015. He traces his 46 year career as a broadcast journalist.

Mike Mombrea, Jr.’s Video Profile for Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame induction 

WIVB-TV’S five time Emmy Award winning Chief Photographer Mike Mombrea, Jr. was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of fame on September 24, 2015. His television specials include documentaries shot on location in the Persian Gulf, China, Poland, and Rome. Mombrea covered the Buffalo Bills for thirteen years for NFL Films. He also served for seven years as an adjunct professor of video production at St. Bonaventure University. His father, Mike Mombrea, Sr., was also inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2007 for his pioneer work as one of WIVB-TV’s first news photographers.

“Lost Childhood: The Story of the Birkenau Boys”

Produced by Rich Newberg and Mike Mombrea, Jr. (1995)

The mystery surrounding the survival of 89 Jewish boys whose families were taken to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp during WWII. Received two New York Emmy Awards.

“Survivors of the Holocaust” 

Produced by Rich Newberg and Dan Summerville (1983)

One of local television’s first efforts to explore the lives of Holocaust survivors and the lessons they offer to civilization. Features the stories of three survivors who settled in Buffalo, the feelings of some of their children, and the memories of a U.S. soldier who liberated the Mauthausen concentration camp.

“A Life in the Balance” 

Produced by Rich Newberg and Tom Vetter in (1999) 

Examines the struggles of the mentally ill in the wake of some tragic incidents involving psychiatric outpatients. The right of society to protect itself vs. the right of individuals to live independent lives. Received a New York Emmy Award.

“Our Two Most Cherished Rights” 

Produced by Rich Newberg and Tom Vetter in (1999)

The Right to Life vs. The Liberty to Choose. Buffalo had become a battleground as the abortion debate played out in the streets. Explores the assassination of Buffalo abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian. Received a New York Emmy Award.

“The People’s Pope” 

Produced by Rich Newberg and Mike Mombrea, Jr. with Executive Producer: Chris Musial (1999)

Documents the life and times of Pope John Paul II and his ties to Western New York, including Ann Odre, the Buffalo woman also wounded in the 1981 attempt on the pope’s life.

“Hearts and Minds Together” 

Produced by Rich Newberg and Don Yearke (1986)

A Buffalo delegation journeys to Poland during the height of Solidarity’s struggle for freedom from Communism. Features a meeting with Lech Walesa and Pope John Paul II and the work of two Buffalo surgeons on a mission of mercy.

“The Road to Freedom” 

Produced by Rich Newberg, Tom Vetter, Don Dawkins with contributing reports by Mylous Hairston (2000)

Buffalo’s historic role in the Underground Railroad and efforts to preserve the authentic sites. Features the Michigan Street Baptist Church, the reenactment of the crossing of the Niagara River, and the Jesse Nash House. Received a New York Emmy Award.

“Beyond the Road the Freedom” 

Produced by Rich Newberg, Tom Vetter, Don Dawkins with contributing reports by Mylous Hairston (2002)

Tracing Buffalo’s role in the civil rights movement after the abolition of slavery. Features the spectacular, but ill-fated Pan American Exposition, and a little known exhibit that offered hope to African American citizens. Received a New York Emmy Award.

“A Change of Course” 

Produced by Rich Newberg, Tom Vetter, Rich Ersing, Mylous Hairston (2004)

The Freedom Schooner Amistad sails into Buffalo’s harbor in 2003, giving thousands of Western New Yorkers a hands-on connection to the horrors of slavery and the rebellion aboard La Amistad. Lessons of self-determination are now being applied to 21st century challenges.

“The Promise of 100 Years: The Pride of a People” 

Produced by Rich Newberg, Rich Ersing, Mylous Hairston (2005) 

Legendary civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois seeks to create a great “current of protest,” forming the Niagara Movement in 1905. It eventually leads to the creation of the NAACP.  Features perspectives by former New York Deputy Assembly Arthur O. Eve, who fought hard to improve education for inner city children. Received a New York Emmy Award.

“The Vision and the Victory” 

Produced by Rich Newberg and Mike Mombrea, Jr. (2006) 

Buffalo elects its first black mayor as national political leaders and scholars commemorate a civil rights movement that began a century earlier on the Niagara Frontier. Perspectives from former Secretary of State Colin Powell, N.A.A.C.P. Chairman Julian Bond, and former first lady, New York Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Received a New York Emmy Award.

“A Palace for Buffalo” 

Produced by Rich Newberg, Mike Mombrea, Jr. (2004)

The history of the Shea’s Buffalo Theater and its dynamic owner Michael Shea, who rose from Buffalo dock worker and saloon owner to theater magnate. From the ground breaking, to the preservation fight, to the theater’s rebirth, the dream of Michael Shea endures – to transform working people into kings and queens as they enter a palatial world of fantasy. Received a New York Emmy Award.

“Loss of Innocence” 

Produced by Rich Newberg and Tom Vetter with Executive Producer: Chris Musial (2001)

The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Execution of Timothy McVeigh. Once described as “the boy next door,” Timothy McVeigh would declare war on his own government and pay the ultimate price for bombing the Murrah Federal Building and killing 168 of his fellow countrymen. The documentary focuses McVeigh’s personality, motives, and personal history. Received two New York Emmy Awards.

“On the Homefront” 

Produced by Rich Newberg and Tom Vetter (2001)

Western New York’s ability to handle a terrorist attack. The first comprehensive television report less than two months after 9/11. The Erie-Niagara region is considered one of the nation’s more vulnerable areas because of the Niagara Power Project, international bridge and border crossings, and chemical and petroleum plants. Received a New York Emmy Award.

“Day of Sorrow, Year of Change” 

Produced by Rich Newberg and Tom Vetter (September 11, 2002)

Remembrance at Ground Zero. The one-year commemoration of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Western New Yorkers were among the thousands mourning the loss of their loved ones. Paramedics and firefighters who responded from Buffalo also reflect on the impact of 9/11 on their lives.

“Cradle of Hope”

Produced by Rich Newberg and Tom Vetter (2000) 

New direction for the developmentally disabled. The lives of twelve men are dramatically turned around after some spent years locked away from society in institutions. They build baby cradles and deliver them to newborns and their mothers. The documentary revisits the era of institutionalization and some of the outrageous abuses that finally led to social change. Received a National Gabriel Award.

“Rebirth on the Waterfront”

Produced by Rich Newberg, Rich Ersing, Luke Moretti (2006)

Also featuring reports by Lisa Flynn and George Richert with Executive Producer: Joseph D. Schlaerth.

Where it all began in Buffalo in 1825. After a century of failed attempts, work finally begins on a district patterned after Buffalo’s golden Erie Canal era. Money, a vision, and local will power combine to move Buffalo’s waterfront development dreams closer to reality.

“In Our Lifetime” 

Produced by Rich Newberg and Rich Ersing with Executive Producer: Joseph D. Schlaerth (2000) 

The triumphant grand opening of Buffalo’s reconstructed inner harbor symbolizes a new era of hope for the Queen City of the Great Lakes. Viewers are given a journey back in time when Buffalo’s bawdy Canal District was among the toughest and most colorful in the world. Visionary Buffalo Congressman Brian Higgins declares “One generation built the Erie Canal. Another generation buried it. And a new generation, this generation, rededicates this project to the future of Buffalo and Western New York.” Received a New York Emmy Award.

“Behind the Desert Shield” 

Produced by Rich Newberg and Mike Mombrea, Jr. (December 1990)

Reports from the Persian Gulf featuring the 914th Tactical Airlift Group out of Niagara Falls. Just weeks before the start of the first Gulf War, Air Force Reservists on a desert base called Mirage share their concerns. Many use humor to keep their spirits up but others cannot escape feelings of loneliness and isolation being so far away from home. They face the uncertainties of war.

“Heroes of Normandy” 

A seven-part series produced by Rich Newberg and Doug Smith (1994)

Western New York World War II veterans reflect on their involvement in the historic battle of D-Day 50 years later.

“Buffalo’s Immigrants” 

A five-part series produced by Rich Newberg and photographed and Edited by Mike Mombrea, Sr. (1984)

Elderly Buffalonians reflect on the “American Dream,” decades after passing through Ellis Island. They are Polish, German, Irish, Italian and Jewish.

“Faces of China”

Produced by Rich Newberg and Mike Mombrea, Jr.  (1983)

China begins opening its doors wider to Westerners a decade after President Richard Nixon visited the People’s Republic. Chinese chefs trained in Buffalo and a Buffalo cancer researcher, welcomed as an honored guest, are among those featured in this unique study of the awakening “sleeping giant.”

“On a Beam of Hope”

Reported by Rich Newberg, photographed and edited by Mike Mombrea Jr. (1983)

A cancer researcher from Roswell Park Cancer Institute brings his life saving treatment to Japan and China. The People’s Republic of China has launched a campaign to fight cancer of the esophagus, which has reached near epidemic proportions in certain provinces. Dr. Thomas Dougherty meets some of the patients who have benefited from his Photodynamic Therapy, a technique that uses laser beams and a special drug that is only absorbed by the tumor.

“Inside Cuba: Communism’s Last Stand?”

Reported by Rich Newberg, photographed and edited by Don Yearke (1993)

–New hope for better relations between the United States and Cuba. Two surgeons from Buffalo are invited to Havana at a time when access to the island nation by Americans was highly restricted. The medical exchange provides a rare glimpse of a people struggling to survive under and the constraints of the U.S. Trade Embargo.

 “Fifty Golden Years on Channel 4”

Hosted by News 4 Anchors Rich Newberg and Carol Jason (1998)

The history of Buffalo’s first television station. The call letters were WBEN-TV because the station was owned by the Buffalo Evening News. This 50th anniversary special takes viewers down memory lane to the days when Buffalo broadcast pioneers were opening a new window to the world.