John Slattery, the veteran reporter for WCBS/2 and one of the best-known figures on local TV of the last quarter-century, died unexpectedly at his home in Westchester in the overnight hours Wednesday. Channel 2 did not specify the cause of death late Thursday. Some reports online indicated he had suffered a heart attack. A spokesperson declined to confirm the cause, saying "there are no additional details."
Slattery, who was 63, reported on many of the biggest breaking news stories in New York over the span of his career, including the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Indeed, during the early hours following the attacks on Sept. 11, Slattery's reports continued largely uninterrupted because Channel 2's transmitter was atop the Empire State Building while transmitters for three other major New York stations were atop the north tower of the World Trade Center. Slattery, who won four local Emmy Awards, also covered the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River, the 1994 subway bombing that injured more than 40 people, and superstorm Sandy and its aftermath.
According to Channel 2 Thursday, Slattery was the station's lead reporter on "the alleged police abuse case of Abner Louima" and courtroom cases involving "Bernard Madoff, John Gotti, Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel, the 'Mayflower Madam' Sydney Biddle Barrows, the 'murder at the Met' defendant Craig Crimmins, sportscaster Marv Albert, the Delaware infant death involving Amy Grossberg and Brian Peterson, Woody Allen, Mike Tyson, Bess Myerson, Bernie Goetz, Robert Chambers, Jean Harris, Paul Simon and a civil suit against Paul Newman." He also conducted President Richard M. Nixon's first post-Watergate interview on local TV, in 1981.
But Slattery had another unique distinction, one he shared with WNBC/4's Gabe Pressman and a very few others in New York: long tenure in a business where rapid turnover is endemic. He was a steady and constant presence at WCBS/2, a station that has undergone even more than the usual number of on-air changes. "In a very mercurial world, a very unstable world -- and I don't know one more unstable than local television news -- John was a Gibraltar," said Tony Guida, the veteran New York TV newsman and former Slattery colleague, now a contributor to CUNY TV. "He was smart, a pro, a good reporter and a complete human being. He was just a joy to be around."
"Slats," as he was widely known around the newsroom, joined the station in October 1984. Before that, he had spent five years as a general assignment reporter for WABC/7's "Eyewitness" team. He had earlier worked for WCAU in Philadelphia as a reporter and weekend anchor, while he began his career as a TV and radio reporter in Illinois.
In a statement, Channel 2 president Peter Dunn, said, "During his nearly 30-year career at WCBS, he was great at reporting the news and was someone we counted on to cover big stories for us, both here in New York and around the world. Our thoughts and prayers are with John's wife, Suzie, and their children and grandchildren."