The Reagan Revolution still had two more years, Platoon was Oscar’s choice for Best Picture, and the New York Mets staged one of the most dramatic comebacks in World Series history.
Also in 1986, meteorologist Nick Gregory arrived at WNYW/Channel 5.
“It was so exciting for me because I grew up in [New Rochelle] New York,” Gregory tells FishbowlNY. “From childhood really, and into my teens, I was also thinking that maybe one day I could do this.”
On December 26, Gregory commemorates his 25th anniversary at the station. A quarter-century earlier, it began with the answer to the trivia question—who were the anchors on his first night? Barbara Laskin and Steve Powers.
“I just had this rush of excitement and adrenaline and saying, ‘I’m actually back home in New York, on New York television, living the dream,” Gregory recalls.
Gregory’s dream job became a reality after a six-year stint at CNN. With his contract about to expire, he felt the time was right to explore offers in his backyard. It led to an interview with Fox. Rupert Murdoch purchased WNEW/Channel 5 earlier that year from Metromedia, and in March of 1986 the famed call letters were dropped in favor of WNYW.
Excited to replant his New York roots, Gregory never could have imagined what would be waiting for him at Channel 5.
“To be here this amount of time, I really feel has been very special and not common,” Gregory admits. “You want to stay, especially for me because this was my home…but you never really expect that’s actually going to happen just by the nature of the business.
“People tend to go around from station to station, and I’ve been fortunate enough just to hold this position for all those years.”
Not only is Gregory the senior meteorologist at WNYW, he is the longest-tenured currently at one station. (Irv Gikofsky “Mr. G” has been at WPIX since 1993, and in New York since the late 1970s.)
“I think of how many weathercasters in New York have had a similar run and there’s really not a lot,” Gregory admits. “I hold myself in a group of real special people.”
One of those Gregory is pleased to join on the local TV meteorologist’s Mount Rushmore is Dr. Frank Field, known for 26 years at WNBC and overall more than 40 years in front of the camera.
Mr. G has a 35-year TV weather career in New York, and ties to that other Mr. G. Gregory was his assistant at WCBS/Channel 2 in the late 1970s.
Another person who helped shape the professional Nick Gregory is longtime TV meteorologist Joe Witte, who worked locally at WCBS, WNBC, and WABC.
“I was in high school [Iona Prep] at the time, and I had wanted to invite a guest speaker.” Gregory recalls.
After nervously calling WCBS, he connected with Witte who visited the school a month later, thus planting the seed for Gregory’s passion.
Gregory, who grew up before our eyes, started at WNYW as a 26-year-old weather forecaster. But during the last quarter-century, his weather tools have grown exponentially.
“When I came here we had a fairly simply computer system, that got the job done, but its capabilities were limited,” Gregory recalls.
By contrast, WNYW now has a state-of-the-art Weather Center, with 12 computers that show detailed 3D animation, Doppler radar, and storm tracking information.
“The technology has come a long, long way,” Gregory says. “How we can describe it and show it on television.”
Gregory adds that when he broke into the business there were three standard computer models used for forecasting. Today, there are at least a dozen.
As you’d expect, with so many resources, Gregory says predicting the weather has gotten easier.
“Certainly the technology has advanced to the point where our accuracy has increased within the first five to seven days,” Gregory admits. “Really beyond that it’s still kind of guess work.”
All meteorologists or weather anchors have most of the same technology at their fingertips, but not all are as accurate as Gregory. He has been recognized on several occasions as New York’s most accurate TV weather prognosticator.
Those accolades are even more deserved, when you factor in the complicated forecasting that New York City offers.
“We’re susceptible to just about every weather phenomenon and that makes the challenge of the job really great,” Gregory says.
Gregory welcomes the compliments for nailing a forecast, but also accepts blame for missing the mark. The veteran forecaster takes pride in being accurate, preparing the weather graphics and analysis himself.
“I don’t want to mislead the viewer,” Gregory says. “…If the forecast is wrong, I’m the first one that feels really badly about it. And I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m wrong.”
A self-proclaimed snow nut, the great blizzard of 1996 is among Gregory’s career highlights. He also recalls the Hurricane Irene coverage in August as “exciting.”
Aside from talking nightly about frontal systems, Gregory got a big thrill with taped weather intros from various celebrities, but one stands out years later.
“Dan Rather was at an event one time, and our producer and camera crew were interviewing him,” Gregory recalls. “At the end of the interview [Rather asked], ‘Do you think it would be ok if I did a Hey Nick!’ I was honored.”
Of course, Gregory’s worked closely with other anchors—starting out with longtime Channel 5 newsman John Roland, and since 2005, the legendary Ernie Anastos.
“Ernie, I’ve known since I was 18 years old. He was friends with my family.” The Greek-American Gregory says. “It’s been a thrill to be working with him.”
Gregory joined Roland for a memorable charity event—it should be noted—when he was still single. They were auctioned off for a date.
“I don’t remember what I went for—I think it was $500 for the night,” Gregory jokes. “That was a very interesting experience because, to be paraded on stage and have women bidding after you, you kind of feel like an item at the grocery store.”
Gregory, a family man these days, married with three children, is focused on his next forecast.
“I love what I do. I hope that comes across on camera,” Gregory says. “I’ve been a metrological nut since I was a kid. So, I’d like to think that people have learned to trust me.”