37 Years After the First 20/20, Early Staffers Reunite

By Chris Ariens 

Stone Philips, Meredith White, Steve Brand, Nola Safro, John Stossel and Victor Neufeld attend a 20/20 reunion.

Stone Philips, Meredith White, Steve Brand, Nola Safro, John Stossel and Victor Neufeld

37 years to the day after the first 20/20 broadcast aired on ABC, 160 staffers from the first decade of the show held a reunion at the Columbia University Faculty House in New York City last night.

There was a lot of catching up to do and a lot of memories shared since that first day: June 6, 1978.

Among those in attendance, correspondents Sylvia Chase, Bob Brown, Geraldo Rivera, Lynn Sherr, John Stossel and Stone Philips. Hugh Downs, now 94 years old, and Barbara Walters sent videotaped messages. Walters thanked Downs for NOT being Harry Reasoner, who was, infamously, her co-anchor on the ABC Evening News years earlier. Downs and Walters co-anchored the show for 15 year‎s, from 1984-1999. Downs was solo anchor from 1978-94. The first show was hosted by Robert Hughes and Harold Hayes. A clip was played from that episode and others.

All the correspondents as well as former executive producers Av Westin and Victor Neufeld addressed the crowd. Editors, producers, writers and camera people filled the room.

Rivera reminisced about being the most famous unemployed person in America after he was fired from 20/20 in 1985, for what he says was criticizing ABC News for spiking a story on Marilyn Monroe. Rivera said Roone Arledge, the late legendary ABC News president who created the show, “took 60 Minutes and made it into a rock and roll news magazine.” He talked about how 20/20 was innovative for its time, that it changed laws and attitudes, and said it was the best job he ever had.

Stone Philips, who would later go on to anchor 20/20 competitor Dateline NBC, remembered his first day in an edit room with Av Westin and being thrilled by his genius.

The reunion was organized by two longtime 20/20 staffers Sharon Intilli and Sharon Kaufman.

And all of these ABC Newsers will be happy to know not only is the show still going strong, Friday’s episode was the show’s most-watched summertime telecast in almost 5 years, since July 16, 2010. More than 6.4 million watched, making it Friday’s No. 1 show in viewers and the adults 18-49 demo.

Sylvia Chase, Rolf Tessum, and Lynn Sherr

Sylvia Chase, Rolf Tessum, and Lynn Sherr

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