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Andy Brigham leaves behind a legacy of reporting excellence

Andy Brigham, former investigative reporter par excellence, died July 27 at age 76. Brigham started his television career as a newshound with then-WHEN-Channel 5 (now WTVH) in 1966, eventually becoming the station’s news director, a title he took with him when he moved to then-WIXT-Channel 9 (now WSYR) from 1979 to 1986.

“The most satisfying way of getting a story,” Brigham told the Syracuse New Times in 1976, “is to see something that nobody else has noticed and ask, Why? I don’t ever want to stop reporting. I’d rather be out there holding a microphone than sitting behind a desk any day. I work better on the street than in the office.”

After leaving broadcasting, Brigham was the public information director with the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency from 1991 to 2008. Longtime Syracuse New Times writer Walt Shepperd offers this remembrance.

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It was probably the plaid pants.

There were, of course, the established elements of image: the Syracuse New Times comparative reference to Mike Wallace; the Syracuse Press Club Wall of Distinction plaque in the Mulroy Civic Center lobby; the mid-1980s polish as Press Club president. And there were citations from sources that might find connection otherwise impossible: city of Syracuse Mayor Lee Alexander and Pope John Paul II.

But there evolved, far from the Ivy League image of his Brown University alma mater, a reality: a dissident wave of hair, a raspy voice, glasses that could flip strategically, and the plaid pants that no one else would ever even think of wearing on a television newscast, except the uniquely Andy Brigham.

Andy has now passed on, and former colleagues, some in their 70s, with fond recollections from the business now reflect on being surrounded by 22-year-olds on the news desks. But those memories are strong.

“He took a chance on me, hiring me as a reporter,” recalls Tim Fox at WSYR-Channel 9. “If I didn’t get that job, I’d be selling insurance somewhere. He was a throwback to Damon Runyon. He had a lot of people quaking in their boots. His style was to press with, ‘I told you what I was going to ask, now answer or not.’ But he was also the biggest prankster you ever saw.”

Channel 9’s Rod Wood remembers a great guy who smoked like a chimney. “You’d walk into his office,” Wood notes, “and there’d be a pile of cigarette butts two feet high. He was an ace investigative reporter who went toe to toe with all the politicians, especially Lee Alexander. He was a Sam Spade, who wouldn’t stop beating a story to death until he knew he had it right.”

Ironically, folks observed a mellowing when Andy conveyed information for OCRRA. But his style remained making sure to get it right.

And it was definitely the plaid pants.

Header photo: Andy Brigham, circa 1970s, as news director at Channel 5.

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