By Harry Keaney
“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” croons Frank Sinatra. If those words are true, then television journalist Mary Murphy, weekend anchor and senior correspondent for the WB11’s “News at 10,” on Channel 11, can certainly feel confident.
When Murphy began her career in the early 1980s, people told her that if she wanted to be an on-air TV reporter, she would have to leave New York and make her mistakes in a smaller market.
“I was not prepared to leave,” Murphy said. Nor should she have, it seems, in retrospect.
Since those early days, Murphy has covered some of New York’s biggest stories, many of them high-profile trials or police corruption scandals. In all, she has won six Emmy awards and 10 Associated Press awards, ample testimony to the effectiveness of the main ingredient of her success: determination.
There has also been much hard work. For example, when she covered the Yankee ticker-tape parade in Manhattan last month, she left her home in Queens before dawn and didn’t get back until 10 that night. As she and her police officer husband, Tom Santino, juggle their schedules to look after their son, Anthony James, who will be 3 in January, Murphy, 39, knows all too well the trials and tribulations of working mothers.
In Murphy’s own childhood home, Ireland always loomed as a backdrop. Mary’s father, James, a MABSTOA bus driver for almost 30 years, comes from near Claremorris, Co. Mayo, while her mother, also Mary Murphy, is a native of Bullaun, about three miles from Corofin, Co. Clare.
“My father and mother, every week, used to put on the “Dorothy Hayden Show,” we always had the Irish music on,” Murphy recalled.
She made her first trip to Ireland when she was 9. “My first impression of Ireland was, on landing, seeing the patchwork of green,” she said. “We drove from Shannon to Galway and stopped at the Cliffs of Moher, the raw beauty of which I had never seen before. There were also the stone walls, and I remember I never had bread as good as we had then.”
Subsequently, Murphy obtained a scholarship to Delehanty High School, a private school in Jamaica, eventually going on to Queens College, in Flushing, part of the City University of New York.
There, she joined the Irish Society, started by Martin McNulty, where she learned Irish dancing and music, and took Irish language lessons.
“I also got in touch with the so-called Irish Alps, in East Durham,” she added. “Every year we used go up there.”
She graduated with a BA degree, majoring in English and public communications.
Murphy well remembers when the idea of a career in TV journalism first surfaced. “I was 13, we were watching television and we saw Roseanne Scamardella on the Channel 7 News, and my mother said that was something I could do,” Murphy recalled. “I think my mother thought I could put together the combination of me enjoying being in the public eye with wanting to pursue a serious journalism career in television.”
In 1981, Murphy did a college internship with WCBS Channel 2, eventually getting a job there as a desk assistant.
About six months later, she moved to Channel 11 WPIX. “I heard that Channel 11 had an opening for a similar job, and that if I showed some initiative I might get a chance to write and report.”
In high school, Murphy had worked in a nursing home, the Queen of Peace Residence run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, in Queens Village. Septuagenarian Ronald Reagan had become president and so Murphy came up with an idea for a series on “Aging in America.” The series was eventually nominated for an Emmy. Mary Murphy was on her way, in time becoming synonymous with major breaking news stories, many of them police related.
In 1986 she returned to WCBS Channel 2 as a police reporter, enhancing her reputation even more as being one of the city’s best. In 1993 she moved back to Channel 11 in pursuit of an opportunity to do half-hour specials and work as an anchor.
Since 1995, she has been the station’s weekend anchor.
In 1998, Murphy was presented with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, a reminder in a poignant setting that here, again, was another immigrants’ child who had “made it” in the Big Apple – despite ignoring the advice that she would first have to leave the city to do so.