Pasquale 'Pat' Polillo

The Baltimore Sun

Pasquale "Pat" Polillo, a former Baltimorean and retired broadcasting executive who was credited with introducing minicam technology to cover breaking news and creating the "I-Team" concept for television journalism, died of a brain tumor Tuesday at his home in Yarmouth Port, Mass. He was 75.

"He had been head of news for all of the Group W stations and was a pioneer and a local news expert," said Marty Bass, a WJZ-TV personality who, along with Richard Sher, a WJZ reporter, was hired by Mr. Polillo.

"He held many high-level positions and went on to become an absolute legend in Philadelphia," Mr. Bass said.

Mr. Polillo was born in Mount Vernon, N.Y., and raised in Highlandtown.

He was a graduate of Patterson Park High School and received a bachelor's degree in 1956 from St. John's College in Annapolis. He also had a master's degree in Germanic studies from the Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. Polillo began his broadcasting career at age 16 as a volunteer at a local radio station.

In 1951, he went to work at the old WAAM-TV, which later became WJZ-TV, as a projectionist, cameraman and on-air personality.

After stints as a teacher and a special agent for the Army's Counter-Intelligence Corps in Germany, Mr. Polillo moved into broadcasting in 1961.

He worked during the 1960s as news director at stations in Pittsburgh, Boston, and Atlanta, and was vice president and general manager at KPIX-TV in San Francisco.

From 1980 to 1984, he held a similar position at KYW-TV in Philadelphia.

He was an outspoken advocate of minicams, on-site televised editorials and investigative teams of seasoned reporters that were known as "I-Teams."

Not content working behind a desk, Mr. Polillo went on location to film his 100-second televised editorials that he concluded with an invitation for viewer response: "I'm Pat Polillo, and here's the address."

"Pat was a great visionary when it came to local news. He had the innate ability to know what attracted viewers, and action news was a snappy format," said Mr. Sher, who joined WJZ in 1975. "Today, this is the format that is followed by cable news, CNN and Fox."

He recalled Mr. Polillo as having a lot of energy.

"He was fun to be around and always walked at least two or three miles per conversation," he said, laughing.

Paul Gluck, a retired broadcasting executive and former executive producer at WJZ, said Mr. Polillo "had a very strong personality and you could always feel his presence. He knew and understood the news business better than most."

"He was an intense, flamboyant and erudite man, and if he thought you had intellectual value, he was committed to you," said Mr. Gluck, now a freelance producer and an assistant professor at Temple University's School of Communications.

Mr. Gluck recalled being summoned to Mr. Polillo's office one day.

"These were never good phone calls. Either you were being fired or promoted," he said. "He told me he was enrolling me in the Great Books course, which of course, he had studied at St. John's."

Mr. Gluck said the books soon began arriving at his home and he was expected to read them.

Mr. Gluck's phone would ring and it would be Mr. Polillo asking him to drop by his office so they could discuss a book.

Mr. Polillo was so devoted to the Great Books program that he kept a shelf of authors that included Plato, Montaigne, Goethe and St. Augustine in his office, reported The Philadelphia Inquirer.

He also delighted in organizing Great Books seminars for adults and children, the newspaper reported.

"He always said that the Great Books program and St. John's saved his life," said his wife of 19 years, Dr. Kristine L. Soly.

"When we got married on Valentine's Day, it was under the Liberty Tree on the St. John's campus," Dr. Soly said. "It meant that much to him."

Mr. Polillo left broadcasting in 1998 and moved to Cape Cod, Mass., where until his death, he was marketing manager for the Word Web Vocabulary, which helped children develop reading skills.

"He once said that he loved every minute of his broadcasting career," Dr. Soly said.

A gathering for Mr. Polillo will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Doane Beal & Ames Funeral Home in South Dennis, Mass.

Also surviving are two sons, Anatole Polillo and Michael Polillo, both of Baltimore; a daughter, Dr. Sloan Winkes of Mount Vernon, Wash.; a stepson, Andrew Popielarski of Lafayette Hill, Pa.; his mother, Adeline M. Polillo of White Marsh; a sister, Joan M. Rodowsky of White Marsh; and four grandchildren. Another son, Kyle Polillo, died earlier this year. Two earlier marriages ended in divorce.

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