At 95, broadcasting pioneer Florence Sando Manson dies

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Longtime Riverdalian Florence Sando Manson, a pioneering woman newscaster in radio and the early years of television journalism who hosted “The Florence Manson Show” in Pittsburg, died on Nov. 25 at home from complications related to dementia. She was 95.

Ms. Manson was born in 1918 and graduated from Westminster College in 1939.

She received her master’s degree in drama from Case Western Reserve University the following year.

Ms. Sando broke out of the confines of gossip and fashion coverage that women broadcasters were usually relegated to, spending 18 years as a popular on-air, Pittsburgh–based personality.

In an era when women broadcasters were expected to keep their shows light and frothy, Ms. Manson tackled the hard news of the day from 1941 to 1959.

Longtime viewers of Pittsburgh TV stations — with signals that broadcast up and down the east coast and into the Midwest — would remember her for “The Florence Manson Show,” which featured her as a host-interviewer, a pioneering use of that format.

She interviewed well-known public figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt on radio as well as celebrities on TV. Danny Kaye and Louis Armstrong were among her guests. Some of these interviews are available at the Museum of Broadcasting in New York.

She also produced the hard news breakthrough “Women’s Angle,” a 15-minute morning broadcast. Ms. Sando’s “Women’s Angle” spoke to women as adults, presenting news of the world rather than the mix of fashion and decorating tips dished out to female audiences until then.

“It was easy when the news was about Madame Chiang Kai-shek, or the ten best dressed women, or Mrs. Roosevelt or Senator Margaret Chase Smith or Oveta Culp-Hobby, but when the story was about some returning prisoners from Indochina or a Supreme Court ruling on desegregation, then I would have to introduce it with some ridiculous little line that seemed to indicate that it related to women, and then I would get into the story as it was,” Ms. Sando told author, educator and former broadcaster Lynn Boyd Hinds in Broadcasting the Local News: The Early Years of Pittsburgh’s KDKATV.

Ms. Sando was so popular with the Pittsburgh area audience that KDKA-TV asked her in 1957 to host “The Florence Manson Show,” now using her married name after her wedding to film executive Arthur Manson.

Her TV shows were always committed to public service as well as entertainment. She cooperated with government, civic, social and cultural agencies in support of the war effort during World War II and presented stories and interviews which contributed to Pittsburgh’s post-war development.

The show had a successful run until Ms. Sando and her husband moved to New York in 1959.

Ms. Sando’s pivotal role in television in the years just before the advent of the women’s rights movement were also noted by the author Patricia Bradley in Mass Media and The Shaping of American Feminism, 1963-1975.

Ms. Sando remained active in theater and community affairs in New York City. She was a member of the Board of Ensemble Studio Theatre.

She also served as a member of the Board of Riverdale Neighborhood House and as an Elder of the Riverdale Presbyterian Church.

Florence is survived by her husband, Arthur, daughter Cynthia Ann, son-in-law Jeffrey Faville, son Anthony, daughter-in-law Angela and grandchildren James, Catherine, Daniel, William and Timothy.

There will be a private family burial this week with a memorial to follow at the Riverdale Presbyterian Church on Saturday, Dec. 7 at 11:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to The Riverdale Presbyterian Church at 4765 Henry Hudson Parkway West, Bronx, N.Y. 10471.

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