Mary Pangalos Manilla (M.P. Manilla) is an award-winning
journalist who launched her career by hanging out in a
Not any bar, but the one in the Chinese restaurant in
Garden City, Long Island, New York, where the Managing
Editor of NEWSDAY ate lunch every day. After three weeks
of being nagged by sympathetic patrons, waiters, the bartender,
and even the owner of the restaurant—who’d
all been told about this young woman’s dream of
becoming a news reporter—the editor finally approached
Mary on her bar stool and said “I want to eat my
lunch in peace. Report to work Monday morning.”
She did, and that began a career in what in those days
was called “The Woman’s Department,”
writing the daily Calendar of Club events and meetings.
Her first story was about a woman who created a turkey
out of jellybeans for her Thanksgiving Day table.
After nine months of being a calendar girl, Mary managed
to win a transfer to the City Room by desperately browbeating
and tricking NASA and Air Force officials into letting
her become the first woman to take the same tests given
the seven astronauts, and prove that women could withstand
the rigors and hazards of space travel as well as any
man. The results, which were “as good as any of
the astronauts and better than most,” convinced
the same peace-loving NEWSDAY Managing Editor to transfer
her into the City Room, where she covered axe murders,
natural disasters, Town Hall meetings, political campaigns,
wars, accidents, and celebrity interviews. In an effort
to distinguish herself from other reporters she also parachuted
out of planes for a story about sports parachuting, was
smuggled into Cuba after the Bay of Pigs to do a story
fighters, rode a snow plow in a record-setting blizzard,
conducted an underwater interview with the man attempting
to set a world’s record for underwater endurance,
and was finally promoted to Senior Feature Writer.
Along the way she acquired two Pulitzer Prize nominations.
The first was for her series about being the first woman
allowed to take the astronaut tests, which opened the
way for women to officially be included in NASA’s
space program. Her second Pulitzer nomination was for
a five-part series on the Civil Rights movement.
Shortly after that, Mary was being interviewed on a TV
show. Her appearance was seen by an executive at CBS-TV
which was considering (finally) hiring a woman to be an
on-air TV News correspondent at its flagship station in
New York City.
And there was Mary, already living in New York City.
It was another “first” for her, as the first
woman to be hired as an on-air TV News correspondent whose
stories could be seen on a major network’s news
broadcasts (although other stations and networks soon
followed suit), and often introduced by the late great
Walter Cronkite himself.
After several months of hectic reporting, sleepless nights,
and endless work hours, Manilla aspired to be a writer/producer
of documentaries, combining what she felt was the power
of words to the magic of visual images. Towards that end,
she enrolled at New York University (NYU) to study film
production—a goal that almost immediately proved
to be impossible because she was usually working when
she should have been in class.
It was a dilemma she serendipitously solved by marrying
her NYU professor of film production, James Manilla, perhaps
the only man in the world understanding enough to tolerate
her work schedule. As a “wedding gift,” her
news editor covered and broadcast her wedding on TV. Then
the same editor phoned her on her wedding night and assigned
her to cover a transit strike that resulted in her being
separated from her new husband for three weeks.
Shortly after that, Mary (now Mrs. James Manilla) had
an epiphany while riding in a van with her TV News film
crew. The epiphany occurred as they drove through New
York City’s Central Park on a beautiful, sunny,
Page 1 of 2 >