Irene Cornell

irene Irene CornellIrene Cornell has been a reporter at WCBS for 40 years, and she still comes to work with a smile.

Irene covers crime and the courts — name an interesting local case and she’s probably covered it — and she says what keeps the job so fascinating is the trials. She loves them. Ask her, and Irene will explain how trials “condense all of human emotion.”

“Going to court everyday,” she says, “is better than Broadway — it’s like having a front-row seat on human drama. You cannot make this stuff up.”

There’s never been a shortage of good material. Irene has covered all the big New York mob cases of the last generation, including the trials of John Gotti, and many of the big police stories, including the Knapp Commission, the infamous Dirty 30, and more recently, the torture of Abner Louima and the shooting of Amadou Diallo.

She was there in the courtroom when John Lennon’s killer was tried — she remembers Mark David Chapman entering court each day carrying his copy of “Catcher in the Rye.” In the 70’s Irene sat next to Martha Mitchell — both were knitting — as Mitchell’s husband, John, and several other Watergate figures were tried here in New York.

Irene covered the Murder at the Met case — when a violinist was killed by a stagehand during intermission of a performance by Mikhail Baryshnikov. She’s gone to Virginia twice — first for the trial of Lorena Bobbit, then for the trial of Marv Albert. She traveled to West Palm Beach for the rape trial of William Kennedy Smith; and of course, she covered the big one — the OJ Simpson case, from start to finish.

The Cornell family has been in the news business for many years. Her father, Cameron Cornell, worked in newspapers, radio and TV in Oklahoma, Savannah, Los Angeles and New York. Her uncle, George Cornell, was the religion editor at the Associated Press for more than 40 years. She often sits nex to her sister in court. Christine Cornell is a well-known courtroom sketch artist.

She worked her way through Hunter College as a copy girl at WMCA in New York where her father was the News Director. His successor, Barry Beere, was “the first to shove me out the door and say ‘go cover a story,'” Irene says. She must have done a good job, because after that, she was on the air every day.

During that time, Irene met her late husband, Danny Meenan, who was a reporter at WMCA for 25 years. She also discovered her love for courtroom drama. The first trial she covered was that of Alice Crimmins. All these years later, Irene still describes her in reporters’ shorthand as “the attractive red-haired cocktail waitress convicted of murdering her two children.” In 1970, when Irene made the move to WCBS after eight years at ‘MCA, she arrived just in time for the second Crimmins trial. It, too, ended in conviction, and Irene has been on New York’s crime and court beat ever since.

She is a producer’s favorite kind of reporter. She can spot a promising story a mile away, she’s an absolutely wonderful storyteller, and she’s never more excited than when she’s calling the desk to relate the latest tale she’s dug up from New York’s darkside — soon to be delivered to listeners in her own inimitable way.

Two of Irene’s children have been in the news business. Daughter Kati Cornell covered federal courts in New York for the New York Post and is now communications director for NYC’s special narcotics prosecutor – Bridget Brennan. Her stepson, Danny Meenan, Jr., is a television news producer in Australia. Her influence does not end with her own children. At least one young reporter has been heard to wonder aloud: How would Irene cover this story?

David Mitchell is accused of raping a 73-year-old woman in Central Park. He appeared in court on Sept. 14, 2012. (credit: CBS 2)

Alleged Central Park Rapist David Mitchell Pleads Not Guilty

The man accused of raping a woman in Central Park has pleaded not guilty.

CBS New York–10/09/2012

Irene Cornell

Stories Of Fatherhood: WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell

My father, Cameron Cornell, was a newsman. He gave me his enduring love for the news business, through good times and bad – and he certainly had both.

CBS New York–06/01/2012

Russian Arms Dealer ‘Merchant Of Death’ Viktor Bout Convicted In NYC Federal Court

A shadowy Russian arms dealer was convicted Wednesday of seeking to make millions of dollars by selling heavy weaponry to a terror group so it could attack what prosecutors said he told his customers was a common enemy – U.S. forces helping the Colombian government.

11/02/2011

Mortgage Due (file / credit: clipart.com)

NYC U.S. Att’y Sues Allied Home Mortgage For Fraud

The federal government sued one of the nation’s largest privately held mortgage brokers, saying its decade-long fraudulent lending practices cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars and forced thousands of American homeowners to lose their homes.

11/01/2011

Manssor Arbabsiar (file / AP Photo/Williamson County Jail via Corpus Christi Caller-Times)

Not Guilty Plea In Plot To Assassinate Saudi Ambassador

A U.S. citizen who holds an Iranian passport pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

10/24/2011

(credit: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski/Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

NYC Subway Terror Plotter’s Father Admits To Visa Charge

The father of a man who admitted plotting to bomb New York City subways pleaded guilty Friday to charges he forged immigration forms on behalf of a nephew who ended up testifying against him at a trial earlier this year.

10/21/2011

John Haggerty Convicted Of Stealing From Bloomberg’s Campaign

John Haggerty was convicted today of cheating Mayor Michael Bloomberg out of $1.1 million, ending a case that has put a spotlight on the billionaire mayor and the inner workings of his campaigns.

10/21/2011

Jury In John Haggerty Case Asks Who Victim Is; Judge Says Bloomberg

The jury’s latest question reveals confusion as they try to sort through the political wheeling and dealing that left Bloomberg’s re-election campaign out $1.1 million in the mayor’s own money.

10/20/2011

Jury Gets Case Of Political Consultant Accused Of Stealing From Bloomberg Campaign

Put simply, prosecutors say John Haggerty stole money from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

10/19/2011

John Haggerty’s Defense Claims His Action ‘Wasn’t A Crime’

Haggerty’s defense claimed he created a slipshod budget for the billionaire’s campaign because he believed no one cared about the details in a win-at-all-costs environment fostered by mayoral insiders desperate to hold on to power.

10/18/2011

Eric Schneiderman and Ray Kelly (credit: Office of the Attorney General, Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images)

37 Suspects Rounded Up In Major Bust Involving Gambling, Loan Sharking Rings

The long-term investigation, called “Operation Flat Rate,” focused on gambling and loan sharking rings, the real moneymakers for the Gambino crime family.

10/18/2011

Viktor Bout (c) is escorted by DEA agents upon arrival in New York - Nov 16, 2010 (credit: AP Photo/Drug Enforcement Administration)

Jury Selection Begins In Accused Former Soviet Arms Dealer’s NYC Trial

Jury selection got off to a rocky start Tuesday in the arms sale trial of a former Soviet military officer known as the Merchant of Death when reporters were initially kept out of the federal courtroom.

10/11/2011

Chimney (file / credit: clipart.com)

L.I. Brothers Arrested Again For Chimney Scam Of Elderly Woman

Two brothers from Long Island had just paid for one crime when, only hous later, they were charged with another.

09/27/2011

Trial Continues For Political Operative Accused Of Stealing From Bloomberg Campaign

John Haggerty denies the allegations against him, and his lawyers are striving to raise questions about Bloomberg’s campaign finances – questions they posed Tuesday to former Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey.

09/27/2011

Prosecutor: John Haggerty Stole $1 Million From Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Prosecutors told the jury that Haggerty exploited the good will and trust of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his campaign staff.

09/26/2011

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