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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?

Domenico Cefalu (file / credit: La Cosa Nostra Database)

Report: Gambino Crime Family Picks Domenico Cefalu As New Boss

The Gambino crime family, knocked down and knocked down again by federal indictments, is reportedly going back to the old pre-John Gotti way of running an organized crime family.

07/29/2011

Ronald Tackman (file / credit: NYC Department of Correction)

Notorious Prison Escape Artist, Career Robber Ronald Tackman Sentenced

58-year-old Ronald Tackman is the stuff of legend around the courthouse.

07/21/2011

Joseph Brooks

Songwriter Joseph Brooks Leaves Nothing In Will For His Children

Best known from his award-winning ballad “You light up my life,” songwriter/producer Joseph Brooks killed himself using a mail order helium suicide kit.

06/23/2011

FedEx Aircraft (file / credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Amadou Fall Charged With Scamming FedEx To Send Packages To Africa

He’s accused of stealing the identities and account numbers of over twenty major companies and then using his contacts in Manhattan’s West African community to attract customers.

06/22/2011

4 Students Offered Probation Deals In Columbia University Drug Ring Case

New York prosecutors are offering no-jail plea deals to four of the five Columbia University students charged with selling LSD-spiked candy and other drugs on the Ivy League campus.

06/21/2011

City Hall - New York, NY - File / Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Feds: $600M-Plus Of NYC’s ‘CityTime’ Payroll Project Was Tainted

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called the fraud “epic in duration, magnitude and scope.” Prosecutors previously had put the figure at about $85 million.

06/20/2011

Peninsula Hotel - New York, NY (file / credit: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Still No Trial For Socialite Gigi Jordan, Accused Of Killing Her Autistic Son

15 months after a socialite was accused of murdering her 8-year-old autistic son in Manhattan’s Peninsula Hotel, she still has no trial date.

06/01/2011

A Diamond (file / credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Diamond Dealers Sentenced In Fake NYC Heist

Two diamond dealers will spend more than a year in prison after being convicted of staging a heist in hopes of snaring insurance money to save their failing New York City business.

05/27/2011

Kenneth Moreno, left, and Franklin Mata on entering State Supreme Court on May 19, 2011 (credit: Louis Lanzano/AP)

No Verdict After 6 Days Of Deliberations In Rape Trial Of NYPD Officers Moreno, Mata

The jury’s first note of the day was a request for help from the judge. They wanted to know how to evaluate the conflicting testimony they’ve heard in the case.

05/25/2011

Former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn (credit: Pool/Getty Images)

Ex-IMF Head Dominique Strauss-Kahn Released From Rikers Island Jail

Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released from Rikers Island Friday, trading his prison cell for house arrest at his apartment on 71 Broadway in Lower Manhattan.

05/20/2011

NYPD officers Franklin Mata, left, and Kenneth Moreno

Deliberations Under Way In Rape Trial Of NYPD Officers Kenneth Moreno, Franklin Mata

The fate of two NYPD officers accused of raping a drunken fashion executive in 2008 is in the hands of a jury.

05/18/2011

Former New York Liberal Party Boss Raymond Harding Avoids Prison In Pension Scandal

A Manhattan judge has sentenced the former boss of New York’s Liberal Party to a conditional discharge for his role in the state pension scandal.

05/18/2011

FBI seal (credit: AP)

FBI Agent Adrienne Busby Indicted In Manhattan Federal Court For Making False Statements About Informant

FBI agent Adrienne Busby is accused of stepping over the line, committing a crime after having an affair with a confidential informant.

05/18/2011

Police officer Ken Moreno, left, exits the courtroom at State Supreme court with his attorney Joe Tacopina, Monday, May 9, 2011, in New York. (credit: AP Photo/Louis Lanzano)

NYPD Officer Moreno Under Cross-Examination: ‘I Don’t Kiss And Tell’

It was another day of cross-examination for NYPD officer Kenneth Moreno as assistant district attorney Coleen Balbert grilled the cop accused of rape about the details on the night in question.

05/11/2011

Billionaire Galleon Group hedge fund cofounder Raj Rajaratnam departs Manhattan Federal Court - New York, NY - Mar 8, 2011 - Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Raj Rajaratnam Convicted In Hedge Fund Insider Trading Case

A former Wall Street titan was convicted Wednesday of making a fortune by coaxing a crew of corporate tipsters to give him an illegal edge on blockbuster trades in technology and other stocks.

05/11/2011

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