Gary Axelbank: The Inside Man

By Sonya Kedarnath and Brenda Abena

Gary Axelbank shares his personal stories with Bronx Beat reporters.  (Photo by Sushmita Jitlall)

Gary Axelbank shares his personal stories with Bronx Beat reporters.
(Photo by Sushmita Jitlall)

An established writer once said “To be a good journalist, ask yourself: Who Are You?” This writer goes by the name Gary Axelbank, and has been through many forms of journalism throughout his career. He can be seen as a versatile being because of the way he transitions from professions in the same field of media and journalism.

Axelbank said others view him as an opinionated individual. His wide experience has allowed him to be in touch with many  important figures in the Bronx.

On Thursday afternoon, Axelbank visited a group of reporting students in the College Now program at Lehman College. He discussed his life as a reporter and gave insights on what a typical day might be for him. He also gave some tips on being a good reporter. Axelbank said, “in order to be a good journalist, you have to be a good listener.” Axelbank claimed it took him some while to develop his attentive listening skills.

Axelbank was born and raised in the Bronx. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School, earlier in time, when it was an all-boys school. He said, “it set me back 30 years,” then grinned. The reporter graduated with the class of 1971 from Clinton, and graduated with the class of ‘76 from Lehman College. Consequently, Axelbank says, “I majored in English, not reporting.” Clarifying that he studied the structure of good writing, rather than the process of journalism.

Axelbank said he was always outspoken, even as a kid in the sixth grade.  He recalled that one day in his middle school life, he had been asked to host a dancing session. He then added an said, “I remember to this day, not being nervous about it.” Axelbank sees himself as being able to “understand the nature of it (media)”.

 

Currently, Axelbank is the host of the live television show, Bronx Talk, which is displayed on BronxNet channel. The channel was created in October of 1944. Before that job, he worked in the music business as a DJ for about 15 years. One of his employers was Howard Stern, in the DJ business. Axelbank proudly reported that he invented the term “Jersey Jam” to introduce new chart topping music. Axelbank soon left that job because he felt that he did not want to work with so many restrictions. The Bronx Talk TV show was expanded into BronxTalk AM, which Axelbank describes as “a dream come true” because it covered local news in the Bronx. To his dismay, the show BronxTalk AM was cancelled in 2006 because of communication issues.

Axelbank shares an anecdote about his younger days and the influence of DJs toward his life. “I was the kind to stay up all night, just to hear what the DJs were saying” he says. Being informed was always a passion for him.

When one of the reporting students asked Axelbank for his view on how to deal with different personalities when interviewing,  he responded and said “just let em’ make their say and move on.” In addition to that, he says to protect yourself, “don’t put yourself in jeopardy, but get your stuff done.” Axelbank says that there are many components to being a good writer, one of which is to know how to write. Controlled aggression, persistence, and passion are all on the list of traits to becoming a decent writer, according to Axelbank.

“If you can’t go at it factually, you can’t win the argument” says Axelbank. He feels all writing needs the truth and facts backing it, for the reader’s benefit. Mainly, his focus is to give a voice to all communities in the Bronx. He believes that the more local news written about, the better, since he wants everyone to have equality. The reporter says “I think we can all do a lot better as people.”

Overall, Axelbank is a humane and wholesome person. He lives and breathes to see societal changes in the community in the Bronx. When asked what his motivation is, he replied “positive social change.” To him, seeing people succeed, is what keeps him elated about doing his job. Axelbank wants “to have some role in people succeeding in the Bronx.”

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