Labunski ‘Passionate’ About Broadcasting

Gordon Hastings shares memories of Stephen Labunski, a longtime broadcaster and former executive director of the International Radio & TV Society who died March 21 from natural causes. "His voice, his sense of style, his showmanship, his humor, and his openness were precious," Hastings says. Services for Labunski are being held today, at 2 p.m., at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, N.Y.

Steve Labunski will always be the quintessential Vice President of New York.

I remember first seeing Steve as the impresario at one of those wonderful IRTS Gold Medal Dinners at The Waldorf, Astoria. Steve, as executive director of the International Radio and Television Society, was clearly the face of the broadcasting industry. To young and old radio and television professionals Steve Labunski was all things broadcasting. After all, he was past president of NBC Radio and of the legendary WMCA. Were there any better credentials?

Steve loved his tenure at the IRTS and in particular the organization’s development of the IRTS Faculty Industry Seminar, IRTS Summer Internship Program and the IRTS Minority Development Workshops. He was rightfully proud that many of his IRTS fledging students made their way through these programs to prominent positions in radio and television. The Gold Medal dinners under his direction were glorious must-attend star-studded events.

The Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame was another great love of Steve’s. He cared deeply about those inducted and for the preservation of the industry’s heritage, of which he was so much a part. On a personal note, he provided enormous behind-the-scenes guidance during the formation of the Radio Mercury Awards and the Broadcasters Foundation of America in the 1990s. I will be forever grateful.

Steve was a wonderful mentor. You could ask him anything without the fear of posing the proverbial “stupid question.” His ability to give a petitioner a quick yes or no answer was legendary. Whether you liked the response or not, Steve was truthful and sometimes brutally frank!

Steve had an extremely curious mind and was always open to new ideas. He loved theoretical questions and discussions, conversations on far-flung subjects from politics to the First Amendment and his beloved summers in Maine. “What if,” “could we” or “should we” were always part of the dialogue. Steve loved language and was a stickler on proper usage.


If you uttered an “I” when “me” was proper, Steve would correct you on the spot. Steve did so not to make himself look smart, but to make you look smarter. When it came from Steve, you did not make the error twice.

Steve Labunski was passionate about life and his profession. His voice, his sense of style, his showmanship, his humor, and his openness were precious. Steve Labunski was unique to the core. When anyone needed Steve’s wisdom, he answered the call, and his legacy will serve all of us exceedingly well.

I will miss the Vice President of New York.

Gordon Hastings is  a founder of the Broadcasters Foundation of America and president ghhMANAGEMENT.

Comments (4)

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Doug Halonen says:

March 23, 2011 at 8:57 am

He will be missed. He cannot be replaced.

David Alpert says:

March 23, 2011 at 11:23 am

I will always remember Steve–his hearty laugh, his humor and kindness, and his inspiring intellect–with great affection. He will be missed by colleagues and friends.

A Cunningham says:

March 23, 2011 at 3:28 pm

So sorry to hear about Steve, Gordon. I used to deliver mail to Steve Labunski when I started out in radio as a mailboy at ABC Network and reunited with him for Harry Harrison’s anniversary while Harry was at WCBS-FM. He graciously agreed to appear on the radio with Harry for the event, held at the Broadcast Museum even though he wasn’t in great physical shape. Steve was Harry’s GM at WMCA and had hired him. Steve was one giant radio pro.

Kevin Downey says:

March 24, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Gordon — and all who loved Steve — so sorry to hear of his passing. Steve was such a wonderful man and great broadcaster. He shared that beautiful, deep voice, his broad range of interests and his sense of humor with all of us who were lucky enough to know him. And he was a darned good radio talk show host! He will be missed.

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