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Lou Adler, 88, mainstay of radio news

By Christina Caron New York Times  

NEW YORK — Lou Adler, a longtime New York City radio news anchor and director whose exacting standards influenced a generation of broadcasters, died on Friday in Meriden, Conn. He was 88.

His death, at a nursing home, was confirmed by his daughter, Valerie Adler, who said he had Alzheimer’s disease.

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Mr. Adler began his radio career in New York in 1959 at WCBS-AM. He worked for CBS as a reporter on radio and, briefly, on television before returning to radio in 1967 as an anchor when the station switched to a news format. He became news director in 1971, a position he held for a decade.

In a Facebook post on Friday, WCBS Newsradio 880 said it was perhaps poetic that Mr. Adler, who for many years was part of a highly regarded morning team with Jim Donnelly, died at 88, because “he was as responsible as anyone for making that number — 88 — legendary on the radio dial.”

Rich Lamb, a WCBS-AM reporter who was hired by Mr. Adler in 1978, recalled Mr. Adler — whose glasses, he said, gave him the appearance of someone who “could see right through you” — as a stickler for precision who homed in on the finer details of diction, grammar, and syntax.

“One of his pet peeves was if somebody died, the person ‘died,’ the person did not ‘pass away,’ ” Lamb said.

Mr. Adler left WCBS in 1981 for another New York radio station, WOR-AM (710), and later worked at the Atlanta all-news station WCNN-AM.

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Mr. Adler liked to work on The New York Times’ crossword puzzle, and one of the ways he evaluated job applicants was by asking if they knew the name of The Times’ crossword editor, said Larry Kanter, a news anchor at WINS in New York who worked with Mr. Adler in Atlanta.

As a news director, Mr. Adler was aware of the popularity of television and the pressures radio faced.

One of his former colleagues, Wayne Cabot, a news anchor on WCBS, recalled in a recent interview that “Lou Adler came around in the time in the 1970s when on television warm fuzzy news came into play.”

“Everybody was buddies hanging out,” Cabot said. “And he was told by consultants, ‘We need to do that to WCBS.’ So he called a news meeting and told all of the reporters and anchors, ‘Be warm and fuzzy or you’re fired.’ ”

Louis Charles Adler was born in Jamestown, N.Y. His father, Sylvan David Adler, was a traveling salesman who sold pen knives and pens. His mother, the former Myrtie Marguerite Peterson, was a seamstress.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Fredonia, and earned a master’s degree from Purdue University.

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At 70, he received a law degree from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., where he served as director of the Ed McMahon Mass Communications Center and founded WQUN-AM, a CBS-affiliated radio station based at the university.