By Tania Soussan
Emmy award-winning journalist Arthur Alpert worked for a news wire service in Paris, covered combat in Vietnam and produced network TV coverage of the Apollo 11 moon mission. But it was in New Mexico that he chose to settle, first as news director at Channel 13 and later as founder of Prime Time magazine.
Alpert, who died in February at age 89, was remembered by friends and colleagues as a mentor to younger journalists, a dedicated newsman, and a performer who enjoyed acting in local productions and writing theater reviews.
Friends describe him as a man with a great sense of humor who loved crosswords and Indian food buffets, who zoomed around town in a sports car, and fell in love with New Mexico. He volunteered to read the news of the day on the radio for the blind.
“This was a real Renaissance man,” said John Ray, who worked as a producer under Alpert at Albuquerque’s KGGM-TV, Channel 13, in the 1980s. “He had a great love of travel. He was always a ham. It was no surprise that he got into acting.”
Alpert was respected and well-liked in the newsroom, helping to improve the station’s ratings at a time when it was trailing behind KOB-TV and KOAT-TV, he said.
Ray, who now lives in Portland, Ore., said Alpert was a mentor. “He taught me how to be humble, acknowledge when I made mistakes, to be honest and to pursue the truth.”
Bill Diven, a Placitas journalist, worked with Alpert as a photographer at KGGM.
“He was a personable guy, obviously intelligent and articulate,” Diven said. “We were the fourth station in a three-station market. We were getting beaten at 10 by Benny Hill reruns. He absolutely made a difference and made the station competitive.”
In an interview with the Albuquerque Journal after taking the KGGM job in 1979, Alpert explained why he left an ABC News field producer job in New York to come to New Mexico: “Local news is closer to people’s concerns. … You deal with housing, crime, schools, leisure time activity – all subject matter about how people live.”
Diven described him as “the consummate journalist” and said, “He was not pushing the sensational. … He wanted to tell stories that were relevant to the people who were watching.”
Alpert, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., also taught journalism at Columbia University, worked as a theater critic and briefly had a Santa Fe news program on a fledgling TV station. However, the venture didn’t last long.
He also critiqued the Albuquerque Journal on the ABQ Journal Watch website. In 2016, he called the paper out for what he described as its “move over the years from political conservatism to the Far Right and the substitution of heavy bias for generally fair news coverage.”
In 1991, Alpert purchased the New Mexico Senior Digest with two partners and renamed it Prime Time. Alpert was the editor and the late Alan Andrews handled finances and sales. The third partner was primarily an investor, according to Martha Blackburn, Andrews’ widow.
“They were complete opposites in personality, but they respected each other,” she said. “They were a really good team. They were in it together.”
Andrews, who came from a radio background, died unexpectedly in June 2022.
Ray said Alpert came to know many New York transplants who retired to the Albuquerque area and also came to believe that many older people were not being well-served by traditional media.
“He took it to heart as he was getting older,” Ray said.
Prime Time was his endeavor to fill that gap, and it was always free, distributed in senior centers and other locations, Blackburn said.
Alpert also had a passion for theater and trained at the Herbert Berghof (HB) Studio in New York. In Albuquerque, he appeared in 28 stage productions, according to an obituary published in the Journal. His roles included Donald Trump in skits collectively titled Electoral Dysfunctions, performed at Albuquerque’s Vortex Theatre, as well as many roles at Albuquerque Little Theatre, including the wizard in the Wizard of Oz and Major General Thomas F. Waverly in White Christmas. He also appeared in a film and television series, according to IMDB.
“He was always so great to work with, always so upbeat,” said Henry Avery, executive and artistic director of Albuquerque Little Theatre. “He always gave it 100 percent.”
Avery said acting was one aspect of Alpert’s well-rounded life and added that he always attended early performances of new shows.
“He had a charm and a personality that came across on stage,” he said. “Everybody loved him.”