Mild-Mannered Canadian Is the Most Trusted Man in New York City

New York City’s much-hyped reputation for hostility can’t possibly be true—Pat Kiernan is living proof.

Kiernan, you see, is Canadian. In 1997, he opened his mouth for the first time on local news channel NY1 and what came out was so polite, so mild-mannered, so...Canadian that everyone knew he wasn't from the Big Apple.

Yet Kiernan, 48, has been giving New Yorkers the news ever since, a surprisingly beloved figure in a city known for chewing up outsiders and spitting them out (usually under a “No spitting” sign).

“When Pat first came on the scene, I looked at him and heard his milquetoast accent and said, ‘This guy ain’t from here!’” radio show host and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa tells Newsweek, as NY1 marked Kiernan’s 20th anniversary in the anchor chair on Friday. 

“As much as I didn’t want to like him, the guy, he just endears himself to you. Most New Yorkers want [high energy], and Pat is like Prozac to that. He calms you down. He is the perfect yin to the yang of New York City energy,” Sliwa says.

We talked to Kiernan about how he tamed the beast known as New York, and it’s a good primer for anyone who wants to make it here:

For the past 20 years, people have woken up with you and tuned in to NY1 to listen to you. But you’re, how shall I put this, Canadian. Why do you think New Yorkers, of all people, have kept tuning in over the years?
It’s all about the knowledge you accumulate over the years, but you don’t know what you don’t know until you know it. New Yorkers are not happy with people who don’t know about the story, so you better ask. I think New Yorkers are friendlier than they let on.

Um, we live here, so we know that’s not true. Certainly you weren’t initially beloved—you, an outsider trying to tell us the news.
NY1 did get an email a couple of weeks after I started from someone that said, “Out of 8 million people in America you picked THIS guy to do that job?” That stung. I get it, NY1 has branded itself to be a New York City station, and I had the bare minimum amount of time in New York. I think after 10 years I finally proved myself.

Capturing hearts and minds in New York is hard. Give outsiders some pointers.
You have to know what’s important to the city, live the same life they live. I take a cab every day to the studio [for the 5 a.m. broadcast], but after work I get on the L train. I go to Jamie [Stelter, the traffic anchor] and the traffic center, and we gripe about the subway. And I get out, whether it’s an event or in Brooklyn or a dinner in Manhattan or a car wash in Long Island City.

Whatever it is, that time I spend away from NY1 helps with that authenticity. You don’t fake that. I know New York because I am a New Yorker. Now there’s an entire generation of people waking up to me in the morning. I think that’s not even a question anymore; it’s just how things are now.

What do you wish you had known your first few months in New York City?
I wish I would’ve taken a proper picture! There is no picture of me on the anchor desk for the first time, just a 10-second clip from video.