Politician, journalist forged lifelong friendship

By Sam Lacovara, Frank Olito and Rebecca Anzel
The Greene Team

While many politicians might fear an investigative reporter, Smithtown Town Councilman Robert Creighton embraced one of the toughest of them all.

The reporter was Robert W. Greene, who won several Pulitzer Prizes for Newsday at the pinnacle of its reach and reputation.

The men’s friendship spanned for more than 50 years. “He was one of my best friends,” said Creighton, who babysat for Greene’s children when he was a just a teenager himself.

He credits Greene with inspiring his life long career in law enforcement, which included stints as former Suffolk County Police Commissioner and chief investigator for the Suffolk County District Attorney.

The  two first met in 1959, when Greene was already a famous investigative reporter who specialized in covering organized crime. In meeting Greene, Creighton developed an unquenchable thirst for additional knowledge about organized crime.

At the time, Creighton was a student at Stony Brook University. Greene proved an ideal source for a term paper he was writing on organized crime.

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Bob Creighton's friendship with Greene spanned 50 years. Photo by Jessica Suarez.

Their relationship grew beyond the university walls, and Creighton would often turn to Greene for advice throughout his law enforcement career. Creighton began as a police officer and now is in the public spotlight.

Over the years, the men relied on each other as both confidantes and friends. As Suffolk County Police Commissioner, Creighton served as an insider source for Greene.

Conversely, Creighton turned to Greene when he needed someone to serve as campaign chairman of his bid for a seat on the town council. In addition, Greene introduced Creighton to other vital news contacts including investigative reporter Steve Wick and Tom Runner. “I was spoiled,” he admitted. “The press treated me very well.”

Some journalists agree. “As a journalist, I find he’s well respected on the board,” said Newsday’s Stacey Altherr.

Unfortunately, that has not always been the case, said Creighton. There was one instance when a news broadcaster betrayed his trust and spread a false “rumor,” misrepresenting his affiliation with a local political official.

Journalistic integrity is important to Creighton, and one of the reasons he has supported the creation of the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists, which was a project Greene was trying to launch at the time of his death in 2008.

Creighton’s advice to aspiring reporters is to be respectful and honest.

From his decades long friendship with Greene, Creighton learned one important value: The future of journalism relies on the attitudes and morals of the reporters.