This child of immigrant parents was born on the east side of New York City on September 17, 1890 and moved to Brooklyn soon after. Heatter did not do well in school and found high school particularly difficult. Despite that, he had an ability to speak well as he was very interested in reading and the world around him. At 16 he became a sidewalk campaigner for William Randolph Hearst when Hearst ran for mayor of New York City in 1906. Despite the candidate's loss, he had an influence upon the young Gabriel.
His interest in journalism was piqued. Soon after high school, the young man began working as a reporter of social functions for a local weekly, The East New York Record. From there, he moved onto the Brooklyn Times. While still employed at the Times, he was offered a position as the Brooklyn reporter for The New York Evening Journal, a Hearst publication. His career as a journalist was solidifying.
In 1931, he wrote an article for The Nation magazine reasoning against the Socialist Party's existence in the United States. The appearance of the article prompted a New York radio station, WMCA, to offer him a chance to debate a prominent Socialist on the air. However, the Socialist was unable to show, so Heatter went on discussing his article in more depth. Listener's were impressed and WOR, a Mutual outlet offered him a position as a commentator and reporter, which he accepted now realizing his future was in radio news. In 1933, his big break came when WOR assigned him to report and comment on the Bruno Hauptmann/Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping-Murder Trial, the trial of the century at the time. This gained him national fame as his reports influenced public opinion greatly. Other better-known reporters of the time were there including Walter Winchell.
With the coming of World War II, Heatter continued to report and comment on the day's events as war broke out over Europe. When the US entered the war and as times grew darker and darker, the news was simply not good. Finally, after the US sank a Japanes destroyer, Heatter came on the air reporting "there is good news tonight." This became a catch phrase and prompted many letters and calls. Heatter continued to use it throughout his career as he became known more and more as a morale booster always looking for some patch of blue to include in the news.
That Gabriel Heatter was a powerful force in American broadcast reporting is unquestionable. He did not have all of the dramatics and dynamics of Edward R. Murrow, but Heatter's approach to newscast and commentary was an influence on reporters to come later.