The naming of former WBEN-AM helicopter traffic reporter Dave May, WEBR–AM jazz announcer Al Wallack and former Channel 4 consumer reporter Janice Lieberman to the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame illustrates how much the media business has changed over the years.
Local radio no longer uses a helicopter to report on traffic, the jazz format no longer exists on ordinary radio and two local TV news stations no longer have a consumer reporter and the third station doesn’t have a full-time consumer reporter.
Two of the other three members of the class of 2013 announced today also illustrate changes in the industry.
“AM Buffalo” co-host Linda Pellegrino now presides over a Channel 7 program that more often runs sponsored segments, and Channel 4 news executive Nancy Sanders is an increasingly rare veteran working behind the scenes.
The sixth member of the class is Bob Koop, the late Channel 4 co-anchor who died at 47 after a battle with leukemia.
The class of 2013 will be presented for induction Sept. 28 at a dinner at WNED-TV. Les Trent, a hall of famer who reports for the popular syndicated series “Inside Edition,” and Channel 2 morning co-anchor Melissa Holmes will be the emcees.
After working at several radio stations in Pennsylvania, May joined WBEN in 1976 and was the station’s traffic-copter reporter, a position he held for 20 years. He has seen the changes in the media business.
“It has changed tremendously, mostly because of deregulation that changed ownership rules,” May said in an interview. “It removed a lot of competition.”
May also was WBEN’s chief engineer, produced Buffalo Bills broadcasts, did voice-over commercials, filled in on-air shifts, wrote the nation’s first computer program for managing school closings and built Buffalo broadcasting’s first digital recording studio.
In his 44th year in broadcasting, Wallack began his career in 1969 right out of Buffalo State College and has worked at WWOL, WNIA, WYSL, AM and FM and WBUF in Buffalo, WBUZ in Fredonia and WUSJ in Lockport. If you’re not familiar with some of the call letters, it is because some of those stations no longer exist.
Often referred to as the king of jazz radio, the smooth-sounding Wallack joined WEBR in 1972 as host of the all-night program. Four years later when WEBR was sold to the Western New Public Broadcasting Association (WNYPBA), Wallack became host of the popular “Jazz in the Nighttime.”
Wallack is now the voice of JazzWorks, Buffalo’s 24-hour jazz station, WBFO-HD2, which is available via on HD radio or online.
He also had voiced IDs and station promos for WNED-TV and narrated many of the PBS station’s locally produced documentaries over 15 years.
Lieberman started as a consumer reporter at Channel 4 30 years ago. She stayed in Buffalo for six years before continuing her career on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” NBC’s “Today” and CNBC, where she won two cable ACE awards.
Lieberman is receiving the Buffalo Bob Smith Award, which is given “to broadcasters with local roots, who made his or her mark away from the Niagara Frontier, but is still a Buffalonian at heart.”
A veteran of radio and television, Pellegrino joined Channel 7 in 1986. She is best known as the host of “AM Buffalo,” but she also played music on the radio on several Buffalo stations, was a movie host on WUTV, delivered weather forecasts on Channel 7 and conducted thousands of live interviews with celebrities.
The Brockport State graduate, who received the support of Western New York during a very public battle overcoming cancer, has participated in numerous charitable activities during her broadcasting career.
She earned two New York State Emmy nominations and has twice been honored as Italian-American of the year by the Italian-American Society of Western New York.
Starting her career at Channel 7 when legendary anchor Irv Weinstein hired her as newsroom secretary, Sanders is one of the rare local broadcasting figures who has worked at Channel 7, Channel 2 and Channel 4.
She eventually became Channel 7’s assistant news director, where her behind-the-scenes work involved planning many series, specials and investigative reports when the station was No. 1 in local news. Sanders was the acting news director at Channel 7 a number of times but never held the job permanently.
She joined Channel 2 as the station began its “Red Coats” era and was news director for a brief time at Bridges TV before joining Channel 4 to coordinate coverage of the crash of Flight 3407, the City Grill shootings and the Wallenda high wire walk over Niagara Falls.
“There aren’t many veteran news producers,” agreed Sanders, adding experience helps understand the history of the community.
She is receiving the Al Anscombe Award, which is awarded annually “to those in broadcasting’s front office who have upheld the highest ideals.”
“This means a lot to me,” said Sanders. “As a behind-the-scenes person, you don’t always get the applause.”
A Long Island native and Syracuse graduate, Koop joined Channel 4 as co-anchor in 1981 and was diagnosed with leukemia two years later. A private man, he kept his battle secret for a decade even from his co-anchor, Carol Jasen. His final broadcast was in 1994. He died on New Year’s Day, 1995.
In a Jan. 5, 1995, column, I wrote that “in sickness, Koop became a symbol that Western New York could relate to – a battler fighting tremendous odds.”
The column added obituaries “rightly emphasized that Koop was a journalist with a capital J” and “that the journalistic respect that Channel 4’s Rich Newberg and Channel 2’s Rich Kellman had for Koop obviously was mutual. They were pallbearers at Koop’s funeral.”
“Bob Koop at the anchor desk symbolized classy news with high standards.”
Hall of fame standards.