It’s been quite a week in Buffalo broadcasting.  A beloved figure in our industry was hailed by former colleagues and friends as he prepares for a bone marrow transplant.  There was an astounding story in Sunday’s Buffalo News about one of the area’s most prominent radio personalities.  And this past week’s blizzard coverage raised some questions among the public about the propriety of reporters defying travel bans to deliver live reports. 

I’ll begin with Saturday’s wonderful tribute to one of Buffalo’s most respected broadcast journalists, Ray Marks.  Ray will undergo a bone marrow transplant in the coming weeks following his myelodysplastic syndrome diagnosis last year.  His friends organized a benefit held Saturday at the American Legion post in Eden to raise money for medical expenses.  Words can’t describe the love shown for Ray at this event.  Many of the broadcasters he mentored – Eileen Buckley, Melanie Pritchard, Barbara Burns, Lynne Dixon, Paula Green D’Amico, Josh Gregory, Tom Puckett, George Rickert, Ellen Maxwell and Michael Mroziak – were there.  Others he worked with at various point in his career – Jim Ranney, Don Yearke, Tom Campbell, Sandy Beach, Mike Mombrea Jr., Steve Mitchell, Bert Gambini and John Jarrett – came to show their support.  Jerry Reo served as Master of Ceremonies.  I know I’m probably missing some names.  But please know your presence was so appreciated by Ray and his family.

Ray is truly a remarkable person.  Despite his health challenges, Ray continued to teach his public speaking class at Medaille College this past fall.  He was there for the entire time Saturday, wearing a medical mask, personally greeting his many friends.  And the friends weren’t just broadcasters.  Veterans he has helped by teaching them to fly fish were there to support him, as were family and friends from his hometown of Angola.  A few broadcasting stories were shared.  Some tears were shed.  Mayor Byron Brown even declared January 11, 2014 as “Ray Marks Day in Buffalo.”  And Ray was very touched by the outpouring of support.  He said he’ll remember this day during the lonely times to come as he recovers from the transplant at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute.  Ray once again affirmed that he will beat this!

Of course, our collective hearts are going out to another respected broadcaster.  Tom Schuh lost his wife, Bridget, to breast cancer last Monday.  She had fought a valiant five year battle against the disease.  Tom is one of the “good ones” in our industry.  We are all saddened by your loss, Tom, and will keep you and your family in our thoughts. 

This emotional week took an astounding turn Sunday morning with a front-page story about WBEN talk show host Tom Bauerle.  I’m sure most, if not all of you, have read it.  I don’t think it’s appropriate to say much here other than to offer Tom a good thought as he deals with this very personal matter. 

But I do have an opinion about winter storm coverage and some of the criticism I was reading on social media sites.  Before the blizzard struck, I posted a comment on my personal Facebook page about a certain former news reporter turned politician who seems to be taking shots at the industry he once worked in.  He was mocking the fact that people were flocking to stores the weekend before the blizzard to stock up on bread, milk and eggs.  Now, I enjoy humor as much as anyone.  I remember laughing at a post last year from someone who asked what is it about storms that make people go out and buy the ingredients for French toast.  Yes, it snows in Buffalo during the winter.  But that doesn’t mean extensive media coverage of storm warnings and advisories is not warranted.  And in this case, as it turned out, the media coverage leading up to the blizzard was extremely beneficial.  People stayed home.  No one was stranded on the Thruway.  And because they stocked up, most people were able to weather the storm with plenty to eat and drink.  The media certainly acted responsibly. 

Then, I read a few posts from people who were critical of the media for sending reporters out into the storm to file live reports, including from areas where there were travel bans.  One Facebook friend responded to me that the media does this for “fun and games.”  It saddens me when the average person has no idea what it means to be a broadcast journalist, or any journalist, for that matter.  We don’t do this for “fun and games.”  Yes, there could be a case where a media vehicle may need to be pulled out of snow bank by emergency responders.  But the same could be true for a nurse, plow driver or utility worker who gets stuck while trying to get to work.  We all perform a public service.  The media’s job is to keep the public informed.  Television is a visual medium.  This isn’t the 1960s when anchors simply read from a desk in the studio.  This is 2014, and technology allows us to report live from the scene of breaking news, including a snow storm.  We should not have to apologize for this.  And if seeing visuals of just how bad it is out there keeps one person who has no legitimate reason to drive off the roads, we’ve done our jobs.

Again, kudos to all the hard-working broadcast journalists who did such a great job covering the Blizzard of ’14. 

 

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