by Mark Scott, BBA Web and Newsletter Editor
Heâ€™s the unsung hero of Buffalo broadcasting. For 25 years, he has anchored. He has reported. He has interviewed. He has moderated debates. He has raised funds on radio and TV. He is Jim Ranney. And Friday is his last day as station manager of WBFO Radio.
I know, some of you are thinking, â€œScott, youâ€™re praising one of your own.â€ Please know that while Jim has been my boss the past two years, we were competitors for a much longer period of time. Yet, I always had the utmost respect for Jim Ranney. Heâ€™s one of those guys who fly under the radar, accomplishing so much without seeking aggrandizement. I donâ€™t think Jim even has a Facebook or Twitter account.
Jim arrived at Western New York Public Broadcasting in the early 1990s when WEBR Newsradio 970 was still on the air. He was one of the stationâ€™s most talented anchors in its final years. Following the change to a more traditional public radio format, Jim left the re-branded WNED AM 970 and joined WGR, working with that stationâ€™s talented news professionals, including News Director Ray Marks. I will always be grateful to Ray for allowing Jim to serve as host of Weekend Edition on WBFO in the late 1990s while he was working full time at â€˜GR during the week. Thatâ€™s when I got to know Jim. I remember the morning of January 1, 2000 when we breathlessly reported that NOTHING HAPPENED in the transition from 1999 to 2000.
After WGRâ€™s news format was dropped in favor of sports, Jim spent a few weeks as afternoon-evening anchor at WBEN but was soon re-hired as news director of WNED-AM. We became friendly competitors. Jim and I traveled to meetings of Public Radio News Directors, Inc. We enjoyed a beer on Chicagoâ€™s Navy Pier. Our families toured Los Angeles. We had fun on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. (And, yes, we attended workshops designed to make us better news directors.)
In 2006, I remember Jim moderating a televised gubernatorial debate between Eliot Spitzer and John Faso on the night the October Surprise was creating havoc in Buffalo. The next morning, Jim was on the air on WNED-AM, taking calls from listeners about the storm and its effects. I was listening on headphones as I trudged along Main Street from my Snyder home to our UB studios because my street was blocked at both end by fallen trees. And that was the thing with Jim. He could moderate a TV debate one night and host a radio talk show the next. Jim was flawless when anchoring. You just didnâ€™t hear any bumbling and stumbling in a Jim Ranney-anchored newscast.
Finally, in 2012, WNYPBA acquired WBFO from the University at Buffalo. I had retired as news director by the time of the sale. Jim graciously offered me a part-time position so that I could, for the first time in 30 years, just do an air shift without having to worry about running the newsroom.
So, congratulations Jim Ranney on an outstanding broadcast career. You will be missed. All the best to you in your new role as communications director for State Senator Patrick Gallivan. And weâ€™ll keep the door open in case you want to come back!
We knew we would have a week like this one sooner rather than later. And it happened on Tuesday, when Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson died at the age of 95. I happened to be listening to Rich Gaenzler on The Fan 1270 when he made the announcement coming out of a break at around 2:50pm. I was on my way to WBFO for Jim Ranneyâ€™s going away party. Needless to say, our news staff missed the party because there was a huge story to cover. I just want to give a shout-out to my broadcasting colleagues for a job well done. I had a chance to watch the coverage on WGRZ, WIVB, WKBW, Time Warner Cable News and WBBZ. Kudos to those stations which brought back their old-timers â€“ Van Miller, Rick Azar and Ed Kilgore who all covered Wilson from his earliest days as Bills owner. WGR did an outstanding job with interview after interview with former players and personnel.
Ironically, I was guest speaker at Mike Igoeâ€™s communications class at Fredonia earlier Tuesday. One of the points I made was that as a news professional, you never know what a particular day will bring. Little did I know that an example of that would occur in a matter of hours. We all had our rundowns for our broadcasts. And they were thrown out the window at 3pm. Again, congratulations on a job well done!