You may have seen the countdown to July 5th that I was giving here on the Director's Cut Blog. Well, the time has come. It's finally here. July 5th officially marks my 20th year as a Cleveland broadcaster.
It was July 5th, 1988, that I opened the microphone at little 1,000 watt country music station WLND-AM in Cortland... It was 6:05 a.m. and time to say those most memorable words: "Good Morning, I'm Frank Macek with your WLND News..." I was so scared, I trembled at first. But that soon passed.
Although my tenure at WLND was only to last the summer of 1988 before college started in the fall, it was a memorable time at the little station at the corner of St. Rts. 305 and 88 in Cortland in a building shared with a dentist office. Owner Nancy Hoffman (whose son Chris Hoffman once worked at WKYC) and station manager Jay Michaels gave me that big break after I contacted them about wanting to do the weather forecast for their station. Instead, I got to do the weather AND the news.
I also got to spin those little 45 records on the turntable playing those "All Hit Country" favorites. Meryle Haggard, George Strait, Eddie Rabbit and Crystal Gayle were the big name stars at the time.
In the fall of 1988, I started at Cleveland State University when Sandy Kish Jordan offered me an internship with WDOK and WWWE on the 2nd floor of Reserve Square in downtown Cleveland. I was so impressed with their studios. I felt like I was in the big time now.
While my first job there was in promotions, I quickly moved into other areas and found myself playing the weekend hits on WDOK...all your "Soft Favorites" which was the positioning the station took at the time under PD Sue Wilson. Even though it was the overnight shift on the weekend, I still got the chance to crack the mic and do the weather. But, hey that was cool I thought.
At WDOK, I can remember first using what we called "carts" - a professional version of "8 track-type" tape that music and commercials were recorded on. That replaced the vinyl in the late 80s and early 90s.
I also got to work with Gary Dee, Bruce Drennan, and a cast of other characters who followed them around inside the studios of our sister station, WWWE. In fact, I actually was on the Gary Dee show one day talking about the apathy of college students regarding world affairs. I guess it was a VERY slow news day. Plus, Gary's regularly scheduled guess didn't show up. But hey I can say I was on the "Gary Dee Show" for what it's worth. Not much.
After a station swap, WDOK became sister stations with WRMR and "The Music of Your Life" penetrated my blood. Program Director Jim Davis gave me a shot at a shift on the AM 850 frequency. I was playing the music of my grandparents - Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey and more. But I didn't care. I loved it.
Soon I was hired full time as assistant program director for WRMR and did regular on-air shifts alongside Carl Reese, Bill Randle and Ronnie Barrett. For several years, I produced and engineered Ronnie's "Saturday Night Swing" Show which found a new home on WRMR after being booted off WQAL where I remember listening to Ronnie on Saturday nights.
Also during this time, CDs were making their debut and I was buying up as many as I could. I had a huge collection of everything you could imagine. My basement was filled with Sinatra and other "Music of Your Life" artists. I was hooked.
Then came the rough times. Tom Embrescia, the station owner, was getting ready to sell his stations as the lead up to the big Telecommunications Act of 1996 that ruined the industy. Soon, I was out the door. And it hurt. I was fired for the first time in my career.
Almost without a beat, another fantastic opportunity came along - the wonderful world of television. And I found myself two weeks later inside the studios of WKYC at E. 6th and Rockwell.
At first, I worked here as a technician. My first duties were on the morning show "Today in Cleveland" with Del Donahoo and Tom Haley. I remember watching them each morning as a kid before catching the bus to school at 7:10. A very dear old man, Hank Zybreski, taught me how to be a good audio man. Hank soon retired and passed away a few years ago. He was one of the best audio men in the business.
Around the same time, in January 1995, Steve Hibbard - program director of Smooth Jazz 107.3, The Wave - brought me in for an interview and I joined the station for almost the next decade.
I would work TV all week, then radio on the weekends. Somedays, I would do both. It was something that a person in their 20s could do, but not any more than I'm nearing the big 4-0. Those days were brutual and best left behind.
Later in 1995, I was given an opportunity to start directing news at WKYC thanks to then Programming/Production Manager Rich O'Dell. I knew he wasn't sure I could do it, but gave me the chance anyways. I proved him I could. In 1997, I was hired full time to replace retiring director John Oven who still resides down in sunny Florida running his own little video production company and having fun I hear.
Meanwhile at the Wave, I found myself transitioning from playing CDs to the dreaded automation system that basically replaced most of the disc jockeys in the radio business over a very short period of time. Clear Channel bought up all the main stations and now stations could voice track entire shifts without anyone being in the studio. It was hard to accept, but I knew the time had come to call it quits.
So, in January 2005, I decided to hang up my headset and focus full time on Channel 3 - and to have a life once again.
Fast forward to July 2008, TV is at a crossroads. Some say it will die, others feel it will always be around. I feel broadcasting will evolve, but not go away. Only the delivery platforms will change.
Even here at Channel 3, we are all being replaced with computers and automation. As you know, our technical director and director positions are being combined into one. Today, I direct and switch my own newscasts in a control room that has gone from 5 or 6 people to only a few.
The time will come when I, too, am no longer needed. And that will be okay. Because over the last 20 years, I know I have always given my all to the product. When one door closes, another one opens.
So, thanks to all who have believed in me over the years and given me the opportunity to be a Cleveland broadcaster. Here is hoping for another 20 years in Cleveland broadcasting.PHOTOGALLERY:
To view more of my career in pictures on my Facebook page: CLICK HERE
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