Reith Reminisces on Syracuse News Scene

August 14, 2021 by
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SYRACUSE -- The recent death of longtime Syracuse broadcast journalist Dave White got one of his former colleagues thinking. Former 570 WSYR talk host Jim Reith took to Facebook to reminisce about how much the Syracuse news media scene has changed -- in not-so-good ways -- over the past few decades.

In the public post, which has garnered over 150 "likes" or "loves" in the 17 hours it's been online as of this writing, Reith recalls, "in the mid 80s to the mid 90’s the Syracuse market really was incredible."

Just in case anything happens where the embedded Facebook post is no longer visible, here's the full text:

So after reading my post about my friend the late Dave White, someone asked me what the local media scene was like “back then.” In the mid 80s to the mid 90’s the Syracuse market really was incredible. At that time WSYR did a newscast every half hour in the morning. 8 minutes at the top of the hour 4 minutes at the bottom. News, weather, traffic and sports. Traffic from a plane! We did a half hour newscast at noon, and a two hour news block in the afternoon . We had a 14 person newsroom including 2 sports guys. It wasn’t unusual for us to do 20 different stories a day. We also were the voice of SU sports, and carried the Yankee games. Now that’s a full service radio station. We had 2 newscars which had marti units in them that allowed us to go live from anywhere and we did live hits every day and in most afternoon newscasts. We had reporters at night, we had news anchors on 24:7. We broke hundreds of stories over the years, the biggest of which was the Lockerbie crash. We were first to confirm and report that many SU students had been aboard the plane. We competed toe to toe with the talented staff at WHEN which included Bill Carey, Dave Bullard and Dan Cummings, three of the best radio (and tv) guys ever. There were 2 daily newspapers with separate, complete staffs and a much larger paper to fill and 4 tv stations with news teams packed with veteran reporters. The competition was absolutely amazing, and the pressure and stress each day were high. Very high. We all fought tooth and nail with each other, sometimes tempers would flare, things would be said but in the end it was all good. Riley’s was our hangout, along with a couple of other places, and some of us partied together and became friends. In fact Brad Bierman, our sports director and I played on Channel 3,s city rec league softball team for years. The bottom line though was that the public was served in a way that today’s local media can’t come close to. The resources we had back then in terms of talent and experience DWARFS the talent and experience of those working “the street” today. It was an amazing time, one I’ll never forget. It was, in a word, awesome.

--Jim Reith via Facebook, August 13, 2021

By contrast, today, WSYR is the only local commercial news/talk radio station in the market. Under the ownership of ClearChannel and its successor iHeart Media, the entire Syracuse's cluster's local on-air staffing has been cut back to nearly nothing.

Most of the "local news" windows in the WSYR program clock are now partially or completely filled by nationally-syndicated Fox News Radio (especially nights and weekends), with many of the remaining "local" news content being voiced by staff at iHeart's WHAM 1180 in Rochester or "the Albany bureau" at 810 WGY.

Likewise, the city's 2 daily newspapers have since combined into one -- with the Post-Standard in recent years putting more emphasis on its online offerings, even to the point of limiting widespread distribution of a printed newspaper to just a few days a week, while the alternative weekly Syracuse NewTimes ceased operations in 2019.

Even in television, corporate consolidation has had an impact on local journalism -- many still remember the day in 2009 when most staffers at WTVH were suddenly dismissed from their jobs, as the CBS affiliate literally moved up the street to join forces with WSTM, forming the "CNY Central" cluster. Although the stations still maintain mostly-separate anchor teams, most newscasts contain the same stories by the same reporters, usually just with different running orders, especially if a reporter is needed to do separate live hits for both stations. On weekends, there's no distinction -- the exact same newscast runs on both stations, either simulcasted, or live on one station and delayed on the other, in cases where live sports or other special programming prevents a simulcast.

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