By Steve Cichon
Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting
Through the 50s and 60s, WBEN AM-FM-TV was thought of as a single unit, The Buffalo Evening News Stations. Talent and technicians often moved between the stations to where they were needed, and the product in each place was reflective of each other.
In 1968, when Phil “Bucky” Buchanan and John Eaton (left) would arrive at WBEN around 4am to begin writing news for Jack Ogilvie, the most you’d hear from them is a mention from Jack about who was sitting at the Editor’s desk.
Soon thereafter, news gathering operations for WBEN Radio and Ch.4 were made independent for the first time. The newsrooms were at opposite ends of the same hall at 2077 Elmwood Avenue, and information was freely shared— but editorial decisions and staff were structurally separated. Five full-time writers and a news director were assigned to WBEN Radio, as separating the newsrooms allowed for a change in union rules which barred writers from reporting on air, and announcers from writing.
One immediate change was to hear the voices of long-time “news editors” Marty Gleason and Fran Lucca on the air at WBEN, after the two men had spent decades writing scripts for Ogilvie, Lou Douglas, Ward Fenton, and others to read.
Marty Gleason, right, at the editor’s desk
Fran Lucca spent more than 60 years in Buffalo media, starting with a column he wrote for the Buffalo Evening News as a Boy Scout in 1939. After returning from active duty in the Navy following World War II, Lucca spent 23 years at WBEN AM-FM-TV as a writer, reporter, and producer, and then another 14 years at WNED-TV creating documentary-style reports on local subjects for Ch.17.
Fran Lucca takes a quick smoke break in the WBEN-TV newsroom.
The change went both ways. Some longtime news “announcers” couldn’t handle the role of journalist.
Longtime announcer Lou Douglas loved it.
The Korean War vet came to WBEN-AM/FM/TV in 1957 and his unflappable, smart, level-headed approach to news anchoring and interviewing was part of the fabric of the station for 30 years.
In his early years as a junior announcer at The Buffalo Evening News stations, television still played second fiddle to AM radio. Many of his early assignments were on Ch.4, including regular 6pm walks from WBEN’s Statler studios to The Buffalo Evening News’ building near the foot of Main Street. He’d read– as announced at the beginning of each newscast, “From the Editorial Floor of the Buffalo Evening News” — the 6 o’clock television news as prepared by the newspaper staff.
Douglas would continue to appear as a reporter, host, and announcer on TV through the 1970s, but he is best remembered for his work at WBEN Radio. It was his voice that anchored radio coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s visit to Buffalo in 1962. He broadcast from inside the prison complex during the Attica uprising over WBEN Radio, as well.
Living in Kenmore, his home was closest to the WBEN’s Elmwood Avenue studios– which meant extended duty for Lou during the Blizzard of 1977.
In spanning three decades, Douglas really had two separate careers at WBEN– one as a staff announcer, and one as a journalist. He was one of the few to excel at both.
As civil unrest and student protests rocked the UB campus through the late 60s and early 70s, WBEN’s Lou Douglas (standing) was one of the voices of reason, using his evening news interview program to bring together school administrators and dissident students.
Al Fox brought humor and insight to the WBEN Farm Report show, which he hosted during the 5am hour on WBEN for 28 years, starting in 1947.
“I learned that you’ve got to spend time with the farmers to know what they are thinking,” he said in 1961. “Only then can you provide them with the kind of program they want and need.”
This page is an excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon
The full text of the book is now online.
The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York.
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