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WGR avoids burning question in Whaley interview

Catching up on the news being made while I was on a beach in Florida:

WGR Avoids the Burning Question: Thanks to WGR’s audio vault, I was able to listen to an interview that WGR’s Jeremy White and Sal Capaccio had more than a week ago with Doug Whaley. The Bills general manager does interviews with the team’s radio rights-holder but isn’t generally available for other media members. So naturally, I expected over the course of the 20-minute interview that WGR’s staffers would ask Whaley about the speculation concerning the future of Coach Rex Ryan. Amazingly, they never asked, which has become an issue on social media.

I reached out to White, a Syracuse University graduate like I am, to ask why “the burning question” – my words -- wasn’t asked. He said he wasn’t told not to ask or prevented from asking the question. He added if he asked the question, Whaley would have been expected to give the political answer that “they’re all on the team.”

He’s probably right. But later in the Twitter exchange, White conceded “perhaps I should have asked … so Whaley could dismiss, and no one would think it odd I didn’t ask.”

Yes, that would have – and should have – been the way to go.

John Zach to Exit WBEN-AM: Notably, the announcement of Zach’s departure at the end of the year didn’t include the word often used in later social network tributes to the co-anchor of the morning show – "retirement."

Entercom Buffalo operations manager Tim Wenger’s message ended with the line “please join me in congratulating John on an amazing career on the air and wishing him well as he moves on to the next chapter.”

Next chapter? What does that mean?

It sounds like it means it wasn’t Zach’s idea to leave WBEN, though the Buffalo Broadcasters Association Hall of Famer may have understood why the right wing station might want a younger morning co-anchor after Zach's 18 years there and about a half century in radio.

The 76-year-old Zach isn’t talking now, presumably because he got a severance package that requires him to either keep his distinctive voice shut or be very careful about what he says.

Year ago when I wrote a Buffalo Spree article about Zach’s career, he told me he planned to work forever. A friend of his also recently told me that Zach once jokingly told him he “wants to drop dead on the job.”

The wording of last week’s announcement makes it sound like Zach doesn’t want to be congratulated on his retirement as he has been on social networks. He wants to continue working. He never got rich as a radio newsman. Four years ago, he told me he was making about $60,000 a year.

It will be interesting to see who WBEN picks as the new permanent co-anchor alongside Wenger’s wife, Susan Rose Wenger, and whether that person fits the station’s right-wing slant during the Trump presidency much more than an objective newsman like Zach does. Brian Mazurowski will have the role on an interim basis starting Jan. 2, according to Wenger’s email.

If Zach doesn’t want to retire and his severance doesn’t prevent him from working elsewhere, I could see him being an asset at WBFO-FM, the public radio station that is the only real radio news alternative to WBEN.

After failing to return several telephone calls, Zach finally left a voice mail message that answered a question I left on his phone -- whether he would continue working at WBFO if asked.

He started his message by thanking WBEN for hiring him 18 years ago at an age it isn’t easy to get a broadcasting job. “I’m grateful for the opportunity they gave me at the age of 58,” said Zach.

Then he answered the WBFO question.

“I’d work for WBFO in a minute,” said Zach.

In any event, don't expect any big goodbyes, tributes or fanfare for Zach in his final days on WBEN. That just doesn’t fit the lunch bucket style of a newsman without ego who is legendary for bringing a bologna sandwich to work every day.


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