Since buying WECK radio (1230 AM, 102.9 and 100.5 FM) about a year and a half ago, owner Buddy Shula Ostrander has built the station around legendary radio figures who have helped raise the station’s ratings.
But the owner made some news this week by sharply criticizing one news legend and a second former employee who is known for documenting the careers of broadcasting legends in Western New York.
Ostrander didn’t name radio legend John Zach and broadcast historian Steve Cichon by name. However, anybody in the media and many outside the media reading Ostrander’s Facebook post surely knew who he was referring to since they were his only two news directors.
Ostrander’s stunning insults about two newsmen with reputations of being hard workers led many media types and others to defend his targets and made one wonder if the owner understood that his comments could be widely shared in a public forum.
Cichon became WECK’s news director in February, a few weeks after Zach resigned without explanation.
In response to a man inquiring about a news job, Shula wrote this on Facebook over the weekend: “Our two last news reporters walked off the job giving zero notice to me or their coworkers just because they were pouting. The two who claimed to be professionals, turned out to be very lazy and unprofessional.”
Cichon, who left a part-time job at WECK recently to become communications director for Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School and writes historical pieces for The Buffalo News, became aware of the post and defended himself this way on Facebook: “A friend saw this on the WECK owner's public Facebook page, posted by the owner himself. I have been working since the age of 7 and working full time since the age of 15. There are plenty of criticisms you can make of me and my work, but I'm not sure there are many who would agree with either lazy and/or unprofessional. I haven't had an ill word to say about WECK or the management there, and I won't. Not because I'm too lazy to do so ... but because I'm too professional to do so.”
After reading Cichon’s post, Ostrander responded on Facebook: “Steve you took this post out of context first off, second, you quit a job by emailing everybody that day you left ‘toot a loo’ except for me. You bothered to tell me nothing. You did not even tell me that you had another job. For someone who ‘cares’ about broadcasting as much as you say you do, especially Buffalo broadcasting, I was really disappointed — not something Irv (Weinstein) would have done. WE did nothing to you (but) give you a job, and you left almost kid-like. Sorry, but you did.”
Cichon fired back: “Buddy, the behavior you are displaying in this forum is the precise reason I fired you as a boss. As I told The Buffalo News, I wish all my friends at WECK nothing but the best.”
Ostrander responded: “Steve, post the email you sent when you left. No one would have even known about this FB incident had you not displayed it on your Facebook page so everyone could see how ‘bad’ I am. I hardly ever saw you during your tenure. You did not fire your boss, you left for another job without anyone’s knowledge, including your close morning co-workers. You don’t think you could have given an explanation at least?”
Reached by The News via text, Cichon said he was hired by Timon on a Thursday, worked his final day at WECK that Friday and started the Timon job Monday because the school needed him to do that. He declined further comment beyond what he made public on Facebook.
In a telephone interview, Zach, who worked at WBEN into his 70s and was the WECK news director before Cichon, was read Ostrander’s remark and responded: “Anybody in this industry who knows me and who knows Steve Cichon knows the exact opposite of what Mr. Shula said is true. I will challenge anybody in this industry who knows me or Steve to support what Buddy Shula has said.”
In a telephone interview, Ostrander said he purposely left out the names of Cichon and Zach because “I didn’t want to make it a big deal.”
Ostrander said that by putting it on his Facebook page, Cichon “chose to be the victim. When he doesn’t feel like doing something, he quits.”
When Ostrander hired Cichon in February, the owner wrote, “He’s a true Buffalonian who is woven into the fabric of our community – and he’s an excellent broadcaster.”
Asked if he stuck by using the word “lazy” to describe the two newsmen in his Facebook post, Ostrander took a long pause before saying, “No comment.” Then he appeared to try to soften his criticism.
“I take things a little personally, and maybe I shouldn’t,” said Ostrander.
A few hours later, Ostrander sent an email to The News that softened his criticism of his former employees: "I can say that i probably should not have expressed my anger the way i did on facebook, and i am sorry i did that, but i think Steve needs to take some responsibility. I also did not choose to publicize this. Cichon did. 10 people saw my post — Steve sent to all his followers, for what reason, i don't know."
It isn't that hard to speculate why Cichon did so — to defend his reputation.
After reaction to his original post came in, Ostrander returned to Facebook for damage control and to emphasize he felt Cichon hadn't given him the standard notice expected of an employee leaving a job.
"We're all human, and in my passion for people, what I do for living and for the people of WECK, I reacted in a way I deeply regret," wrote Ostrander in part. "For that, I can only apologize and be grateful to have learned a valuable lesson. I simply believed the professional thing to do would have been to either provide notice- or to come to me and say he had accepted a new job and that he was sorry that he was going to have to leave right away.
"Either way, I would have been sorry to see him leave, but would have respected a professional manner in departing... I think the Timon school would have understood the need to give WECK (and his listeners) the courtesy and respect that's standard (giving an employer notice.)
"That said, I'm still sorry I wore what happened on my sleeve. I understand a manager, leader, supervisor or owner must use discretion, regardless of personal feelings. I own that mistake 100%. I truly do wish Steve the best. He is incredibly talented and bright."
Ostrander said that because of his experience with his last two news directors he doesn’t plan on hiring another one and that morning co-host Gail Ann Huber will continue to read the news.