With fewer than a half-million households, and a climate that has brought record-breaking snow this fall, Syracuse doesn’t appear to have the appeal of the sunny spots that one would associate with TV types.
But between the repute of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications and a robust portfolio of network affiliates covering the breadth of upstate news, the No. 85 DMA has spawned an impressive roster of broadcasting A-listers.
Some of the luminaries grew up in the area and got their starts at WTVH, the Syracuse CBS affiliate now owned by Sinclair. David Muir spent five years there, earning AP and RTDNA awards for reports from Israel and the Gaza Strip before working his way up to his current gig as ABC World News Tonight anchor.
Fox News host and area native Megyn Kelly stayed in town long enough to earn a political science degree from Syracuse University. B&C Hall of Famer Rod Serling, whose early career included working as a writer at WKRC, Sinclair’s CBS affiliate in Cincinnati, in his pre-Twilight Zone days, was born in Syracuse in 1924.
Other native sons include Tom Kenny, voice of the title character on SpongeBob SquarePants, and Thom Filicia of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
Plenty of standouts who didn’t grow up on the edge of the Finger Lakes had fertile early-career stints there.
NBC’s Al Roker launched his career at WTVH, which was known as WHEN at the time. Born in Queens, N.Y., Roker started working as the station’s weatherman in the 1970s while still an undergrad at SUNY Oswego.
TV icon Dick Clark also first broadcast on Syracuse airwaves. While pursuing an undergrad degree at Syracuse (he minored in radio), Clark worked at AM country music station WOLF. Soon, WKTV, the NBC affiliate in nearby Utica, snatched up Clark en route to American Bandstand, New Year’s Rockin’ Eve and Golden Globes history.
Syracuse and Newhouse alumni have long populated the upper echelons of the TV industry. Among the notables: NBC’s Bob Costas, former Nightline anchor Ted Koppel, 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft, former network president Fred Silverman, Discovery Networks CEO David Zaslav and Cablevision founder Charles Dolan (who also appears on our “Ones for the Ages” roster).