For the second year in a row I introduce you to five local television personalities. You’re probably familiar with each of them; one or two might even be your favorite. During the interview process I learned that although there seems to be a lot of movement in the local media lately, in general, there is camaraderie among everyone.
By Mary Beth DeCecco
“I’m a believer that things average out,” said Steve Caporizzo, chief meteorologist of WTEN News10 in Albany for the past 17 years. “As easy and mild as this winter has been, I’d venture to guess that we will have a cooler and wetter spring than normal.”
Of course, in his industry, he could always be mistaken. There has been more than one occasion this winter when snow was expected for the Capital Region, but only a dusting fell.
“It’s the nature of the beast,” said Caporizzo, 45, of the changing weather patterns.
Growing up in Georgetown, MA, a small town near the New Hampshire border, it was at age nine that the “weather bug” bit him. Always curious about why it snowed or why the “TV weather people” got the forecast wrong, he began reading about the subject.
“The more I read, the more interested I became,” he said, adding that his parents encouraged his hobby, buying him books and weather stations.
Caporizzo’s love of weather led to him graduating with a BS in Meteorology from Lyndon State University in Vermont in 1982. His career took him to two stations as chief meteorologist—WABI-TV in Bangor, ME and WWLP-TV in Springfield, MA, plus dozens of radio stations in New York and New England.
In fact, he still works for the same radio station that gave him his first paying job out of college— WTSA in Brattleboro, VT.
“I’ve been working for them for 26 years now,” he said. “It brings me back to my roots and reminds me of how excited I was when I started.”
The business of television is very much a matter of timing and contracts, making it hard to sometimes break into a bigger market, such as Boston or New York.
“No one ever left those stations,” said Caporizzo, who moved to the Capital Region in 1989 to work at News10.
“Albany is about as close to home as I could be.”
You can watch Caporizzo deliver the latest forecast on News10 weekdays at 5pm; 5:30pm, 6pm and 11pm. In addition, you can also hear his weather reports on WGNA 107.7FM, The Buzz 104.5FM and The Team 1300AM.
Though he doesn’t have to be at the station until around 1:30pm (and he doesn’t leave until after the 11pm news), his day begins at 6am. From his home in Guilderland he is able to research the weather online and tape his radio reports or call in with a live report.
From the time he started out in his career until now, the technology has changed on a remarkable level, allowing meteorologists to gather large quantities of data and update forecasts in a timelier manner.
“At one time we were happy to do a two-day forecast. Now we have five, seven, even ten day forecasts.”
However, the downside to these technological advances is that many people expect the forecast to be completely accurate. But, said Caporizzo, with the ocean, Great Lakes and mountains, the Capital Region is in a part of the country that presents an "amazing challenge".
“Every storm that moves across the country somehow ends up in the northeast,” he said. “There’s always something going on, even when it’s nice.”
If you’re a fan of Caporizzo’s, you might know that his second passion in life is pets. In 1990 he started the “Pet Connection” segment and has helped find homes for over 2,000 dogs and cats and raised over $230,000 on their behalf.
“It’s something my mother passed onto us kids,” said Caporizzo, one of five children. “We didn’t have a lot of money, but my mother always found a way to donate money to shelters.”
“Pet Connection” now airs in six primetime specials during the year, introducing viewers to homeless animals in hopes of finding them a home and reports on animal-related stories. It also airs every Thursday at 8:15am on WGNA 107.7FM.
Caporizzo, who has five pets of his own—three dogs and two cats—said that giving back to the animals brings him happiness.
His volunteerism in the community extends in many other directions as well. Over the years he has visited over 1,500 schools, civic groups and senior centers and helps with fundraising for the American Lung Association. He has also worked with the Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center and the Center for the Disabled.
When not busy working, Caporizzo loves the outdoors—especially fishing for trout, bass and salmon. In fact, if he had a second career choice it would be professional fisherman.
But, he’s more than happy where he is right now.
“I’m living my childhood dream,” said Caporizzo, of his fulfilling career. “To be successful you must like what you do.”
Turn on Capital News 9 and you’ll notice a slew of young reporters delivering the news of the day. Look closely and you’ll see Kristina Krawchuk, weekday and weekend anchor and features reporter.
From the time she was a small child Krawchuk knew that she wanted to be on television.
“I was obsessed with TV,” said the 35-year old. Growing up in a family that moved around a lot, television was the one constant in her life.
As a child, Krawchuk was inquisitive by nature. She would put on shows and interview friends and family members. Combine that with an affinity for the theatre and a broadcaster was born.
During a video production class at her Hendersonville, TN high school, where she got her first taste of being on camera, she was pulled out of class by the principal. Not for misbehaving, but so he could tell her that she should pursue a broadcasting career.
After graduating from Western Kentucky University, Krawchuk, whose sights were always set on New York City, landed a news internship at MTV. Following that she was chosen for an NBC page tenure where she gave studio tours and had the opportunity to work for Conan O’Brien, Rosie O’Donnell, “Saturday Night Live” and the executive offices.
When MSNBC launched, Krawchuk was hired for Jane Pauley’s show “Time & Again” as researcher for “grim reaper” stories such as hurricanes, tornadoes and plane crashes. With a similar hairstyle and stature of Pauley, Krawchuk also served as her camera stand-in.
From there she worked briefly as executive assistant to the vice president of NBC’s Cable & Development Group and later as executive assistant to the president of the ABC Network.
Finally, Krawchuk had the opportunity to be an on-air weekend reporter at ABC affiliate WCTI in the small North Carolina town of New Bern.
Her assignments were quite varied and much different than the work she did in New York City—she flew with the Blue Angels, interviewed Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who came to town for the Hog Summit, which drew together many environmentalists and river keepers to update how hog farming was done, interviewed Senator John Edwards and even covered a trailer fire caused by an opossum that bit into the electrical cords.
After a year, Krawchuk wanted to return to the northeast and took a job at a small station in New Jersey. “I love the south to visit, but I was very homesick.”
When she heard about a cable news station set to open in Albany, she sent a letter to News Director Chris Brunner, got an interview and received a call back.
“I thought I screwed it up,” she said, laughing. Initially, she was hired for the Amsterdam reporting position. But, when the weekend anchor position opened up Krawchuk got the job, earning her the title “charter member” of Capital News 9, which made its debut in October 2002.
Today, you’ll see the energetic blonde (who admits to singing and dancing at the station to maintain energy) Wednesday-Sunday (11am-7pm Wed./Th./Fri. and 4pm-5am weekends). In addition to her anchoring duties, she also hosts the “Lending a Hand” segment, which spotlights a different non-profit each week and produces a weekly segment called “Dine at Nine”, an idea she implemented. It airs every Friday 15 minutes after each hour between 10am-3pm.
“Everyone loves food,” she said. “It’s much more sophisticated than when I was growing up.”
Some of Krawchuk’s favorite restaurants in the area include Yono’s, McGuire’s and Jack’s Oyster House.
Her drive to perform well came from the “tough love” she received over the years. “I used to have to re-write and re-edit my work.”
Working at an all news cable station, where the same story is recycled throughout the day presents a few challenges including the ability to keep the viewer’s attention.
“We’re sort of pigeonholed into a news wheel,” she said. “The challenge is to keep it fresh and interesting.”
After moving around so much, she is happy to call the Capital Region home.
“Every time I would pass Albany on the way to Vermont to ski, I always thought the city looked interesting,” she said. “It’s a neat area and there is a lot of stuff going on. I’m having an absolute blast.”
At only 25, Jeff Saperstone has become a familiar face on Albany’s Fox23 News at 5pm and 10pm. Since joining the station in 2003, he has reported on a wide range of topics, including the Ethan Allen tour boat disaster, politics, local soldiers and weather related stories such as the Northway landslide and the dam that burst in Fort Ann.
“I like it a lot, it’s a good first job,” said Saperstone, who graduated from Ithaca College’s Park School of Communications with a degree in broadcast journalism. “It’s a nurturing environment and I was given a lot of pointers in the beginning.”
Many reporters fresh out of college start out at smaller markets and work their way up to bigger stations, but Saperstone considers himself lucky that he didn’t have to. Albany is considered medium sized, ranking 55 out of approximately 216.
Prior to joining Fox23 News, he had a temporary job at Capital News 9 as associate producer and assignment editor. While in college he won an Associated Press Award as news director of the college television station, beating out small market commercial stations in Binghamton, Watertown and Plattsburgh.
“It’s my proudest achievement so far,” he said.
Saperstone, a Guilderland native, realized in middle school that broadcasting was what he wanted to pursue.
“I always liked watching television and I enjoyed making videos,” he said. “I liked the fact that news was current history.”
Saperstone begins each morning leafing through the papers and watching the news (both local and national), even joking that it’s an “addiction” for him. Once he arrives at the station around 3pm, he looks over the AP wires and researches online. During the afternoon planning meeting it’s determined what stories he will be working on.
“They send us anywhere in the Capital Region,” he said.
Though he has never anchored the news, he likes being out in the field. “I like being out there. You get to know people. Your day goes by fast and everyday is different.”
During live reports, it’s not so much nervousness as it is adrenaline that “keeps him on his toes.”
The biggest challenge, he said, is covering the death of a young person.
“The hardest part is approaching parents,” he said, explaining that they don’t always understand that telling the story gives it a face. “It’s not just another car crash story. When you talk to friends and family it becomes a story about the victim’s life, not just the accident.”
But, he said, political issues are what he most enjoys covering. “Those are issues that affect everyone.”
The one person he has always looked up to in the business is NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw.
“It’s one thing to do a job, but it’s another thing to be so active in a job,” he said. “He’s been through a lot. It’s something to be respected and something to strive for.”
Though he aspires to move onto a bigger market, expect to see Saperstone on Fox for a while.
“I’d like to get a good amount of time in at Fox,” he said. “I like covering my hometown.”
I first met Benita Zahn at the Nine West outlet in Lake George this past holiday season. Across a display of trendy heels, I recognized her, but didn’t place her right away. Then, it hit me. She noticed the look on my face and probably thought, “Oh, no, not another fan.” I immediately introduced myself and told her I was planning on calling her to see if she would be a willing participant in my upcoming feature on TV personalities. She agreed and I walked away thinking that she is truly as nice in person as she appears on television.
“We’re the best shop in town,” said Benita Zahn, co-anchor of the 5pm and 5:30pm news and health reporter on WNYT NewsChannel 13 in Albany. “We’re eager and willing to take chances.”
Since 1979 Zahn has been a permanent fixture among the Capital Region media. Her work, which has garnered her many awards, has allowed her the opportunity to cover numerous political conventions, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Unabomber trial, and the World Gathering of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, to name a few.
Unlike many others in her field, Zahn, a “Long Island girl”, didn’t grow up knowing she wanted to pursue broadcasting. In fact, it wasn’t until taking an Introduction to Communications class at SUNY Oswego that she realized this was her calling. Originally, she started out as a biology major with a minor in theatre.
“When I was in the lab I wanted to be in the theatre and when I was in the theatre I wanted to be in the lab.”
But, after taking that first communications class, she realized that everything she liked or was good at was in the field of broadcasting.
Following graduation, Zahn worked simultaneously for Cablevision and WGBB on Long Island, and then moved to Syracuse, where she was a reporter, assignment editor and producer for the 6pm show on WTVH.
After a little more than a year, Zahn accepted a position at NewsChannel 13. “It was time to leave. I had places to go,” she said.
With her interest in biology never waning, she chose the health beat about 20 years ago.
“At the time, research showed that people were interested in two topics—money and health.”
Since then, Zahn has covered every health topic imaginable, including wellness, treatment breakthroughs, aging, nutrition and the latest in health care trends.
“It’s very empowering for people to share their stories,” she said. “If you can get one person to make a change and improve their quality of life—wow, that’s a great day.”
For Zahn, though, the real issue is patient advocacy. “There’s been a shift in how health care is delivered. It’s no longer from the top down. Patients have to know how to be informed and which questions to ask.”
She is also the creator, co-producer and host of HealthLink on WMHT, a half-hour live program that airs Tuesday nights at 7:30pm. It deals with a variety of health issues—physical, mental and emotional.
“It incorporates people who are challenged by or who have lived through a particular condition in their life,” said Zahn.
As with many reporters, it’s sometimes difficult not to feel moved when reporting on certain stories. To help balance emotions, Zahn said that many people in her industry have a switch.
“You can’t put it too far either way otherwise there would be no humanity and no subjectivity.”
After 9/11 though, she admits that the switch was “stuck open” for a while.
Zahn, who is out in the field so often during the week that she looks forward to the days when she’s “in house”, loves the Capital Region for its many offerings.
“If you love the outdoors it’s a great place to live and the proximity to New York City, Boston and Montreal is great.”
On her off time, Zahn enjoys running, something she got into when working on a story back in 1981. She has also pursued her love of theatre over the years, performing at the Albany Civic Theatre, Schenectady Civic Theatre, Schenectady Light Opera and Park Playhouse.
For those interested in a career in broadcasting, Zahn advises young people to read a broad cross-section of topics.
“It’s isn’t about the makeup and lights. It’s about the responsibility to the community to get the story right.”
And, she added, never be afraid to ask questions.
Twenty-seven years after interning at CBS 6 News in Schenectady, Greg Floyd, a Guilderland native, has returned—this time with age and experience on his side.
“It’s great,” said Floyd, 47, of his anchor/reporter position on the 6pm and 11pm news. “I was pleasantly surprised by how many people here are dedicated to what they do.”
His intern duties at CBS 6 during summer breaks from SUNY Oneonta consisted of what he deemed “gofer duties”. Following graduation, he was hired at CBS 6 for a short while, and then took a radio position in Gloversville, NY. Two years later he accepted a reporting position at WTEN News10, which turned into a weekend anchoring position.
There, he had the opportunity to work with local TV news giants Bob Lawson, Doug Myers and John McLaughlin.
“When you’ve been a recipient of that it’s almost your duty to follow the same path.”
He left after six years to take a job with WTZA-WRNN, a suburban news network for New York City based in Kingston, NY. Following that he went to work for Fox23 News, where he spent nine years.
“They treated me very well there,” said Floyd. “And they treated me well when I decided to leave.”
With so much movement among local reporters, one can’t help but wonder if the competition is tough around here.
“It’s competitive, but we’re kindred spirits in a way,” said Floyd. “We share the same crazy schedules.”
It’s his schedule, 2pm-11:30pm Monday-Friday, that is the toughest part of his job.
“Being on the opposite schedule of my children is tough, but I’ve learned to get creative with them in the mornings before they leave for school.”
Floyd’s work has brought him overseas to cover Operation Desert Shield in 1990 and Princess Diana’s death in 1997, but the stories that involve triumph of the human spirit are the ones that mean the most to him.
“I like doing stories that make a difference in someone’s life,” he said.
He recounted a story about getting to know a Rotterdam family whose son was involved in the Marine barracks attack in Lebanon in the 1980s, killing over 200 Marines.
“The local media were following the plight of this family,” said Floyd. “It was days before anyone knew if their son was dead or alive.”
At 4am one morning Floyd received a call from his contact in Washington, D.C., saying that the boy was on the survivor’s list. He raced to the family’s home, verified the social security number and middle name and gave them the news. The father, a former Marine who was stoic during the entire event, began making phone calls to family members with the words, “Michael’s alive.”
“Around the sixth or seventh call it hit him and he started bawling,” said Floyd, who was moved to tears, along with the photographer.
For the stories that don’t always have a happy ending, Floyd said, “It’s tough to see some of the despair.”
An ongoing segment at CBS 6 is helping the local police departments locate sex offenders who aren’t registered. Recently, five men were profiled and within 24 hours three of them were found.
Next week, expect to see Floyd reporting from New Orleans, where he’ll be for a week with a group of students on vacation from The College of St. Rose. They will be helping to rebuild houses for Habitat for Humanity and he will profile some of the people who lost homes.
“This is a good example of how much young people actually do care about making a difference in their world,” he said.
Floyd, who originally wanted to be a sports writer until he discovered that the news was more “interesting and diverse,” is an accomplished runner and tri-athlete who mentors other athletes in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program. He also coaches Little League baseball and youth basketball.
Like others in his field, his advice to college students interested in pursing a similar career is to learn as much as possible about a variety of topics.
“You need to know about the environment, politics, the judicial system and more,” he said. “There are people who cover court cases and aren’t even sure how the system works.”
Years ago, he received an important piece of advice from a fellow reporter: “Find a place you like and stay there.”
So far Floyd has done just that. The farthest away he has moved during his career is Kingston.
“My family goals always outweighed my professional goals,” he said.
After moving around a bit in the local market, Floyd is staying put. “My thought is that this is my last job.”