Change Gonna Come

Hosting a conversation on diversity and belonging for WAER

On Monday, August 16, 2021, I announced my retirement from Syracuse University just 2 months shy of my 29th anniversary at WAER FM, the NPR member station serving Central New York. I will soon embrace a new role as a part of the leadership team at the WNET Group where I will serve as Vice President & General Manager of NJ PBS, the award-winning public television service bringing quality arts, education, and public affairs programming to all 21 counties in New Jersey. I look forward to joining this incredible organization and I’m anxious to meet my new team.

This change would not be remotely possible without the support of my terrific wife and life partner, Angela, or my equally supportive daughters Imani and Hadiya. Their support and encouragement mean the world to me.

When you spend nearly 29 years at one place the goodbyes are really tough and you spend a good deal of time contemplating legacy. My team at WAER is a hardworking, talented bunch who bought into the vision and the mission that fueled much of our work. I am proud that we made objectivity, independence, diversity and justice, and storytelling pillars of our community service work. I could always rely on my leadership team Kevin, Mary Kate, Chris, and Jen; and former leadership team members Ron and Mary to deliver in the name of good journalism, quality entertainment and community service. Equally reliable was my office manager Cora’s uncanny ability to keep my ego in check. Having a conversation about my decision was quite emotional. I look forward to watching them move the station forward with new leadership in place.

WAER is one of the great incubators of young broadcast talent in the country. That’s a claim that I can make without equivocation. And after nearly 29 years and a thousand or more students walking through the doors at 88.3 FM, many of those talented Newhouse School and VPA students have become life-long friends and, in some cases, mentors to me. It’s the whole student-becomes-the master, kung fu thing that I have never been too proud to embrace.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been the kind of life disruptor that grabs your shoulders and shakes you from a daydream state. The kind of event that leads you to ask big questions about what matters and forces you to contemplate your purpose in life. Concurrently, the equity and social justice movement and high profile career moves by the likes of Nikole Hannah-Jones and Maria Taylor, underscored by the mantra “go where you’re appreciated”, compelled many to ponder themes of belonging, acceptance, and authenticity. This is partly why we are seeing so much movement in the post-pandemic job market. When the future is uncertain, as it was for many of us living under lockdown protocols, it makes sense to pursue options rather than sticking to a single-minded path. It has a way of forcing you to imagine multiple possible selves and futures. According to Forbes, there has been a shift in workforce values and priorities. Corporate culture is more highly valued, benefits are critical, career advancement is key, and work-life balance is a priority. And in that regard, I was not immune to the rolling tide of change.