February 2002

Don Angelo -
From Newsman to Adman

by Joseph RADDER

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Don Angelo, local advertising manager for WGRZ TV, was born and raised in Buffalo. Following school and the US Army, a career in broadcast news, sales and management led to radio and TV jobs in 5 cities and 3 states before he returned home to Buffalo in the late 70s. It was then that he fell in love with his hometown. “It takes the experience of living elsewhere in the country to appreciate and understand what a great spot on the planet Western New York is to live, work, play and raise a family,” he said.

After a series of management positions in radio and TV in Buffalo, Don joined the TVX Broadcast group based in Virginia Beach and became one of a two person management team created to build and staff a new Buffalo TV station. WNYB TV 49 became the new Fox network station and the home of 40 Sabres T.V. broadcast games. Today the station is known as WNYO B49. “Despite working 7 days a week it was still a wonderful and exciting experience to build and staff an all new TV station. In September of 1987 we threw the switch and we went on the air with a big staff party,” he said.

Later the station was sold to the Buffalo Sabres and soon after Don moved into an office in Memorial Auditorium to take over all TV and Cable advertising for the Sabres. It was there that in 1989 working with Paul Mooney, former President and General Manager of the Boston Garden- and through an agreement between John Rigas and Seymour Knox—that Don Angelo and Paul Mooney were able to launch a statewide cable network named (NFSN) the Niagara Frontier Sports Network. “Within 18 months we were reaching into 890,000 homes across the state and the name was soon changed to the Empire Sports Network,” Don recalled.

The next challenge for Don was to build an advertising sales department for TCI cable of Buffalo, with a goal to eventually merge with Adelphia cable’s ad sales arm and thus create the first cable TV advertising interconnect for Erie and Niagara county. The project was completed in early 1995.

“An historic event then occurred in Buffalo Broadcasting in early 1997,” Don remembers. “Gannett acquired Channel 2, re-establishing its 97 year presence in Western New York.”

“By Spring 97,” Don continued, “another Western New Yorker, Darryll Green, returned home to become general manager at WGRZ TV and I joined him as local advertising manager.” With Gannett’s resources and commitment to news and the community the station has steadily grown in both ratings and consumer confidence.

“2 On Your Side” is much more than a slogan, it’s a philosophy. Don and his colleagues believe that their true mission is to serve the community. WGRZ is doing it constantly through many community outreach projects. From its breast cancer Buddy Check/Univera partnership to its school reading program with Bryant & Stratton and its year round efforts to raise funds for Kids Escaping Drugs, a program co-founded by Barry Lillis of Channel 2 in the 1980’s. Through the generous support and involvement of community leaders Channel 2 raises about $500,000 a year to help these young people in need right here in our own community.

“Even in our advertising department our goal is not to sell advertising but to encourage economic growth through solid creative marketing partnerships with the local business community.” Don says, referring to the line from the Sinatra song, “if you can make it here you can make it anywhere.” Local business owners aren’t here because business is great—they hang in, work extremely hard and make it because they are committed to this area. The best part of my job enables me to work with and get to know so many great business owners and managers who have an honest and sincere desire to stay in Western New York and to see this area prosper.”

Don’s broad media background both on and off the air in radio and TV sales, management and video production enables him to communicate about the media on many different levels. In 1977 he served on the FCC National Industry Advisory Committee. In 1986 he received a National Addy Award from the American Advertising Federation along with Buffalo film director Michael Mathews for Excellence and Creative Concepts for their work on the popular Matt Dreadlock series of TV commercials.

Currently Don Angelo serves on the board of Kids Escaping Drugs and the board of directors of the Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers, the Buffalo chapter of the New York City based National Broadcasters Foundation. The organization was founded in 1996 by a handful of local broadcasters whose goal is to preserve the rich heritage and local history of broadcasting that started in Buffalo in 1922. “We now have an incredible treasure of memorabilia and artifacts that represents over 80 years of Buffalo broadcasting history,” he said. “From thousands of photos and equipment to priceless studio microphones, film, tapes and a mint condition complete studio TV camera from the early 50s at WBEN TV.”

Ask Don, current president of the group or any of the 160 members of the Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers scattered all over the country and they’ll tell you stories from the days of the Lone Ranger radio series, created in Buffalo, to Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody, The Hound Dog, Guy King, Joey Reynolds and Irv/Rick & Tom to the Buffalonian on NBC, Tim Russert. Don’s passion is broadcasting and Buffalo—his new mission in life is to raise funding so the people of Western New York will have a Radio/TV museum facility in Buffalo similar to those in New York, Chicago and LA.

Don Angelo married Donna Stein of Buffalo in 1982 and has 3 daughters and one granddaughter. His father was a professional clarinet player and composer and led his own dance band in the 1930’s. Don recalled that, “They were based in Pittsburgh and traveled a circuit of dance halls across the northeast. He met my mother in Buffalo, then settled down and operated the Bison Music Publishing Company for the next 20 years. My mother still receives a few royalty checks each year.” Don’s mother is a native of North Tonawanda and has lived in Buffalo for over 60 years. His sister, Ann Angelo has been involved in Buffalo government and is a community activist.

Indeed Don Angelo is a modern day broadcast pioneer making his mark on Western New York, working to shape today’s media history.

Joseph Radder is a freelance writer.


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