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  • Writer's pictureRandy Reid

ExPats: Randy Reid

Reid All About It - S. tier media Executive moves to mentor students at HBCU

Growing up in Elmira, on East Second Street, the youngest of eight children, I had it easy, right?

Most thought I did, but I struggled with learning and trying to fit in with siblings who were accomplished, at least from my young eyes. I knew one thing: I was going to be successful. Not sure at what, but it was going to happen. I come from ancestors whom I couldn’t disappoint.

I thought I was going to be a pro athlete. All my friends played sports, whether it was on the playgrounds of Beecher and Booth Schools; to Quatrano Park playing Homerun Derby in the tennis courts; to learning baseball up the street from my friend, Hal, who lived on Orchard Street; to balling out at the NABE, Psych Center, Grove Park and (West Elmira) Town Hall. This is what a lot of kids did growing up in the 70s and 80s.

As a young boy I used to call baseball games from my dining room table. I wanted to be the next Bryant Gumbel. He was my inspiration to go into media/journalism. Here was a Black man with this big afro, delivering sports pre-cable. I said, this could be me!

In 12th grade at Elmira Free Academy, I took a TV course with Mr. Odum. I remember that class well. We ended up doing a Run DMC video with Jimmy Jones and Chuckie Robinson. The video and the production aspect had me hooked.

I attended SUNY Morrisville right after high school because I didn’t have the grades to get into Howard University in D.C. After a year at Morrisville, I transferred to Howard University, where I struggled. So, I returned to Elmira.

An opening at WETM-TV for a Master Control Operator became available. The position makes sure all the shows run correctly and, most importantly, that the commercials run when scheduled. During my interview with Chief Engineer Mark Polovick, he asked if I had any television experience. I said, "I took a TV class in high school."

His reply, “That’s enough for me.” The rest is history. I’ve been in the media journalism field ever since.

My career in media spans 30 years. I worked at Black Entertainment Television (BET) in Washington from 1993 to 1995. I met numerous artists while at BET. George Clinton ate part of my lunch because he was hungry, or high! The late Bernie Mac gave an impromptu standup about losing his luggage while he stood in the cafeteria with us. I sat with the late Jam Master Jay in the Green Room after Run DMC performed. I met Mary J. Blige when she was starting out with her first album, What's the 411?. I also met Keith Sweat, Al B. Sure, Toni Braxton and TLC. Every day artists were coming in for the shows. BET was the best job I ever had. Little pay, but worked with some of the best co-workers.

I moved back to Elmira in 1995 for two reasons: I was a single parent raising my 7-year-old son, Jaran, at the time; and my parents needed help. I was the youngest of eight and was able to move.

Over the next 25 years my family grew. I married my wife, Dee, who I first saw walking down Lake Street and said to myself, “I could marry her.” My youngest son Cameron was born and now I have two granddaughters whom I adore, and one on the way.

The move back to Elmira was easy. The move allowed me to live in an area that was great for raising kids and where I could develop my career.

I worked at every station in the market at the time. Four years at WBNG-TV in Binghamton allowed me to develop my skills in News, working as a Videographer and Assignment Editor.

The next stop was at WETM-TV again. This time as their Assignment Editor. While working at WETM, I learned to know your worth. Turnover in small markets, especially in management, is frequent. I was offered the News Director position at WETM-TV. I accepted, and then the offer was rescinded for no reason. I still have the offer.

After the offer was rescinded (to bring in someone outside the market), I decided to leave and accept a position at Arnot Health as their Assistant Director of Public Relations. The last day before I left WETM I was asked to stay by the new News Director and I told him, and the former ND and current General Manager to kick rocks. Again, know your worth.

After a year at Arnot I was contacted by Jay LaScolea, who was the main anchor at WENY-TV, to see if I’d be interested in becoming News Director at the station. September 4, 2001, was my first day at WENY. Why was that date important? It was one week before September 11th. Through that national disaster I learned a lot about the staff and why I love News. Over the next 18 months our crew did a phenomenal job, ratings jumped, and the station won their first AP Award for our coverage of September 11th.

The General Manager at WETM who had rescinded my offer left the station, and a new General Manager was in place.

There is an old marketing adage “Number 1 never concerns themselves with Number 2,” and WETM had always been the giant in the market. Fast forward to February 2003 and the Super Bowl. WENY was scheduled to air the Super Bowl. Our Creative Services Director, Scott Iddings, came up with the idea to create a promo touting our current ratings increase, which would only run once during the Super Bowl, like the Daisy Ad back in the 1960s. We had to convince our WENY General Manager to run it, and he agreed.

This ad is what, I think, launched my career into management. All the ratings information had been sourced from Nielsen. After it aired the General Manager at WETM literally lost his shit and began trashing our station to advertisers. I obtained the letter he had sent. Being from Elmira you know a lot of people. Remember, “Number 1 never concerns themselves with Number 2.” WETM's GM was gone shortly after that and the position of VP & General Manager at WETM opened up. I applied and was hired. I stayed at WETM for the next eight years.

I emphasize this again - Know your worth. In 2001, I couldn’t be News Director at WETM but, in 2003 I could run the station.

Part of your job as a VP & General Manager at a TV station is to ingrain yourself in the community. That part was easy because I’m positive I was the only General Manager at WETM who played basketball at the NABE and got chased from the Indian trails after a party. I was also active on numerous nonprofit boards.

After leaving WETM in 2011 to start my business, Reid Media Group, LLC, it was important to me to remain involved in our community. So, I ran for Elmira City School Board and was re-elected three times. In 2015-16, I was President of the Board.

Back in 2020 I ran into Mr. Odum at, of all places, Wegmans. I told him that his class back in 1986 is what sparked my interest in television. I proceeded to tell him and his wife all that I have accomplished. He was appreciative and thanked me for letting him know.

After trying my hand at state politics in 2020, running for NYS Assembly, and losing, my wife asked me, “Now what do you want to do?”

I told her I wanted to get back into news and journalism.

I am now the News Director at WEAA FM at Morgan State University, which is a historically Black college in Baltimore, MD. I was hired to start a student-run news department. I have 10 to 12 interns that I train and develop. What they learn in class that day could be applied on-air that evening.

The student-led newscast started on August 2, 2021 and is doing well. Two of my students are now working in television news. I hope to have some of my students working in the Elmira market soon.

Before moving, I had developed a few digital products, including this publication - Southern Tier Life. This online magazine was launched in February 2021, prior to me moving to Baltimore. I gathered some of the best freelance writers in the area to write stories. The plan was to make it all digital, no printing costs. In order to continue this publication, I asked Cathy White, former columnist at the Star Gazette, who was writing the Vibing with Cat White feature, to take over as Managing Editor.

Dee and I are back often to visit. I have nothing but fond memories of growing up and raising my family in Elmira. We are back probably every six weeks to see our grands.

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