An aspiring and successful actor, Che is deeply immersed in the Rochester cultural scene. So much so, we’ve named him Che of The Town!
Exclusively for Talker, Che has solicited and is conducting interviews from about 60 Rochestarians working in a diversity of creative fields.
For the full series, see Che of The Town: Interviews
Che has featured many members of the local media including radio personality Scott “Fitz” Fitzgerald, radio personality Chris Konya, creators of The Rochestariat, Stefanie and Jason Schwingle, journalist Hélène Biandudi Hofer, journalist Jennifer Johnson, journalist Nikki Rudd journalist Norma Holland, journalist Alexis Arnold, journalist Ginny Ryan, and Scott Hetsko.
In this highlight, Che turns our attention to Mike DiGiorgio, executive producer over at 13 WHAM/Fox Rochester.
Getting To Know Mike DiGiorgio; A Hardworking Prominent Fixture In Media
Tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from, grew up, what H.S./College you attended etc.
I grew up in Canastota, NY, a small town down the Thruway from us, past Syracuse, and spent my entire childhood and high school years there. I came to St. John Fisher in 1986 and did all four years there, getting a degree in Communications/Journalism in 1990. Rochester’s been my home ever since.
Early in my career, I didn’t really know there was such a thing as a producer. I find most people outside the business don’t really know either. I tell people a line I think I ripped off from a movie: “You can’t see what I’m doing, but if I stopped doing it – you’d see it.”
I kind of stumbled into it. My first job in broadcasting was in radio. I don’t know if I wanted to be a DJ or what, but I ended up at WHAM1180 as a weekend overnight “board operator” – basically controlling the audio board during overnight syndicated programming. As I was eventually able to branch out there, the extension to that was “producer.” For radio, that’s screening calls and helping control the flow of the program. We had different stations in that building, so that led to working with hosts in a number of capacities and under a number of different formats. Most prominently, that involved being with Bob Lonsberry from the day he first got the gig full-time. That was more than a dozen years working with him and talking to all kinds of people, including newsmakers and journalists.
Let’s just say that didn’t pay all that well. So when WUHF – now Fox Rochester – started up a news organization, I applied for a position. I was able to learn TV in an environment that in and of itself was brand new– but with some professionals that I already knew from radio who were able to guide me.
And next thing I know: I’m a TV news producer. I left WUHF for a stint producing the 11 pm news at Channel 10. For some of that time I was just doing TV, for some of it just radio, and often both for 12-hour-plus days. Bear with me on the timeline for that. There were some revolving doors.
Talk about a time where you have faced adversity/conflict and have triumphed.
I’m hesitant to talk much about adversity. We cover people with real adversities all the time in the news for me to ever whine about my own situation. I’ve been laid off a couple of times and that’s led to being unemployed or under-employed. I just kept grinding it out best I could, and I’m happy to say things have ultimately worked out.
What do you believe sets you apart from other Producers?
I don’t know that there’s another job exactly like mine in Rochester, so if I’m different it may be because of this job. We do four hours of news, starting on 13WHAM at 5 a.m. with hard news and a heavy “story count.” As the morning goes on, we are able to loosen up and slide in features and interviews as we transition to Fox Rochester. Then it’s everything from live features to interviews with community leaders or charities, to animals and even bands. It’s a lot to juggle – but it gives me the chance to blend what I’ve learned over the years in both radio and TV. There is no other broadcast like it in town.
So if I’m different from other producers, it may be in the ability to transition from the very serious to the sometimes very surreal. When a new producer joins the team, they’re sometimes surprised there are chunks of time in our rundown where they don’t have to control everything to the second. I think I’m able to work with people to “let it breathe.”
I’m always looking forward to the summer concert season. I’m also a collector – music, comics, memorabilia. These days I’m working on digitizing as much of it as I can to make room!
Any projects you have out or currently working on?
Given the early morning hours I work, naptime is too precious for me to take on too many outside projects!
I hope I’m still producing creative content of some kind. In 5 years’ time, I think it’d be great if that was still here. But it could be in a format we haven’t even seen yet. I’m a guy who literally had the experience like in “Broadcast News” of running a tape through an entire building to get it to the guy who will hit “play” when he’s supposed to. I wouldn’t have thought then I’d be working on content that would live forever on the internet after it appears a single time on television.
What advice can you give to aspiring producers?
You’re as much of a journalist as the people who get to be on TV or who have bylines. So, with that, show integrity and be trustworthy. Your viewers have to trust you’re giving them the right information, and your on-air partners have to trust you know what you’re doing. While they’re focused on their on-air duties, you are their eyes and ears to their immediate surroundings and to the world. Don’t let them down.
Be flexible. The program you design is like an organism. It is never going to come off the way you designed it at the start of your day. Be ready to adapt to the changes that will inevitably come.
Know a little bit about everything, but keep in mind, it’s ok to not know something. I’m going to sound like a curmudgeon here, but “that happened before I was born” is not an excuse to not cover something. Just because you don’t know about it, doesn’t mean it isn’t news. If you don’t know something, it’s on you. For example, I’m not a sports guy, but every time a sports story emerges, I admit what I don’t know and will use it. The person telling you about a story can teach you a lot.
And please be sure you can write and tell a story. Know the difference between “they’re,” “their” and “there.” Thanks to the internet and social media, writing flaws are exposed instantly. I’d send that message out to aspiring producers in radio, too: Being a radio producer is not just being a “wacky sidekick.” You represent your show and your organization.
How can we follow along in your journey? Social media?
I’d love it if people watched the work my team does at www.foxrochester.com and/or http://foxrochester.com/news/good-day-rochester
My Twitter is @mikedigiorgio13
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