Home Diocesan News Poland Holy Family parishioners discuss television, jobs, faith
Poland Holy Family parishioners discuss television, jobs, faith Print E-mail
Written by Thomas Anderson, Special to the Exponent   
Friday, 09 February 2018 15:16

YOUNGSTOWN – There is much more to the job of a local television broadcaster than sitting on a set and speaking into a microphone for a few minutes each day.

Two veteran Youngstown television personalities, Dana Balash and Jim Loboy, said a full day of preparation goes into putting together the programs of which they are a part.

“Some people joke that I only work one hour a day,” said Balash, sports director at WFMJ Channel 21. In reality the show prep begins when he wakes up and checks his phone to see what happened the night before and if he has any messages.

For Loboy, co-host of WYTV Channel 33’s “Daybreak,” the work day begins at 1 a.m. He has four hours of work before the show airs live at 5 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Both Balash and Loboy are members of Poland Holy Family Parish. One of Balash’s brothers is Father Michael Balash, pastor of St. William Parish in Champion and director of the diocesan Office of Worship.

Balash said that, on a typical day, he comes to the office at about noon and starts gathering information for the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts. This includes checking sports websites, social media and newspapers and making phone calls. He makes assignments for himself and the two other sports reporters and videographer. He and the other reporters attend games, press conferences and other events, and interview high school and Youngstown State University (YSU) athletes, coaches and administrators.

He and the other reporters write their own stories and edit video themselves.

Today it is important to post stories as soon as possible on the WFMJ website, Twitter and Facebook, Balash said. “People today want to know it now and see it later at 6 or 11.”

The news business is a competitive game, he noted. It is great to be the first to report a story. However, getting it right is more important. “I’d rather be second and accurate, than first and wrong,” Balash said.

Developing sources is very important in gathering news. Although he makes much use of emails and social media, Balash said he prefers old-fashioned communication, face-to-face or by telephone. He is proud of his large rolodex of contacts which he has kept for 33 years.

High school football is the bread and butter for local television in the Youngstown viewing area, Balash noted. Starting in June the station does previews on 55 teams in the viewing area. “The smallest and biggest schools are treated the same. We cover 19 games on Friday nights,” he said. The sports segment is expanded to 21 minutes.

Loboy and his “Daybreak” co-host, Len Rome, have been waking people up since 2006. Originally a straight-forward local morning news program, the program changed when viewers found they enjoyed the light-hearted banter between Loboy and Rome and the ratings went up, Loboy said.

“People are just getting out of bed,” he said. If all they hear is bad news, “They won’t want to get out of bed. Our motto is to put a smile on as many faces as possible.”

Loboy admitted that the show works because he and Rome are good friends off the set as well. He said performers can try to do “goofy things” on a show but “it has to be natural or people will see right through it. Our banter resonated with people but you can’t become a parody of yourself.”

Besides news, sports and weather reports, the show features a Question of the Day for viewers to answer and the Nugget of Knowledge, an interesting bit of little-known information. A viewer also receives a “Daybreak” cereal bowl. Loboy says he especially likes interviewing the Hometown Hero about every six weeks.

Rome reports the news and Loboy is responsible for the weather report. Loboy noted that when he worked as a disc jockey at WHOT, Channel 33 asked him to fill in as the weather reporter. He found he liked it and went on to take correspondence courses from Mississippi State University and obtained his meteorology certification. He said he spent a year as the noon weather reporter at Channel 21 before starting at Channel 33 on “Daybreak.”

“The No. 1 reason people watch local news is for the weather report,” Loboy said. He compiles the report by checking several weather websites including the National Weather Service and getting a consensus. While accuracy is essential, “it’s hard to be a prophet,” he added.

“If I predict rain, sometimes at 3 p.m. I’ll look outside and shout, ‘Please rain!’”

Both Balash and Loboy said they believe it is important to be accessible to the public.

“I try to be down to earth and approachable,” Balash said. “Every email, phone call, I respond to within 12 hours. I want people to come up and tell me what they think.”

Both said speaking to school and community groups is an extension of their job. And they like people they meet in the community to recognize them and tell them what kind of job they are doing. If no one talks about the show, it means people aren’t watching, both said.

When Loboy worked at WHOT he earned a reputation for whacky charitable fund-raising stunts. One time he was buried alive to raise money for charity. After the 9/11 attacks, Loboy walked from Youngstown to New York, raising money for 9/11 victims along the way. It took two weeks.

Rome and Loboy are famous for having played “The Odd Couple” in local theater. It seemed like a natural fit when they were approached by people from the Victorian Players. Loboy said they memorized their lines and rehearsed after the TV show. “Every performance was sold out,” he said.

Balash and Loboy both said their Catholic faith is important in how they live at work and at home.

Balash attended St. Patrick School in Hubbard. He said he and his wife, Kim, and daughter, Hannah, attend Mass every Sunday when he is at home, and he tries to find a church when he’s on the road. Balash said it is important to go to Mass every week. “More people should do it.”

After YSU’s 2016 football playoff game in Spokane, Wash., Balash said he and the team got home early Sunday morning. He decided to go to 10 a.m. Mass at Holy Family rather than go to sleep. “Msgr. Rhodes said, ‘I just saw you on TV last night. Why are you here?’”

He said he always tries to make YSU football coach Bo Pelini, a fellow Catholic, laugh during the coach’s news conferences. “One time I asked him, ‘Do you know the game starts at noon?’ Bo joked, ‘Maybe I could go to Mass after the game.’ So the game started at noon, ended about 3 p.m. I went back to the office and at 4:20 p.m. decided I could make the evening Mass at St. Dominic’s. So I went and during the sign of peace I turned around to shake hands with the person behind me, and there was Bo.”

Loboy grew up in Campbell and attended St. Joseph the Provider School. His wife, Debra, and daughter, Chloe, are also members of Holy Family, where he serves on a committee promoting Holy Family School.

Faith helps get him through the hard times, Loboy said, as when he has to report on the many tragic stories in the news. “Everything I do is a reflection of my faith. You want to lead by example.”

Balash said he did not play any sports when he attended Hubbard High School. But he always had an interest. He kept statistics for teams and was a stringer for the Youngstown Vindicator. He also did morning announcements and was the yearbook editor. “I was proud that there was not one misspelled name,” he said.

He attended Kent State University and got a job operating the board at WFMJ radio in 1985. He then attended YSU. In 1990 he moved to television as a general assignment reporter for two years. “The sports anchor job became open and I got it,” Balash said. He was named sports director in 2001.

He said anyone trying to get into broadcasting today should be as versatile as possible so they can be ready for any opportunity.

Loboy said he was involved in drama club at Campbell High School and went on to receive a degree in telecommunications from YSU. Before graduation he landed the disc jockey job with WHOT.

People considering broadcasting as a career should “get ready to eat a lot of Ramen noodles,” Loboy said, noting that the pay is not good to start and there are limited jobs, especially in radio. “Be passionate about whatever you want to do and the money will follow,” he said.

Broadcasting is not a 9 to 5 job, and the unusual hours is one of the down sides of the profession, according to both Balash and Loboy. Balash works an afternoon shift until 11:33 p.m. Loboy works overnight, starting at 1 a.m. and finishing at 9:30 a.m.

Balash said his shift is difficult for his family, so he tries to be as active as possible with them when he can. For nine years he did playground duty and was a field trip chaperone at Hannah’s school. “I am grateful to the company for letting me go to events between the shows once in a while,” he said.

Loboy said he usually takes a nap when he gets home in the morning and goes to sleep at 8 p.m. for a while.

But both feel the sacrifices are worth it because they love their jobs.

Balash noted that he has been able to attend World Series games, Super Bowls, YSU’s playoff games and championship fights, and has gotten to know many athletes and coaches.

Loboy said, “I almost feel guilty about enjoying this job so much. Ninety-eight percent of the time I come to work and it’s fun. Len once turned to me during a commercial break and said, ‘Can you believe they pay us for this?’”

 
 

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