A match made in the media
Relationship between two local broadcasters thrives in spite of demanding schedules and media layoffs
When Beth’s alarm goes off at 2:45 a.m. for her very early workday, she turns it off and springs out of bed to minimize disrup-tion to her husband, Scott. Usually, Scott manages to fall back asleep, although that depends partly on their cat, Sassy. If Sassy wants attention, Scott may be up for a while. He’s discovered reruns of Frasier are often on at that time.
Such is domestic life for two of the area’s best known media personalities, Beth Adams Pitoniak and Scott Pitoniak, who celebrat-ed their sixth anniversary in August. Beth is host of WXXI’s Morning Edition and Scott is a freelance writer specializing in coverage of the Buffalo Bills and other sports topics—for various outlets—as well as an author of many books.
Each knew the other’s work from spending almost twenty years in local media before they were introduced. Beth was morning host on WHAM 1180 starting in 1988; Scott had been a reporter and columnist for the Democrat and Chronicle since 1985. They’d even had similar assignments such as both covering the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, without really meeting.
A wingman in the studio
The first conversation they recall was, appropriately, related to business. Beth was emceeing a charity event, and Scott was getting an award, and they chatted beforehand. That was early 2005. A year and a half later, they met again when Scott had an appearance on WHAM to promote his recent book with former Buffalo Bills all-star Steve Tasker.
Beth, never married, and Scott, divorced, were both thinking the same thing without knowing it. Sportscaster John DiTulio helped with the matchmaking. Scott asked DiTulio, who worked at WHAM, if Beth was available. DiTulio not only found out she was but called Scott from the station early the next morning with her phone number.
Their first date, on a Friday the thirteenth, was not auspicious. Scott arrived late from an assignment in Syracuse and then spilled wine while making a toast—but Beth was not fazed. Things moved fast from that October evening as they were engaged during a trip to New York City in December and married the following August.
Afternoon is the new evening
Their life together is driven by Beth’s sched- ule. She goes to sleep around 6:30 p.m. for her early wake-up call and says Scott is “very protective” of her getting enough shuteye. This leaves them afternoons together. Beth gets home around 12:30 p.m., and often they’ll take a walk. Scott spends the mornings before her return on his writing, and sometimes has work, such as game coverage, later on. Occcasionally, he gets home so late that he is still awake to greet her when she arises. “The flexibility of my schedule, I think, works out well,” Scott says.
They like to spend free time watching Downton Abbey, taking in films at the Little, going to ballgames at Frontier Field, and spending time with friends and family. They also make time to give back to the community with speaking engagements and charity work. Animal lover Beth helps Lollypop Farm and the Seneca Park Zoo; Scott’s nearest and dearest cause is the children’s charities of the Rochester Press-Radio Club. Journalists are notorious for shop talk, and with two under the same roof some of that is inevitable.
Beth is a first reader of much of Scott’s work, something Scott finds valuable as a sounding board. Beth says she values Scott’s perspective as a listener, and she will sometimes run ideas for guests or topics by him. But he doesn’t critique her on-air work very much. “She doesn’t need my help as far as interviewing,” Scott says.
Double toil and trouble
Something else Scott and Beth have in common is losing the high-profile jobs both had when they met. Scott felt the ax first when he was let go by the D&C in December, 2008, as part of a general downsizing in the newsroom and other departments. He took it hard, and Beth’s support at the time was crucial.
“That stuff happens, and now you have to deal with it,” he says.
It was Scott’s turn to be supportive as lightning struck again three years later when WHAM let Beth go in October, 2011. While the decision was a shock, in many ways it wasn’t a surprise. “There was a certain inevitability” of someday being fired because of all of the changes in corporate radio, she says.
Initially, she worked in a communications job for Bivona Child Advocacy Center but got the offer to go back to radio with WXXI a year later—an opportunity she calls “an incredible, unexpected gift.” Both miss the colleagues they used to work with but feel that the support they received from the community, including total strangers who were readers or listeners, has been incredible and “humbling,” as Beth puts it.
Once past the shocks, both began to look at their career transitions with an everything- happens-for-a-reason attitude. They are comfortable with where they have landed. “When difficult or unexpected things happen, it means you’re not supposed to be on that road anymore,” Beth says. For Scott, it’s opened up the opportunity to pour more time and effort into his books. He’s now up to sixteen with the recent publication of Juke Box Hero in collaboration with Webster resident Lou Gramm, a mega-star of the 1980s music world with the rock band Foreigner.
Beth says, with the move to Morning Edition, “I’m really back to my roots” as a news reporter and anchor. As a longtime listener of NPR she says she feels privileged to work with an affiliated station. Both say being cut loose from their jobs also has helped them focus on what’s important in life. Not coincidentally, it has also helped them connect better with readers and listeners who have suffered similar fates in the economic downturn of the past few years.
“I think it really is a gift to be able to see life through that prism,” Beth says. “Adversity is all part of the story,”
Scott adds. “We march on, go forward.”
Jack Rosenberry is an associate professor of communication and journalism at St. John Fisher College. His Twitter handle is @jackrosenberry.