Today marks my one year anniversary at News 4 WIVB-TV! This month also marks two years in Buffalo, and 4 years in the business. Time sure flies! It feels like I was packing my bags to head North to my first full-time on air gig in Presque Isle, Maine just yesterday.
Four years and three stations later, it’s been a journey! I’ve lived in three different states, and too many different apartments to keep track of! lol
I have grown as a reporter. Story pitches, live shots, sweeps stories. But it goes beyond that. Moving away from home has given me a deeper appreciation for my family and a sense of community. It has also made me a stronger person.
Telling stories for a living has also made me a more worldly person. And I love that everyday is different. From crime to health stories to features, everyday I’m always learning something new through my reporting. I love telling personal stories that pull on your heart strings, and having the responsibility of informing the public about what’s happening in the community whether it be a serious news story or a soft one. Best job on the planet. Here’s to another 4 years and beyond!
Yesterday I was a VIP Media Guest at the KeyBank Center, where People Inc. teamed up with the Buffalo Sabres to host a Recruitment Rally. People Inc. has various employment opportunities to help people with developmental disabilities and special needs move closer to their life goals and dreams.
Attendees had a chance to learn about People Inc. and interview on-the-spot with a recruiter, plus meet Sabres alumni and enter to win prizes, including signed items and game tickets.
People Inc. is actively recruiting for people to work within their group homes, as well as for behavior technicians, community based instructors, licensed practical nurses and registered nurses. It’s so important to fill these positions, because these people provide relief for the families of those with developmental disabilities who need to the support. There’s a need for direct support staff in several human support agencies across Western New York. (The growing need is related to the #BeFairtoDirectCare initiative, which I will continue to cover and plan to post more about here in a future blog post.)
I killed two birds with one stone at the People Inc, and also shot a piece for the 4 pm newscast. Here’s the clip:
Meet Kyle Tilley! He’s a happy go lucky 20-year-old from Lake View NY. Kyle has down syndrome, and his twin Justin has autism. Both boys are very sweet, but his twin Justin struggles with severe behavioral issues. I have done a story before on the challenges the Tilley family faces with Justin: http://wivb.com/2016/12/29/lakeview-family-struggling-to-get-services-to-care-for-son-with-severe-autism-behaviors/
I met the Tilley family back in September, and started working with Kyle at the beginning of this year. At least twice a month on weekends, I take him out for 6 hours. (Official title for this position is a Self Determination Assistant.) I give his family a break and take Kyle to fun places like the Museum of Science, the Buffalo Zoo, movies, etc. Kyle is very easy to work with, and hardly makes it feel like work. He is very sweet natured, almost never says no to anything, and absolutely LOVES science. He also loves local news (I might know a thing or two about that 😉 ), and is a local celebrity himself! It’s hard not to love this kid, he’s so sweet!
(Kyle loves movies science fiction/fantasy movies. Here we are at the Dipson Theatres at McKinley Mall, waiting for Dr. Strange to start.)
Sometimes Kyle packs a lunch, and sometimes we go out to eat. He follows a special gluten free diet and also does not eat anything with food coloring or artificial preservatives. For this position as a Self Determination Assistant I also had to take a CPR, First Aid, and AED training so I’m prepared to handle an emergency situation God forbid something were to happen.
There’s a growing need for more people to work similar positions, and in group homes. That’s a big part of why People Inc. is holding a recruitment rally at KeyBank Center on Monday. Although I work with Kyle through a different agency, People Inc. also has similar positions. No two people are alike, so the experience will depend on the individual you are working with.
Working with Kyle has truly been a joy, and he makes it easy for me. Working with an individual who has a disability does require a level of patience and compassion. It comes easier to me, because I grew up very closely with my autistic brother Polyvios. But I can say from experience, that anyone who has the space in their heart to make time for someone like Kyle won’t regret it. I’ve become close with him and his family, and I’m happy to give his family a hand even if it’s only for 6 hours.
(Kyle LOVES to play with Snap Chat! But who doesn’t. 😉 )
This Monday, I will be at the Lexus Club in the KeyBank Center for People Inc. Recruitment Rally with the Buffalo Sabres. You can learn more about working with people with developmental disabilities, and how it hits close to home for me. There’s a great need for human services support staff. (I actually work with a boy who has down syndrome on the weekends. I’ll write about him in a future blog post!) I did a story about the need for these types of workers back in November: http://wivb.com/2016/10/27/growing-need-for-more-human-services-support-staff-in-group-homes/
I wrote a guest letter in a special edition newsletter for People Inc. about my brother Polyvios who is on the autism spectrum, and how human services support staff have made a difference for him and our family:
This week a special sweeps report I did about the broken heart syndrome aired on Valentine’s Day. We’ve all heard of “dying of a broken heart” but it’s not just a figure of speech, you actually CAN die of a broken heart. Perhaps a bit of a morbid topic but in a way it’s about the ultimate kind of true love, someone who can’t love without you.
But it’s not always over the death of a significant other or a spouse. It can be the sudden death of a close family member, like we saw back in late December when actress Debbie Reynolds passed away just one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher.
For my special report, I spoke with a cardiologist and a local woman who experienced broken heart syndrome after her sister passed away 7 years ago:
When Melania Gromek thinks back to her favorite memories of her big sister, Florence, it’s the little things that come to mind.
“She was just a good friend, did a lot of things together. Christmas baking was always together, and we just got along well we understood each other,” said Melania Gromek of Cheektowaga.
They had a 16 year age difference, but a very strong sisterly bond.
“She was just there when I needed her, and she would call every week to see how you’re doing,” said Gromek.
In 2010, Melania’s sister Florence suddenly passed away.
“It was just a surprise, it was a shock actually. Something you didn’t expect to happen,” said Gromek.
The next morning, Melania said something felt off.
“My stomach just felt uneasy. It wasn’t a pain, it wasn’t pressure, it just didn’t feel right. And my chest just, a peculiar feeling which I’ve never had before,” said Gromek.
“She presented with chest pains, shortness of breath, EKGs and blood work everything pointing towards she was having a real heart attack,” said Mohan Madhusudanan, MD, FACC, Trinity Medical Cardiology, Catholic Health Cardiologist.
Doctor Mohan says unlike most patients who have a heart attack, Melania didn’t have any major blockages in her arteries.
“We treated her, she got out of the hospital, and when I reassessed her heart again in a few weeks her heart function came back normal and that is when we made the diagnosis, this is broken heart syndrome,” said Dr. Mohan.
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy known as the broken heart syndrome is caused by a sudden emotional stress trigger, but the symptoms, like Melania’s, can be subtle.
“He said you’ve had a heart attack. I’ve had a heart attack? I didn’t have any true symptoms I mean I wasn’t having trouble breathing,” said Gromek.
Dr. Mohan says the condition is not very common. In Western New York he sees 1 or 2 patients with broken heart syndrome a year. He says it’s most common in females ages 60 and up.
“Unfortunately based on the recent data, in about 4 to 10 percent of patients it can reoccur. We still don’t understand why,” said Dr. Mohan.
It’s been nearly 7 years since Melania’s sister Florence passed away. Some of the emotional pain has faded, but Melania still meets with Doctor Mohan to have her heart function monitored every 4 to 6 months.
“After the death of a closed loved one don’t disregard some symptoms because this would’ve been very easy for me to disregard and what kept me motivated I don’t know,” said Gromek.
Dr. Mohan says broken heart syndrome is considered an under recognized condition. Most people, like Melania, do survive the condition.
As a local TV personality, I am sometimes asked to speak at local events and be an advocate for a variety of causes. Earlier this week, I emceed the first annual Volunteer WNY Why Not You Awards at Buffalo Riverworks. I presented awards to winners of several categories for their dedication to service.
The following are the categories:
The President’s Volunteer Service Award: This award was created to thank and honor Americans whose volunteer service inspires others to volunteer. VolunteerWNY honored 5 adults that have served a minimum of 100 hours through a VolunteerWNY partner organization last year.
Commitment to Service Award: The Commitment to Service Award recognizes a company, public official, or community leader for their outstanding efforts to promote & encourage volunteerism and service.
Outstanding Non-Profit Volunteer Program (or Project): This award recognizes a non-profit organization (501(c)3), municipality, government or service-learning program that has made significant changes and improvements in the condition of the community as a result of volunteering.
Excellence in Volunteer Administration: This award recognizes excellence in leadership of volunteers and administration of volunteer programs by a salaried or non-salaried professional.
VolunteerWNY is basically a hub for volunteering. It connected volunteers with different local opportunities for service. Giving without expecting anything in return says a lot about a person’s character. Not to mention it can be tough to find the time to go above and beyond to do extra when you’re juggling work and other responsibilities. Props and kudos to all of the nominees and award winners!
Hey guys, sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted to my blog! Between work, the craziness of the holidays and travel last month, working on side projects, and squeezing in 3+ workouts a week life just catches up to you sometimes!
I wanted to share a recent sweeps special report I did. (It aired in December) It’s on the disability housing crisis in New York state. (But it’s also a problem in many other places across the country.)
More than 11,000 people with developmental disabilities across the state are on a waiting list for housing. Back in September a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the more than 2,000 people who are faced with that predicament here in Western New York. Now keep in mind, these individuals can’t be placed just anywhere. They need a supportive setting with staff who are trained to handle their behaviors and quirks. No two individuals with disabilities are the same, either. It is a very hard job that requires a lot of compassion and patience.
Because the life expectancy of people with disabilities has grown, those people need the services for longer, and that means younger folks who are coming through the system don’t have those opportunities.
I reached out to the New York state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. In a statement the agency said it is working to expand residential, day, and respite options and new residential opportunities. But there’s no indication as to when that might happen. You can watch the story HERE: Disability Housing Crisis
(That is my 14-year-old brother Valantis to the left, and my 25-year-old brother Polyvios to the right. Christmas Eve 2016.)
This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart, because I have a sibling with autism. My 25-year-old brother Polyvios has PDD, Pervasive Developmental Disorder. Though he is on the higher functioning side of the spectrum, he still struggles with behavioral issues. Right now my mother basically does everything for him. My father works 60+ hours a week, and I live in another state. My mom is the one who gets services set up for him, takes him to and from programs, and deals with him when he’s having a behavioral outburst. It’s not something we ever want to think about, but one day my parents will no longer be here. What will happen to my brother? I would never leave my brother without a place to stay, but where will I be at that point in life? I plan to one day have a family of my own. I hope to have either an extra room in my home or have him living independently nearby, where I can check in on him frequently. But none of us really know what the future has in store, and where we will be at certain points in life. This is the problem that many families of individuals with developmental disabilities struggle with. I have faith that everything will fall into place when the time comes, but it is definitely something that is in the back of my mind and my parents all the time.
Some families are forced to looking for housing options and services, because their child is out of control. That’s the situation the Tilley family is in. I did a story about their struggle to get services for their son, Justin. Justin has autism, and severe behavioral issues. He has a twin, Kyle, who has down syndrome. This family has their hands full. It is physically and mentally exhausting. WATCH the story here, it will break your heart: http://wivb.com/2016/12/29/lakeview-family-struggling-to-get-services-to-care-for-son-with-severe-autism-behaviors/
This family is just one of thousands struggling to get services.
The other day, Senior E! News Correspondent Ken Baker came back to town to promote his new book and movie called ‘The Late Bloomer.’ I’ve been watching E! News for years and had no idea he is from Hamburg! I interviewed him live on News 4 at 4 to talk about ‘The Late Bloomer’ and what he thinks of Buffalo’s resurgence.
Check out the interview, it was a lot of fun! His story is incredible. He had a brain tumor until he was 27 and had no idea about it. I won’t spoil the rest of it, but I will say that the movie is hysterical! There was a special screening for the Buffalo premiere at the North Park theatre before it was released on Netflix. The movie is a comedic spin off of his real life story.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted to my blog. Sometimes life just gets in the way! Between being maid of honor for my best friends wedding, juggling a large work load and day to day responsibilities I’ve been so busy that sometimes posting to my blog just slips my mind!
A lot has changed since my last blog post in December. I was hired as a Multimedia Journalist at the CBS station across town here in Buffalo, WIVB-TV. I officially started working there in March.
Channel 4 is neck and neck in ratings with WGRZ, Channel 2. A new 4 pm show was launched at WIVB this spring, and I am one of two MMJs that contributes daily reports to the show. WIVB-TV is the first station in the market to launch a 4 o’clock show. (I also contribute reports to other newscasts including the 5:30 and 6 pm.)
I report two separate stories on the 4 pm newscast daily, Monday-Friday. A PKG (total run time of about 1:30) and a VO SOT (a shortened piece, with a total run time of about 50 seconds though it does vary). I am still one-man-banding which means I shoot, write, and edit all of my stories under deadline pressure everyday. (This also means carrying a tripod and camera on my own. Somedays it can be tedious but I just chalk it up to a good upper body workout 😉 )
Throughout the day I am also using Twitter to tweet (https://twitter.com/4AngelaC) about my story, and tease ahead to the 4 pm newscast.
I find and pitch story ideas everyday. Stories varies from day to day. It could be news of the day, a medical story or feature story. For the 4 pm show I report many stories that appeal to women and families, because likely 4 pm viewers could be stay-at-home moms.
(Above: Going live on News 4 at Noon in Niagara Falls)
I find that being successful involves a lot of planning ahead and setting up interviews and stories in advance. It’s a fast paced newsroom that pumps out a lot of content for newscasts. I’m always thinking about what could be a good story, and constantly making phone calls to set them up and make it happen. I’ve already grown in my first few months at 4. Looking forward to what the next year will bring!
A former TWC News intern who used to shadow me last summer asked if I could come to SUNY Fredonia in November to speak to journalism students about the TV News Biz. I was flattered and happy to do so, because I was still a student myself just a few years ago (I graduated from Suffolk University in 2012.) I told them about my journey and how I got to where I am now, and what it took. I explained the challenges involved, demands of the job, how tough it can be to pick up and move by yourself to go to a new place. I discussed the ups and downs, explained what my job entails, what it means to pay your dues, and I even had them watch a few of my stories. I showed them my progression, and wanted them to feel encouraged by knowing persistence pays off. They were a great group of students with a lot of questions!