geoffdunn_120It is hard to imagine a time when Geoff Dunn hasn't been the voice of Ithaca and Tompkins County news.  He has spent over half his 30 years in broadcasting in the Ithaca market.  He has been the News Director of Cayuga Radio Group's (CRG) stations for the past seven years, spent another seven anchoring Time Warner's News Center 7, and in the 1990s spent three years at Ithaca's WTKO. 

Last week Dunn dropped a bombshell on WHCU's Morning News Watch: he would be leaving broadcasting.  But good news for Ithaca: Dunn will start a new job December 17 as Communications and Administrative Coordinator at Tompkins County Solid Waste Management Division.

"With his vast knowledge and experience working in the media, Geoff will play a key role in the Division's success in educating the public about opportunities to recycle and throw away less trash," says Solid Waste Management Division Manager Barbara Eckstrom.  "The Division will benefit from his keen ability to connect with our community and his dedication to the community.  He will add value to an already great team."

Dunn says that philosophy of becoming involved in the community is part of his decision to stay, and part of his success as a broadcaster.  He notes that the essentials of his new job are the same as those at CRG: to educate and inform.  One big difference is that he will now be working with a live audience instead of a microphone or a camera.  But Dunn says he is comfortable with people and looks forward to the new venue.

"The same principals will apply in many ways.  I wanted to remain active with the community," he says.  "With a lot of the plans we have moving forward with the Solid Waste Division I'm going to be able to do that.  I'm not going to be a wallflower sitting in the office all day.  I'll be out and about at different events.  We're talking about doing open houses, demonstration projects... there are a lot of exciting things on the horizon for the Solid Waste Division."

Dunn says he will miss being on the air, as well as the people that he has been working with. 

"The nice thing is that I'm not leaving the area," he says.  "I'm just moving from Hanshaw Road to Commercial Avenue.  I'm going to miss the 'rush' of a big news story, whether it be severe weather or the political arena or breaking news... I'll have to go through the first couple of events and say, 'wow, I wish I was there.'  But I think that will be short lived, because after 30 years it was time to pursue othr things and throttle back a bit.

Dunn grew up in Oswego and Potsdam.  He went to high school in Pottsdam, college in Oswego, then worked professionally in the Syracuse/Ithaca area with a stint in Albany. 

"I was born on Long Island, but never got any of the mannerisms down," he laughs.  "I was there a very short period of time.  I call upstate New York home."

He caught the broadcasting bug early.  He voiced his high school's PA morning announcements, and his first break in radio came in his senior year of high school.  Dunn and his parents had approached Dave Moore and Jim Curley, two veteran broadcasters who had established a cable-FM station.  They offered him an internship/high school elective on their station.  Dunn even got on the air, spinning records and talking on air.  Between the morning announcements and the radio gig, he was hooked.

"I have a couple of classmates who live in the Ithaca area," Dunn says.  "I will run into them occasionally and the conversation comes around to  'I remember when you did the announcements on the PA system every morning!'  That's pretty cool."

geoffdunn_400Geoff Dunn

Dunn concentrated on broadcasting in the Communications Program at Oswego.  There he decided he wasn't really interested in the music side of radio, but developed a passion for news.  He cut his teeth reporting on elections.

His first job out of college was as News Reporter/Anchor at WSEN radio in Baldwinsville.  At that time news radio was competitive in the Syracuse market so Dunn jumped in with both feet.  After a year he moved to WHEN where his mentor Bill Carey started him anchoring on the overnight shift.  Soon he was moved to afternoon anchoring, then moved back to Oswego as Assistant News Director at WRVO.  He came back to Syracuse to anchor the morning news broadcasts on WHEN.

"HEN was the place you wanted to be," he says.  "You wanted to be at HEN or SYR.  Those were the two stations you wanted to work at.  Growing up in Potsdam we would drive down to Syracuse because it was the big city.  I would always listen to HEN's news."

Dunn first came to Ithaca on Memorial Day Weekend in 1992 to work at WTKO's Aurora Street studio.  In 1995 he became the news director at Time Warner Cable's News Center 7, where he stayed until August, 2002.  Time Warner moved him to Albany in 2002 to help launch the 24 hour news channel that eventually merged with similar Time Warner units around the state to become what is now known as YNN (Your News Now).  After three years he returned to Ithaca to become News Director for the Cayuga Radio Group stations and Program Director for the company's two AM stations, WNYY 1470, the former WTKO,  and WHCU 870.

Dunn has gotten to let his hair down somewhat co-hosting The Morning News Watch.  The show has had six hosts since it began over 25 years ago.  Jack Deal, Rudy Paolangeli, Gerry Angel, Casey Stevens, Dave Vieser, and Lee Rayburn have hosted the show.  Dunn has co-hosted with the latter three.  He says creating those on-air relationships was part of his challenge with radio personalities who have very different styles.

"Each person brings their own personality and chemistry to the table," he says.  "If you look at Casey, Dave and Lee, they are all different in their own ways.  I don't think it's any secret that Dave and I had a great deal of chemistry, because we had worked together here and in other locations.  We knew what the other was thinking.  We finished each others' sentences and played off each other pretty well.  It's been different in each case, but they're all professionals, and Lee is going to do a great job moving forward."

Stevens liked live interviews in the studio, while Vieser was more comfortable with telephone interviews.  Dunn prefers live interviews and notes that they have the added benefit that people often pull you aside afterward to give you tips on other breaking news.  But he adds that phone interviews are a vital tool that helps broadcast reporters stay current on breaking news.

"I prefer to actually see the person because you can react to their non-verbal cues, or the way they inflect in an answer, and you can respond to that," he says.  "But the phone is a God-send because it allows us to get the people that we need at the time we need them.  At times it was difficult to tell people we wanted them in the studio at 7:15 in the morning, but they would jump on doing it on the phone because they could be interviewed in their bathrobe if they wanted to."

Dunn has enjoyed working in both radio and television, but prefers radio because it is a more intimate medium.  He says that talking to the microphone is like talking to one person.  While he says television offers more opportunities for creativity, radio has the satisfaction of doing the job largely by yourself.  Radio is more frantic, though, with a new deadline for the next news broadcast every hour.  While he will be adding a commute to his work days, the new job will be less frantic that running a news department.  Dunn says he is looking forward to a slower paced job.

"In radio you come in at 4:30 in the morning every day and you are going at 150% through the rest of the morning," he observes.  "You're writing.  You're doing several newscasts.  You're constantly on deadline.  You're managing a team of reporters, setting up the news agenda for the day.  You don't get to take a breath until mid-morning or so."

In his new job Dunn will write press releases, handle community outreach events and presentations, demonstrations, meet with community groups and schools, and find new ways to interest the public in recycling and using the Solid Waste facility more.  There will be a customer service component, and he will also be leveraging social media to reach the all-important younger demographic that is key in becoming a culture that values recycling and reuse.

"The next couple of years are going to be exciting.  If I can play a small role in helping us reach that, I'll have a great sense of accomplishment.  There are some exciting opportunities and programs ahead to help us meet those goals.  So the future is what I am looking forward to the most.  And working with a great team of people."