I miss Don Boswell. To me, the on-air persona of the chief executive of a public media organization ought to be soft-spoken, cerebral, and dignified.
Mr. Boswell made me proud to be a (modestly) sustaining member of WNED-PBS, WBFO and WNED Classical. Sadly, his successor all too often makes me cringe, reminding me more of an annoying salesperson or carnival barker than a public broadcasting executive.
The press release announcing Mr. Boswell’s retirement cautioned fans that “finding Don’s successor is no small task.” They weren’t kidding. Following a national search, Buffalo Toronto Public Media chose, not a person with a distinguished public broadcasting career, but Tom Calderone, a “media and entertainment executive” who previously held leadership positions with Spotify, VH1, and MTV.
Mr. Calderone – who has been at the helm of WNED/WBFO since August 2021 – was touted as “an expert in understanding media audiences,” as someone who knows the importance of “keeping the attention of audiences who have so many choices for what to watch or listen to.” Nonetheless, in less than ten months, Tom has demonstrated that he certainly does not understand this devoted audience member.
Since Tom took the helm of WNED/WBFO in August 2021, WBFO has drastically cut its Blues programming, and ended its streaming of an eclectic jazz platform called JazzWorks (without any pre-notice).
But, most distressingly, BTPM’s President/CEO has me rushing to turn off my TV or radio whenever I am subjected to his voice or image pitching the “Great British Telly Tour” – a one-week guided tour this fall of the grounds of various British television programs. “Passionate viewers” and “likeminded travelers” are not only promised accommodations at “deluxe hotels” and dining at “the best restaurants,” they will be hosted by – surprise – none other than Tom Calderone himself!
What I find most offensive is not Tom’s corny jokes and clownish “Pip! Pip!” It’s the repetitive bombardment of the local public media audience with a promotional opportunity available to a mere 30 individuals. In a community with Buffalo’s astonishingly high poverty rate, the “telly tour” traveler must be affluent enough to afford accommodations starting at $4,395, airfare to and from England, and a host of other personal expenses. [See Great British Telly Tour BTPM Brochure.]
But you need more than a bundle of discretionary cash to pal around London and beyond with Tom C. You must be physically capable of extensive walking, maneuvering numerous steps, and handling stops and hotels devoid of elevators.
It appears that BTPM realized that the tone and upscale nature of the promotional campaign could be considered offensive following the May 14th tragedy at the Jefferson Avenue Tops market. For a fortnight or so, it disappeared. But Mr. Calderone and his antics are back on air. [After all, Tom C. isn’t going to miss out on this BTPM perk.] And I’m back to turning off my favorite shows (for at least a minute).
With All Due Respect,
P.S. And, please, don’t get me started on Buffalo Olmsted Park Conservancy’s incredibly tacky and ill-conceived “FLOmingos Guinness World Records Attempt,” or the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation’s ridiculous decision to devalue Buffalo’s Outer Harbor by subjecting its inhabitants and visitors to the new Queen City Super Flea.