Alumni and Friends

Gridiron Glory 25: Where Are They Now?

When Evan Dawson sat in the host chair for WOUB TV’s Gridiron Glory (GG), the weekly, live high school football show was in its infancy. Dawson was the host of GG in 2000, the show’s second season. Dawson says he learned a lot during that season and the lessons are things that he still applies to his work today as the host of WXXI Public Media’s Connections with Evan Dawson, a daily two-hour afternoon radio program, in Rochester, New York.

“What you learn at WOUB is how much work goes into putting any kind of broadcast product on the air and how truly devoted people have to be,” said Dawson. “You also learn how important those kinds of operations (public media stations) are to their community.”

Dawson grew up near Cleveland, Ohio and came to Ohio University because of the reputation of the school’s journalism program.

“I was looking at other out-of-state schools,” said Dawson. “But Scripps was world class, in state, and affordable. I didn’t feel I would get anything better anywhere else. It was the best journalism school I could go to.”

Dawson dreamed of being a play-by-play sports announcer, like his hero Joe Tait, who was the voice of Cleveland Cavaliers basketball. Tait worked as a professional staff member at WOUB from 1966 – 1968.

“I had grown up listening to Joe Tait on the radio. I would record cassette tapes and study his play by play announcing,” said Dawson. “I wanted to be him. By the time I got to college, I just wanted to do broadcasting in some way. I had the opportunity to become the voice of Ohio University Women’s Basketball on the radio, and we would travel around when they would play in tournaments. That was a lot of fun.”

Then, during Dawson’s senior year, he was named host of Gridiron Glory.

“I remember taking journalism courses where you did everything in the newsroom, and they were great experiences, but WOUB was what it felt like to work at a real television station and it was awesome.”

During Dawson’s senior year, he started to realize that he had other interests outside of sports.

“I decided to apply for both sports and news positions. I had a passion for politics and news as well,” said Dawson.

Dawson’s first job was at WOWK TV in Charleston, WV. He was hired initially as a part-time videographer/producer, with the promise that the next on-air reporter opening the station had would be his. But Dawson didn’t have to wait long for the on-air spot. His first day on the job was September 11, 2001.

“I was supposed to be producing the noon news that day,” said Dawson. “But with the news of that day, I was asked to jump right into on-air work. We all did what needed to be done that day to cover the story.”

In March of 2003, Dawson was offered a general assignment reporter position at WHAM TV in Rochester. He was a reporter there for three years, before being promoted to morning news anchor. Dawson held that position until 2014, when he was approached by WXXI, an NPR member station, to host their afternoon talk show.

“The previous host had led the show for 25 years but had some health issues and was not able to continue,” said Dawson. “The show is on the air from noon to 2 p.m. every day, which is a great schedule for my family, and public radio is a much better fit for my news sensibility. I think of it as commercial media covers incidents while public media covers issues, and I like that.”

Dawson is also an author. He wrote "Summer in a Glass: The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes."

Coming back to public media, after getting his start at WOUB, is a full-circle moment that Dawson says makes complete sense to him.

“I realize my career has come full circle. I have thought about that several times,” said Dawson. “I’ve always been grateful for the fact that WOUB exists, nothing against the classes, but WOUB was bringing you into real life media, and before you graduated, you knew how to do the job right.”

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June 11, 2024
Cheri Russo