I’ve decided to step away from the microphone in Northeast Ohio. Thank you for your kindness as I tried to bring my approach to afternoon radio. I will have more on my future in the coming weeks, but this is my final segment to air 17 December 2021, remembering some of the people who trusted me with their stories over the years. Please stay safe.
You’re tuned to Ideastream Public Media, I’m Tony Ganzer…and after today, I won’t be with you in the afternoons.
Today is my last day behind the mic, after eight years of hosting this program. I’ll share more on my next steps in a few weeks if you keep up with me and my constant bread baking pictures on social media. I hope you’ll permit me now to take a few moments of reflection.
My first contribution to WCPN actually came while I was still a correspondent in Switzerland. I interviewed then Ohio Governor John Kasich at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, in 2013…
Q: I guess the question some people might ask, especially Swiss listeners: why is the governor of a U.S. state coming to Davos?
KASICH: “Well, because I want the people here to know about Ohio, because I want them to bring their jobs to Ohio. And it gives me an opportunity to come here and meet lots of people in a very close setting. So instead of having to travel around the world to see different business leaders, I can see many of them here, and it’s extremely valuable.”
Kasich didn’t say if he would run for President…and I sent that interview to my good friend and former WCPN reporter Brian Bull.
Later that year, my public radio station in Switzerland was privatized, and my family and I took time to travel and reconnect with family and friends.
We ended up coming to Cleveland to see members of my extended family, and Brian gave us a tour of this station.
When a host position came up, I gave it a shot.
My folks moved away from Northeast Ohio before I was born, so I only knew it through their memories and our occasional visits when I was a kid. Becoming a host though, I would embed myself as a journalist does.
I balked when a number of people told me not to go into neighborhoods like Hough or Central, or cities like East Cleveland.
And I made it a point to go many places, to talk to people who still need to be heard. I was in Cairo a year after the revolution…why wouldn’t I tell stories in every corner of our region?
There are more memorable pieces than I can include here, but I’d like to revisit a few of the people who trusted me to help bring their stories to you over the years.
One of my first pieces tried to connect my Swiss experience with Cleveland in a direct way.
I’ve come to a small bakery, tucked off Cedar Rd in Cleveland Heights to get some perspective on the area from someone who can relate to my time in Switzerland–Cleveland’s Swiss baker, and his wife.
KURT ZOSS: “Kurt Zoss, owner of Swiss baker in Cleveland Heights”
BARBARA ZOSS: “and Barbara Zoss, owner of Zoss The Swiss Baker.”
The Zoss couple has been in Cleveland for nearly two decades, now managing four employees and pushing out ten bread assortments a day. Kurt Zoss, in a white apron and ball cap, says he setup shop here in Cleveland Heights because his wife was from here, and there was a need for a bakery. But the couple first met a bit farther south.
BARBARA ZOSS: “We met in Mexico, and then we lived in Los Angeles for a while…
The Zoss’ told me about healthcare, and culture. And years later I revisited them when they closed their shop…they gave me a bread recipe I still need to try.
In my time here I’ve tried not to shy from nuanced stories, whether it be the Swiss-Cleveland cultural aspect, or serious systemic issues our communities still face. After the deaths of Tamir Rice and Tanisha Anderson, I began interviewing a diverse set of Clevelanders about community policing…
Today we have another piece in Our Land, our occasional series about community policing in Cleveland. Yesterday we heard some perspectives from the city’s Central neighborhood:
JOHNSON: “I have had a bad experience myself where my children has went and said ‘hi police, hi police’ and they keep walking like they’re not even talking to them.”
We return to that neighborhood today.
THORNTON: “My name is Sulieman Thornton, I was a shot caller for the Quarter Boys in W 25th Riverview Estates, and my official title on the streets was Sway.”
Sulieman Thornton was a former gang member who turned to keeping people off the streets. So many interviews in this series were powerful, but Sulieman stood out:
“I hate that babies being killed. I don’t like it. I think the police should be more proactive, they should use their counterintelligence, because if you can use your counterintelligence to track down drug dealers why can’t you do better investigative tactics to find these criminals and these killers and bring about approaches. How did this guy just pull up? He didn’t ask Tamir Rice any questions. I seen the tape. He didn’t approach that young man properly. He approached that man as if his life was in danger. HIS life wasn’t in danger, Tamir Rice’s life was in danger. And then he shot that boy and killed him in cold blood.”Sulieman Thornton
Sulieman and many of the residents I spoke with also talked about the lack of economic opportunity in the neighborhoods. That perspective was shared by a resident named Tobe:
“I could go through the projects right now and say ‘I got an opportunity for ya’ll, let’s go and make this money. You want a job? You want a job?’ Trust and believe it’d be a whole lot of young people following behind me. Who wouldn’t want a job, getting paid some money, for real? Like I said, no peanuts. Money for real. Peanuts don’t do nothing but start trouble for real. You bring home none. You know, child support; I want to look good, you know; gas money to get my kids back and forth to school; school tuition; food, they can’t go to sleep hungry at night; I got to feed myself; probably some people who ain’t fortunate that go to sleep at night who ain’t been fed in days, I might have to look out for them, for real, you know. We is a family in the community, that’s why when they say ‘gang’ I don’t understand that, for real.”Toby
Through this pandemic so many of us have been doing the best we can, just trying to get through. And for so many this kind of resilience has long been part of their experience. I produced a piece about food insecurity in Northeast Ohio, and spoke with mother of 10 Sharise Mayfield Smith.
She was making things work with what she had, but it was tough:
“God? Yes, I live on the edge with God. I have to. I have to. I mean I’m married, too, but I’m separated. But, you know, I still have to do what I have to do. You know, I try to you know, just maintain. It’s all I can do. If it don’t be for God upstairs, I wouldn’t wake up every day. So, it’s a lot on my mind. I go through a lot, you know I signed myself up for counseling, things like that. You know, so I’m trying, that’s the best that I can do.”Sharise Mayfield Smith
That clip of Sharise Mayfield Smith is what we in radio call an audio postcard.
Essentially we take extra effort to edit an interview so you hear a story from the person themselves, without a host like me getting in the way.
This has been a goal of mine in my entire career in radio. I’ve tried to make the experience for you seamless, like we’re on a journey together. Yes, we might be commuting together every afternoon, or maybe you listen while baking your own bread.
But each story is like its own journey, and I tried to be a guide who speaks to add value, and not distract you from the experience we’re sharing.
I thank you for joining me each day, and learning with me more about our world and our community.
Listening is becoming a lost art, but with respect for each other we can find it again.
Please take care.