SYRACUSE — When Nikolai Busko left the morning drive anchor position at Newsradio 570 WSYR in August, we were left scratching our heads, as management never responded to our queries regarding his whereabouts. Earlier today, Busko emailed CNYRadio.com with “the rest of the story,” to borrow a phrase from the late Paul Harvey, regarding his exit from the station.
Here is Busko’s statement, in its entirety.
When CNYradio.com announced that Newsradio 570 WSYR had hired Chris Barnes, the Web site made reference to my “sudden replacement.” With WSYR back in the news following yesterday’s “swim,” I figured I’d take the time today to clarify the circumstances surrounding my departure. CNYradio.com made it sound like I got fired, but that did not happen. I left on my own terms, and my primary reason for leaving had nothing to do with the organization at all.
In April, I received an E-mail from Rich DeMarco, the assistant athletic director for marketing, broadcasting, and multimedia services at the United States Military Academy at West Point. I had worked for Rich years ago as one of the hockey broadcasters for the Army Sports Network, and I had done some fill-in work for him recently for basketball and lacrosse.
Rich wanted me to give him a call. When I did, he informed me that the broadcast position for Army’s hockey team had opened, and he wanted to know if I had any interest in working for him again on a more permanent basis. Naturally, I said yes. I signed a deal in May with Learfield Communications that gave me back my first real play-by-play job!
When the ink dried on the contract, however, I thought about having to drive well over three hours in winter weather to get to a home game. Sure, I could catch a nap in the house my parents still owned in the Town of Newburgh before heading to West Point, but a snow squall in Binghamton could do more than just delay my arrival. It could kill me!
As much as I hated to admit it, I knew I had to change jobs. However, I also needed to make a move that made sense. I thought I had found a solution in June when fellow Clear Channel news/talk station WGY in Albany had an opening, but I didn’t get it. I then sent my résumé to every station that met these two conditions:
#1: Its location had to sit higher on Arbitron’s list of markets by size
#2: Its location had to put me closer to West Point than Syracuse could
In July, I received a phone call from Albany Broadcasting’s Magic 590. WROW had made the switch from a news/talk format to oldies, but it wanted to have local news again. It also wanted to have someone at the helm for election coverage this year. Above all, though, the station wanted to make a run at WGY as the top radio news source in the market.
Now for the surprise: Albany Broadcasting wanted to make me news director! That meant more money and not having to wake up at 1 a.m. anymore like I had for months at WSYR. I could also get to West Point from Albany in less than two hours. With all of this on the table, I decided during the first week in August to head east to the state capital.
I wanted to give WSYR until Aug. 27 to replace me. Albany Broadcasting wanted me sooner because of primaries, so I ultimately set Aug. 20 as the departure date. I learned soon after submitting my resignation that Kevin Schenk would do morning news for “30 days,” or until WSYR could find someone long-term.
It did make me happy to hear that WSYR found someone of Chris Barnes’ caliber. I have not talked to anyone at WSYR since my departure, so I have no idea when he starts. However, if Chris hits the air before Nov. 2, then the news operation can use that page turn to push even harder towards Election Day.
Regarding my plans for that night, a lot of work remains for me in advance of the “resurrection before the election.” We had a pretty good primary night, but we need to build off of what we did right that night if we want to have a better Nov. 2 than WGY will.
As for how I intend to stay sane through all this, my return to the broadcast booth at Tate Rink may serve as the perfect distraction. My first hockey broadcast back with Army begins Sunday at 1:45. Visit goARMYsports.com to hear what I do best!
During my last week at WSYR, I said that Central New York would remain my home. It still does. I can’t say definitively yet, but my parents may return to the area for good as soon as next year. With that in mind, I asked everyone there not to view my departure as a “goodbye” for good. I just wanted them to see it the way I did as someone simply telling his buddies, “See you later.”
And that “later” may come sooner rather than later. You never know what the future may bring in this business!
Our thanks to Busko for his thoughtful and detailed explanation. Your editor explained to him that it was not our intent to imply he was “fired,” but his departure was described as “sudden” since we hadn’t caught any announcement made on-air, and we never received any responses when we tried to contact WSYR management.
Although we mentioned Busko’s hiring at WROW earlier this month as part of a “While We Were Out” roundup of updates that came in while your editor was on vacation, we understand some readers may have missed it, since it was included with multiple other stories.
Busko told us, “I make it a point to leave my ego at the door. It’s never about me,” which he explains why he never wanted any big announcement on the air, nor even a going-away party in the office on his last day.
Please join us in wishing Nikolai the best of luck in his new ventures! And our thanks again to him for taking the time to set the record straight.