YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – After working 49 years as a newscaster in the Mahoning Valley, Glenn Stevens has signed off.
Stevens began with WFMJ-AM radio in 1971 as a reporter, and later became news director. He moved over to WFMJ-TV in 1983 and worked there as a reporter and anchor until Dec. 31, when he retired.
Stevens, 74, has been a familiar face for generations of area residents. Over the past half-century, he has covered every major local news story “in one form or another” while adhering to the foundational tenets of journalism.
“My first priority has always been truth and accuracy,” he said. “I [believe] the goal of a good journalist is to objectively inform people about what is happening in their neighborhood and their community, and perhaps to empower them to make decisions in their daily life.”
The Poland resident said he also has enjoyed “being a storyteller, and giving light to interesting and inspiring people and events.”
The Akron native joined the U.S. Air Force after high school and served in the Vietnam War. He took college courses during his time in the service, and enrolled at a broadcasting school in Milwaukee after his discharge.
“I finished near the top of my class, so they sent me to Houston to work as an instructor at a new location they were opening there,” Stevens said.
He taught during the day and worked at a couple of radio stations in the evening, becoming a credentialed reporter in covering the moon missions at the NASA Space Center in Houston.
When his father died in 1971, Stevens moved back to Akron to help his mother. It was then that he was hired at WFMJ-AM 1390 (now known as WNIO).
He only planned to stay a few years, but it turned into 49.
When the station was sold, he moved over to WFMJ-TV, which shared the same floor of the building it still occupies downtown.
When asked which story stands out the most from his tenure, Stevens doesn’t hesitate.
“Black Monday,” he said, referring to Sept. 19, 1977, the day Youngstown Sheet and Tube abruptly closed its massive Campbell works, throwing 5,000 out of work and starting a cascade of mill closings that changed the area forever.
“They started closing like dominos,” he said. “Twenty thousand or more lost their jobs and it impacted families. That was a big story for a long time.”
In the wake of the closings came lawsuits against the steelmakers filed by activist lawyer Staughton Lynd.
“They were in federal court, and at the time you could not bring cameras in,” Stevens said. “I would spend eight hours each day in court listening to the attorneys and at the end of the day, I would edit it down to a two-minute story.”
Stevens’ stint at WFMJ began during the tail end of the organized crime era in Youngstown, which generated a lot of coverage.
The colorful career of the late Jim Traficant was also part of his beat.
“I knew Jim Traficant from the time he was the sheriff,” Stevens said. “I had many [interviews] with him, and also shared the dais with him at a lot of banquets. I got to know him pretty well.”
Traficant would become a U.S. congressman before his career ended in a bribery scandal in 2002.
Other major stories Stevens covered include the rise and fall of Mickey Monus, who founded the Phar-Mor discount drugstore chain, with more than 100 stores and headquarters downtown. Monus brought the LPGA tour to the Mahoning Valley and was a founding partner of the Colorado Rockies baseball team. In 1995, he was convicted of embezzlement and fraud.
Not all of Stevens’ memories are of tragic stories.
“I met so many great people and had so many opportunities to cover positive stories about people who were meeting the challenges in their lives,” he said.
These include the story of a Russian boy who lost both of his legs in an accident, and came to Youngstown to be fitted for prosthetic legs. “He got to walk again,” Stevens said.
Stevens also hosted the Children’s Miracle Network telethon for many years on WFMJ. The national telethon supported the local children’s hospital.
“We did a lot of vignettes in which we’d meet with the families of children who benefited from the hospital,” he said. “Those were great stories.”
Stevens and his wife, Regina, also hosted the Stir It Up cooking segment on the WFMJ morning show for 20 years. In the early 2000s, they hosted “Kids Can Cook,” a weekly cooking and nutrition show in which they worked with local elementary school students.
Stevens not only saw a lot of change in the Mahoning Valley; he lived through the technological transformation of broadcast journalism.
“When I started at WFMJ-AM, we used manual typewriters with carbon paper,” he said. “It was a big day when we got the IBM Selectric electric typewriters.”
There were also no computers, internet, smart phones or GPS apps.
“If you were out on a story and it was changing, you had to look for a phone booth to call the station,” Stevens said.
A reminder of how long the newsman has been plying his craft came in 2019, when Chris Cerenelli, who had just been hired as WFMJ’s newest weather forecaster, came into Stevens’ office one day.
“Chris said, ‘I don’t know if you remember this, but you came to my school to do a story about one of my teachers when I was in fifth grade and you interviewed me,’” Stevens said. “I interviewed him when he was in fifth grade and now I’m working with him!”
One thing that most people do not know about Stevens is that he was once an excellent golfer who toyed with the idea of trying to qualify for the PGA Tour.
“Then I got bone cancer in my left shoulder,” he said. That was in 1983.
Stevens went to Cleveland Clinic where a doctor performed a new surgery technique on him.
“They did an internal amputation,” he said. “They took out the shoulder, clavicle, collarbone and the bone in my upper arm. There is a prosthetic there now. If I’d have had this surgery three years earlier, they would have just cut my whole arm off.”
Stevens still has the use of his left arm from his elbow down. “I didn’t lose skin color, sensitivity or strength,” he said.
His cancer battle included 13 months of chemotherapy. He still talks to support groups for children with cancer. He pointed out that his managers stood by him during his recovery.
“All during that time I was fighting cancer, [WFMJ owners] Mark Brown and Betty Jagnow, and station manager John Grdic, visited me and told me not to worry about things,” he said. “I had their support.”
In his retirement, Stevens said he plans to look for volunteer opportunities, and is also open to freelance work in commercials and video productions. He also plans to spend more time with his five children and six grandchildren.
Stevens sits on the board of directors for the National Packard Museum in Warren and plans to continue acting in local community theaters when they reopen.
Pictured: News reporter Glenn Stevens has brought his 49-year career at WFMJ-TV to a close. His career began at what was WFMJ-AM 1390, now known as WNIO.