Friday marked Jim Lokay’s last KDKA broadcast for the time being as he heads to Boston to take on an anchor position at an ABC affiliate and to hopefully stink-eye Tom Brady every chance he gets. Here is Jim in an open post to Pittsburgh. When you get to the CSI: Miami part, please scream, “YEAHHHHHHH!” Thx.
When we were getting new carpet, producer Matt Carlins (playing the David Caruso character) decided we should use the police tape to recreate a “CSI:Miami” poster that hangs on our walls. Producer Matt Regan agreed to play Victim #414.
“Beep. Beep. BEEP. BEEP. FORTHELOVEOFGODWAKEUP!”
To me, that’s the perfect alarm clock — one that starts softly, so as not to stop your heart for a few milliseconds, but grows insistent that you get the hell out of bed within a reasonable timeframe.
I know something about alarm clocks. For the last six years and two months, I relied on about a dozen different ones to rouse me out of my too-short slumber and get me to work on time. At last check, I had a basic clock with two alarms – a buzzer and the radio (set to country music to ensure a violent response on my end), an iPhone with five different alarms set (three within three minutes of each other), and an iPad app to gradually wake me with the sounds of ancient Chinese gongs. They all worked. In my time at KDKA, I think I only received the dreaded “um, are you coming to work or not?” phone call about four or five times.
The alarms triggered a frantic morning routine that consisted of a 90 second shower, a quick change, the first application of the fancy-schmancy hair product, the first mad dash out the door, the realization I left my wallet on my desk, the second mad dash out the door, the race to clear the Parkway East and Squirrel Hill Tunnel, the in-car shave, and the daily round of “Parking Spot Roulette.”
I had it down to a science: as long as I left East McKeesport by 4:00 a.m., I could get into One Gateway Center and ready to roll by my first traffic report around 4:40 a.m.
So, just like clockwork, the symphony of alarms kicked into high gear around 3:15 a.m. this morning. There was only one problem:
I don’t work at KDKA anymore.
The decision to leave the place I spent the majority of my ten year media career was not an easy one. Of course, it also meant leaving my hometown — a place where I have friends, family, and other interests keeping me close. It was a long process that began in late August, when I was unexpectedly offered the opportunity to audition for an anchor job at the ABC station in Boston.
I spent most of the summer filling in as the morning anchor at KDKA after my friend and colleague Rick Dayton had knee surgery, but I was fully prepared to move back into the traffic role. Something in my heart told me that I had to pursue this opportunity, though. I had been to Boston several times over the last few years to visit friends, and loved it so much that I immediately added it to the short “places I’d move” list.
Two round-trip flights to Boston later, I had the job. It took a lot of soul-searching and a lot of self-evaluation to figure out if I wanted to take it, though. Colleagues were encouraging, friends were skeptical, but my family was supportive. So, I decided to do it.
A few days after signing the papers, word got to the Post-Gazette that I was leaving KDKA. For some strange reason, the fact that the traffic guy from KDKA was moving away ended up as “BREAKING NEWS!” The immediate outpouring of calls, tweets, texts, and “YOU DIDN’T TELL ME YOU WERE MOVING” messages was truly overwhelming. I had to hurry up and do some damage control, and fortunately, I think everyone understood that I was caught a bit off-guard.
What touched me, though, were the notes from some of the people I had the great pleasure to work with in various charitable pursuits over my time at KDKA: the American Liver Foundation, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and the wonderful people from the American Cancer Society (especially the ones from Moon and Cranberry). Even the staff from Praise Christian Academy in North Versailles, a small school that invited me back every year for Read Across America Day, sent me a note to tell me how much they’ll miss me. I wasn’t able to get back to every single one, but trust me, I take them all to heart.
Of course, I will miss all of that. I will miss the Pirate games. I will miss Light Up Night. I will miss the pre-game parties outside of Mario’s big screen. I will miss my ragtag bunch of friends from softball and flag football. I will miss the things that make our hometown so special. But I promise to make it back here as much as humanly possible, and I hope that you will all still embrace me as you have for so many years.
For now, I thank you all (and I thank you, Ginny, for being a friend over the past few years — even before you let me unmask you!). Please keep in touch. I’m keeping up on Twitter at @jimlokay and on Facebook.
After all, as I mentioned on my last day at KDKA, I think of a plaque that my parents gave me when I moved to Syracuse, NY to take my first job in TV about eight years ago.
“Wherever I may roam, Pittsburgh will always be my home.”
My family: my sister Andrea, my mom Angie, my Aunt Gracie, my Uncle Jim, me, my late grandfather (and my inspiration) Sam Semetsis, and my dad – the original Jim Lokay