Joe Pagonakis reporting in Cleveland

From production to on-air, for Joe Pagonakis it all started at Ohio University and WOUB

Posted on:

< < Back to

Pagonakis graduated from Ohio University in 1981

ATHENS, OH – Joe Pagonakis ’81 is getting ready to celebrate 30 years as television reporter at the ABC affiliate, WEWS, in Cleveland, Ohio. But, when he came to Ohio University in 1977, being on the air was not part of his plan.

“I was born near Cleveland in Parma, Ohio and moved to Seven Hills when I was young,” said Pagonakis. “In high school, I was able to work at Parma Instructional TV (PITV) and get a lot of broadcast production experience. I loved it. So, when I was looking for a college, I was looking for an extension of that PITV experience. My parents helped me search for colleges with great TV programs, and because of the great reputation of its telecommunications program and the experience students could gain at WOUB, Ohio University was at the top of that list.”

Once he arrived in Athens, Pagonakis got involved at WOUB quickly, and the telecommunications major says it wasn’t long before he was “living” at the station.

“In my telecommunications classes I was learning FCC rules and regulations. The academic curriculum at Ohio University was fantastic,” said Pagonakis. “At the same time, I was working at WOUB. I was a floor director, a technical director and director on NewsWatch, and I also ran master control shifts. It was amazing. As a PBS station, WOUB provided the opportunity to gain professional experience. It was a professional environment. When you have that kind of environment and that kind of curriculum, it gets you ready to be in the professional world.”

Pagonakis took advantage of every opportunity WOUB had to offer. He even stayed in Athens two summers to work at the station.

“My parents were like, ‘Don’t you want to come home?’ But I loved Ohio University, WOUB and Athens,” said Pagonakis with a laugh.

After graduation in 1981, Pagonakis got his first job at WEWS in Cleveland as part of the production department.

“Because Ohio University had me so ready, I got a production job in Cleveland right out of college,” said Pagonakis. “I got to work with local broadcasting legends like Dorothy Fuldheim and Ted Henry. It was amazing. I got to work on legendary shows like Polka Varieties. We produced a lot more local programming back then. For three years I worked on the production crew. I eventually got moved to editing, and that’s what got me into the news side of things. I started editing news stories.”

Pagonakis’ interest in on-air reporting grew from there, and one of those local legends took Pagonakis under his wing to help him make that transition from behind the camera to in front of it.

“Ted told me to make a tape and encouraged me to shoot stories with WEWS’ photojournalists,” said Pagonakis. “So, I did that and started applying for on-air jobs, which led to my first big break.”

In 1984, Pagonakis got a reporting job at WYTV in Youngstown, Ohio. In addition to reporting, Pagonakis also did weekend weather and says that he learned how to cover news from WYTV’s news director, Tom Mock.

“Tom Mock was an old-school news director, who was intense, and told it just like it was,” said Pagonakis. “I needed that.”

During his time in Youngstown, Pagonakis covered the deadly tornado that struck Niles, Ohio and its aftermath.

“It was such a devastating tornado,” said Pagonakis. “We covered the impact of that event and how the community rallied.”

After three years in Youngstown, Pagonakis moved into a main anchor role at WANE TV in Fort Wayne, Indiana. And in 1993, he came home to Cleveland, after being offered a reporting position back at WEWS.

“If I hadn’t been prepared the way that I was at Ohio University and WOUB, there is no way I would have been able to make the transition from production to on-air,” said Pagonakis. “I would’ve been able to make that link. Ohio University prepared me for all of it.”