By Michael J. Billoni
Grand Island resident Jim Toellner, the president and general manager of WGRZ-TV Channel 2 since 2003, was among six inductees into the 2019 Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame on Thursday, Sept. 19, in the studios of WNED-TV. He began at WGRZ-TV as its general sales manager in 2001.
Toellner was named Gannett Manager of the Year for 2008; this award honors top leaders at the company for their management skills, leadership, innovation and business ability and is chosen from over 150 leaders. For 2010 he was awarded Gannett’s Best Half Salesperson, an award honoring general managers who directly contribute most to the revenue results of his/her station. In 2013 Jim was selected as Broadcasting & Cable Magazine’s “GM of the Year” for the entire United States in mid-size markets.
A native of North Tonawanda, Toellner graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science in management with a marketing concentration.
Prior to serving as general sales manager of WGRZ-TV, he was general sales manager at WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He began his career at the Buffalo News as an account executive and later as a sales manager. He moved to television and held positions at the local ABC and CBS affiliates as an account executive, local sales manager and national sales manager.
In his free time, Toellner enjoys spending time with his wife, Bernie, and daughter, Brittany and Kristin. He also enjoys golfing and volunteering for his favorite charities, SABAH (Spirited Athletes Bold at Heart) and Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara.
This year’s Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame showcases people who excelled in a variety of broadcasting positions. The class includes: John Murphy, the Voice of the Buffalo Bills; native Buffalonian Sherry Margolis, anchor at WJBK-TV in Detroit, Toellner, Tony Farina, a former investigative reporter for WKBW-TV and WGRZ-TV; Don Tomasullo, longtime advertising salesman for Entercom Radio; and the late Larry Anderson, program director for WGR-AM.
“The Class of 2019 displays the diverse talent needed in the broadcasting industry,” said Steve Reszka, president of the Buffalo Broadcasters Association. “We are honored to recognize and welcome each and every one of them into the Hall of Fame.”
The MCs for the event are longtime Buffalo Broadcasters Maria Genaro of WGRZ-TV and Rob Lederman of 97 Rock. The Hon. Penny Wolfgang and Steve Monaco are this year’s event chairs.
The following are brief biographies of this year’s inductees.
Murphy, the winner in the radio category, is synonymous with sports in Western New York. He served as sports director at WBEN from 1984 to 1992. In 1989, he succeeded Rich Azar as WKBW’s 6 p.m. sports anchor and was named sports director in 1992. Murphy remained on television until his non-compete clause expired, then jumped across town joining WIVB in March 2008. The Buffalo Bills came calling in 2012 and he then focused full-time on his Bills duties. His long association with the Buffalo Bills began in 1984 where he worked as a color analyst alongside Van Miller. Murphy has been the play-by-play voice of the Buffalo Bills Radio Network since Van’s retirement in 2005. He currently hosts One Bills Drive, a Buffalo Bills talk show, on WGR. In addition to his work with the Bills, Murphy has also been a commentator for the Buffalo Bisons, Canisius College Golden Griffins, the University at Buffalo’s Bulls and Niagara University’s Purple Eagles. He’s the definition of an accomplished, knowledgeable sports broadcaster.
Margolis is the Buffalo Bob Smith Award winner for people either born in Buffalo or who worked in Buffalo broadcasting before moving on to a national stage. She began her television journey as the host and producer of a children’s program, “The Jelly Roll Review,” at WUTV-TV. She then moved to WKBW-TV as a reporter and anchor. In 1984 she moved to Detroit and currently co-anchors Fox 2 News live at 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. She has won several Edward R. Murrow regional awards.
Toellner is being inducted in the management category.
Farina is being inducted in the television category. He was known as “The Newsbreaker” for his work and won a UPI award for breaking a key element in the case of the infamous .22 Caliber Killer serial murder case. Among his awards while working at WKBW, he won the RTNDA first place award for a series on unsafe NFTA buses. His reports were broadcast all across the country. He has crossed over into the print industry working for the Lockport Union-Sun, Buffalo Courier Express, and Tonawanda News. Farina began his career with a four-year stint as a U.S. Navy journalist stationed in Keflavik, Iceland.
Tomasulo is the Behind The Scenes inductee. He is a lifelong Buffalonian, who began his broadcasting career in 1988 at 97 Rock where he served in various sales and management positions. He joined Entercom Radio in 2001 and remains there today. He is known for his passion for music, stemming from his work with legendary concert promoter Festival East. That enabled him to contribute to programming as well. He has educated hundreds of clients on the benefits of radio advertising and how to use the medium properly. His community commitment extends to his charity work with Taste of Buffalo, March of Dimes and the Food Bank of Western New York.
Anderson is being inducted posthumously with the Buffalo Broadcasters Memorial Award. His radio journey started when he hosted a top-10 show for teens while still attending high school in Ohio. He became an on air personality, music director, program director and general manager. Anderson worked as WGR’s full time music director and weekend air personality. He expanded the news and sports programs and enhanced the Buffalo Sabres broadcasts. The Buffalo Broadcasters Memorial Award is given to a deceased broadcaster who made a lasting impression in the broadcasting industry.