By Judy Berman
Working nights in radio is rarely glamorous. But I jumped at the chance in 1984 to work for Bill Carey, the news director at WHEN-AM radio in Liverpool, New York.
When I walked in the newsroom, I could always count on a few things. Bill Carey, with his ever-present cigarette, would be typing away furiously on his typewriter. Whether he was writing a hard-hitting news story or a feature, the end result would be polished, fair and memorable.
I looked forward to listening to his “Year in Review” stories. Carey often intertwined tales of a local murder or politics with clips from TV shows, movies and music sound beds. It was masterful, captivating, and either great fun or heart-wrenching.
In 1983, his annual report focused on the 1981 disappearance of an Auburn woman. Julie Munson had car trouble. A man, in a car behind hers, stopped to check her car. She apparently knew him, and accepted a ride after he told her there was a problem with her car.
Carey said she soon realized there was a problem. Not with her car, but with the man who gave her a ride. She threw her car keys out the window as a sign that she was in trouble.
Eighteen months later, her remains were found in the Montezuma Refuge. Munson’s father noted it was “not the solution we hoped for.”
Carey’s story ended with: “For 18 months, 4 days, the Munsons had left a light on their porch. In early April (1983), that light that had burned brightly for all of those torturous nights … fell dark. Julie Munson would not be coming home.”
In 1984, Carey’s annual report included a story of dirty tricks, intelligence-gathering and politics in Syracuse.
He used movie clips from “The Wizard of Oz” in telling this story involving former police lieutenant, George Georgiade, Syracuse Mayor Lee Alexander and Police Chief Thomas Sardino.
Georgiade blew the whistle on alleged wrongdoing in Alexander’s administration. A county judge ruled that the grand jury reports remain sealed. The reports were critical of the mayor, the police chief and the top lawyers.
As Carey read each of the names, listeners heard the Tin Man (the Mayor), the Cowardly Lion (the Police Chief) and the Munchkins (the top lawyers).
An appellate court directed that the four grand jury reports be filed as public record.
Asked about the outcome, Georgiade said he won the battle.
But, a reporter asked, “Did you win the war?”
“Well, I’m just a small guy,” Georgiade said. “It’s very difficult for a small guy to win a war. It’s enough to win a battle, especially when it’s against City Hall.”
The story ends with Dorothy asking, upon her return from Oz, “doesn’t anybody believe me?”
Then, she declares: “There’s no place like home.”
Later, after Alexander, Sardino and a city hall attorney challenged the ruling, an appeals court decided that the reports remain sealed forever.
When I think of home, I recall Bill Carey’s stories and how he brought them to life. Thru his writing, we embraced other people’s heartaches as our own. He cast a revealing spotlight on the messiness of politics, and created stories that were unforgettable.
On Aug. 7, 2015, Bill Carey, a senior reporter with Time Warner Cable News, lost his two-year battle with cancer. He is missed.
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Main Photo: Bill Carey in a jeep. (Photo courtesy of John Lisi to Syracuse.com) http://www.localsyr.com/story/d/story/photos-bill-careys-career-in-central-new-york/18835/t6zMb4jW0EiiV8lC9G6lqQ
Photo: Bill Carey doing a standup for television news cast. (I do not own this picture.)
Illustration: Characters from the “Wizard of Oz” – Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz first edition. Illustration by W.W. Denslow (d. 1915)