“Good morning, Pittsfield!”
OK, he’s no Robin Williams, but here’s a little story.
I grew up watching Johnny late at night. Then, Johnny wasn’t there and I started watching Dave while occasionally taking a glance at Jay. But the routines are old and I hear Jay is leaving and Dave is probably not too far behind. I don’t know one Jimmy from the other, and Conan was never funny in the first place.
So, do you want to know who my favorite TV talk show host is? It’s John Krol, and you can find him on local cable TV in the morning and again on replay at night. He’s also on your radio during the commute to work.
“Good Morning Pittsfield” is good for the city. And Krol, the former Pittsfield High and University of Pennsylvania distance running standout, is due an on-stage bow for taking his Pittsfield Community Television show into its seventh year. The 60 minutes of local entertainment, provoking thought and sometimes witty repartee is also heard at the same time on WTBR (89.7-FM), which is located at Taconic High School.
“Local television in this community is about as good as it can be,” said Krol, who pushes all the buttons in the studio, books guests and as he puts it is pretty much “a one-man band.”
Added the host, “We started with a CD player, a turntable and a broken microphone. But we had a lot of people involved who were do-ers. People like Shawn Ferre, who helped wire the station so that we could do radio and TV. We’ve succeeded because of people with that can-do spirit.”
Krol said that list includes program director and local newsman Larry Kratka. And he added that to appreciate Pittsfield Community Television is simply a matter of looking around the city.
“Every school is wired and so is City Hall,” he said. “If you want, then you can broadcast live from anywhere. As far as what we do, well, there has been live local access TV before, but not daily live. It’s challenging, but I love it.”
If Krol wore hats during the day, then he would need to own four. He hosts the show, is responsible for his own marketing company named OneEighty Media, is now in his second term on the Pittsfield City Council, and is the proud husband of former Taconic High running standout Allison Johnson and equally proud father to 7-month-old Arden Xavier Krol.
John, by the way, won two Western Mass. cross-country individual titles back in his PHS days, while Allison earned one title while at THS. The pair remain on the run.
“At the end of the day, if I feel well-rested, then something is probably not right,” Krol said about his usual daily schedule.
So, what about hosting a morning show that relates to community news and events while also serving on the City Council? Krol simply shrugs and says it is what it is. If someone has a problem with his politics, then he welcomes them to the show for what he hopes will be a constructive exchange of thoughts.
There have been a few tense moments, he said, but no one has ever risen from the guest seat and walked out the door.
“Oh gosh, no,” Krol said. “Hopefully, something like that will never happen. But I’m not going to be shy about giving my input about issues. If things get serious, then I welcome frank discussion.”
He abides by state ethics rules and does recuse himself from the show during campaign season. That’s by choice and conscience, he said, and not so much from any state mandate. Krol represents Ward 6, which covers a chunk of the city’s West Side.
Some constituents, he said, can’t separate the John Krol on the City Council from the John Krol in the radio/TV studio.
“I’ve had people come up to me and say they wish my personality on the council was more the way it is on the show,” he said. “What people need to realize is that the show is much more conversational, while the council give-and-take is a lot more structured.”
Krol had a great experience at Penn. On the athletic front, he was eligible to compete three times in the prestigious Penn Relays at Franklin Field, where he competed in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter events. He wasn’t sure about returning to his hometown after college, but said he chose to because he began to see a glimmer of light at the end of the Pittsfield tunnel.
“Things were happening in Pittsfield,” he said. “Things like Barrington Stage. And I wanted to be a part of it.”
His grandfather, Frank, had immigrated to the United States in 1939. He worked at General Electric but had cut his teeth in his homeland on journalism. He wrote for a Polish newspaper and, after he arrived here, contributed occasionally to The Berkshire Eagle.
Grandson had similar traits. He reported for a time at the North Adams Transcript and was the Berkshire contributor to WAMC public radio. He was an aide to Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto and worked for a time with Berkshire Health Center in public relations.
“Radio and the communication business is in my blood,” he said.
No question. From 8 a.m., when the show starts and local news and events begin to get dispensed until the City Council finishes its agenda in the late evening, John Krol remains the distance runner attacking the course with a high-energy focus.
But even “Good Morning” must eventually say good-night.
Said Krol, “My dream is if I ever leave Pittsfield, I’d like to come back and be a guest on the show after someone else has taken it over. You would hate to see something you built and put a lot of time and energy into just disappear.”