BY JEFF FALK
EBENEZER – John Tuscano is a communicator, plain and simple. But unlike most good communicators, Tuscano is proficient in two forms – verbal and written.
Mr. Tuscano is a sportswriter at the Harrisburg Patriot-News. He’s also an evening disc jockey/radio personality on local station WQIC 100.1 FM.
The skills required to perform Tuscano’s two jobs are very similar, but yet miles apart. Yet both seem to come down to the ability to tell a story.
“For the radio, it’s a little more quick hitting,” said Tuscano. “You’re on the air one or two minutes and you’ve got to maximize everything you’re going to say. You’re there to give people what you think is useful information and to be entertaining. Newspapers are much more detail-involved. You have more of an opportunity to tell a story.
“The best way to describe the difference is that when you write a story, you’re writing for as wide an audience as you can,” Tuscano continued. “Radio is still a one-on-one medium. The more laid-back and personal you can be, the better. It’s the way you come across to a listener.”
Tuscano, a 1994 graduate of Cedar Crest and a 1998 graduate of Lebanon Valley College, has been spinning tunes for Lebanon County listeners for 13 years. He’s been covering sports for The Patriot for 16 years, most of which were spent in the newspaper’s now defunct Lebanon bureau.
“I would say there was a time when I would’ve given the edge to radio,” said Tuscano. “To me, radio is still fun, even 13 years later. For the most part, I still feel that way working for a newspaper. Anybody in sports writing has a passion for it. They love sports. But there’s always those deadlines.
“The way the news media has changed there’s even more pressure (in sports writing),” Tuscano added. “The news now is broken immediately. Now you’re tweeting at games and putting stories on line, taking photos, doing videos. As the industry has evolved, the work load has increased. In radio there’s the pressure of being live, but you can still relax. In the end, if you stack the two together The Patriot is a full-time job and pays most of the bills.”
Ultimately it was a love of sports and the radio which landed Tuscano into the positions he is today. Each of his two jobs have elements of a play-by-play announcer at a sporting event.
“I always thought, even when I was at LVC, I wanted to be in broadcasting,” said Tuscano, who worked for the college’s radio station, WLVC. “My dream job was a play-by-play announcer. That just comes from growing up listening to the Phillies and idolizing Harry Kalas. I thought, ‘What a neat job it would be.’ I guess I kind of fell in the middle of it.
While at Lebanon Valley, Tuscano did not write a single story involving sports. But he did listen to local personality Mike Gross’ call-in, sports radio talk show on WQIC. At that time, during the late 1990s, Gross was also heading the Patriot-News’ Lebanon bureau.
“I always loved sports. I started following closely when I was nine,” said Tuscano. “In my junior year at LVC, I was looking to pick up a part-time job, some pocket money. My dad heard that Mike Gross was looking for someone to help him out at the Lebanon bureau of The Patriot. It was answering phones on football Friday nights, taking scores, typing in boxscores. At the time, Mike had a radio show and I was actually a caller. I called him at the station and asked him about needing help and he said, ‘Sure, come on in.’
“Then it became almost everyday,” Tuscano continued. “It was a two-man operation and I was the guy on the phones and Mike was out covering things. Finally, the next step was he sent me to an Annville-Cleona/Palmyra football team game. I gathered all the information and Mike wrote the story. He wanted to see if I could go out and gather information. A Lebanon Catholic/Annville-Cleona girls’ basketball game was the first I ever did. I still have it. I go back every once in a while and read it, and it was horrible.”
A mere two years ago, The Patriot-News rewarded Tuscano for his hard work and dedication by hiring him as a full-time sportswriter. Currently, Tuscano is covering high school football, girls’ volleyball, boys’ and girls’ swimming and boys’ and girls’ lacrosse for the newspaper.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Tuscano of his promotion. “It was one of the things I was kind of hoping for at some point. It’s kind of like, ‘you’re a full-time asset to the company’. It was flattering.
“I had a basic knowledge of volleyball, so that hasn’t been too much of a transition,” added Tuscano. “Everyone can go to a swim meet and understand the basics. But it’s a lot more about story-telling and bringing the story to life. There’s a whole nuance with swimming that a lot of people don’t get. Lacrosse is very new in itself to the area. That’s a sport I had no background with. I had to grow with it. I actually bought a rule book to learn about the sport. They all have their audiences and everyone who follows them follows them very closely.”
Tuscano sees part of his duties at WQIC as making his listeners’ days just a bit brighter, no matter how his is going. His evening show can be heard from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., Monday through Friday.
“It isn’t easy sometimes,” said Tuscano. “When Steve (program director, Davies) hired me, one of the first things he said to me was, ‘check all your stuff at the door. Try not to bring it in with you.’ That’s easy to say. It’s almost like when the mic goes on there’s an element of performance. Even though you might be having a bad day, it’s your job to make someone’s better.
“I’ve always been very thankful to Steve and Robert (Etter) here,” Tuscano concluded. “The time I put in here is very flexible and it’s allowed me to be able to do both. The demands of the newspaper have changed and the demands of my personal life have changed. I have to be creative as to when I can get my work done.”