By Christopher A. Pape
I’m not a huge proponent of social media. Or, I guess I should say I’m not very savvy at it. But, thank God, this magazine forces me to be in tune with what’s going on. Recently, Chris Wragge of New York’s CBS Channel 2 and WLNY Channel 10/55 fame, connected with us via Twitter (I guess he was a fan of what we had to say!).
One thing led to another and I asked him if he’d like to be interviewed; continuing my quest to access only the hottest and best New York has to offer – he readily agreed. What follows is an extensive interview with a passionate man who loves the news, broadcasting and New York.
I’m so happy to report that he will be at the party; I hope you like the piece as much as I liked interviewing him!
Resident (R): Where are you from?
Chris Wragge (CW): My folks got divorced when I was young so I split time in different towns, but Mahwah, NJ is my hometown and where I’ve been since the 6th grade. T-Bird Country!
R: How did growing up in New Jersey affect you?
CW: I have a tremendous sense of pride about being from New Jersey. I love the fact that it’s so close to the city. But, the “daily defense” of hailing from a state that is as badgered and bullied as New Jersey has prvoided me with a tough shell. It has come in handy in my line of work. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My goal from the moment I signed my first contract in 1992 was to get back home and by home that meant to the NYC market. I grew up watching Ch 2 and to be able to work here and be one of the news anchors of record for my family, friends and other people I grew up with provided me with an instant fan base. I’ll take whatever advantage I can get.
R: Do you live in the city now?
CW: I do. On the Upper West Side, I love it because it’s quiet; I don’t hear sirens and I don’t live that far north (of CBS studios) but, it’s very quiet; it’s probably a little bit of an anomaly that I am not married and I don’t have kids and everyone else around me does. It’s like walking the streets with a scarlet letter because I don’t push around a stroller.
Mornings at Starbucks are great, I just stand there and hold the door for people trying to handle the kids and their coffee. I keep waiting for tips.
R: How did you get into the business?
CW: I wish I could say there was a blueprint, but there really is no right way to make it. I was a college football player in school and when I was playing my senior year I would be interviewed by the local television station and one of the local stations said, “That guy is pretty articulate for a football player, see if, when he’s done with school, he wants to come on and do some college football announcing for us.” That was my first opportunity, at a place called WMUR in Manchester, New Hampshire. As soon as I graduated, they hired me on full time and it just took off from there. I was there for two years and then went onto the NBC station at Hartford for a little under two years and Entertainment Tonight for four. I moved to Houston for NBC Sports where I covered the Olympic games, the NBA, ND footbal and the PGA Tour. In 2004, I was approached by CBS to come home to NYC to become the stations new Sports Anchor.
R: Tell us what you exactly do now ?
CW: I’ve had every job here, except for news director (laughing). When I was hired I was brought in to replace Warner Wolf. I was the main sports anchor for two years. Eventually, the station approached me and asked if I’d transition to the news. When big news breaks, sports is the first part to go; there was a part of me that regretted not having a bigger role. When important things happen and I think post 9/11 that probably hit home the most because I was not here in New York for it; not only because it was an attack on the country but, because it was more a less an attack on my home and to not be there and to not be a part of it, combined with being a sports anchor, made the role seem insignificant. When I was approached to be a news anchor, the opportunity to be a little more immersed in the bigger stories that cross our desk everyday was appealing.
I became the News anchor at 5pm with Kristine Johnson and, shortly after Kristine and I did the 5, we were assigned to the 11pm news. About three months after that, the network approached me to do Saturday mornings for the Early Show; I was working Monday through Friday, getting off the air at 11:35pm Friday night, sleep for about three hours and get up and do that Saturday Early Show for the network.
That lasted for about three and half years and then I was approached to do the Early Show full-time. The one regret I have is that it didn’t work out a little bit better but, it happens, new bosses come in and make their decisions and I am totally at peace with what happened. These guys here were kind enough to welcome me back.
R: How do you like it here?
CW: It’s like a family environment. Lonnie Quinn, Kristine Johnson and Dana Tyler are three of my very best friends. We do holidays together, take in games together and honestly enjoy each other’s company. I couldn’t ask for better colleagues.
R: What charities are you involved with?
CW: I’m very active in the community; I’ve worked with a variety of charities from Asbury Park to East Hampton throughout the years. There are many wonderful organizations that I’ve been involved with including: National Down Syndrome Society, Make-A-Wish Foundation, March of Dimes, National Multiple Sclerosis Society of New Jersey, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Covenant House of NY. All of these have been serving as a Media Ambassador/Advisory role.
We provide the voice and exposure for the non-profit world. I love the relationships I’ve built and the connection I’ve made with the kids will last long after I’ve been replaced by somoene younger and better looking than me!!! •