Lifelong Central New Yorker Jeff Kulikowsky always knew he wanted to be a broadcaster.
Kulilowsky, 49, tells syracuse.com | The Post-Standard that he got his first experience at SUNY Cortland’s radio station while he was a high school student in Homer, N.Y.
Around the same time, a short distance away in Syracuse, Rod Wood took over the anchor desk at NewsChannel 9 WSYR-TV. Wood retired Wednesday after more than 50 years in broadcasting, including 44 years at the Syracuse TV station and more than 30 years as its evening news anchor.
Now Kulikowsky is taking Wood’s place at the Syracuse TV station, co-anchoring the news weekdays at 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. with Christie Casciano.
Kulikowsky himself is a longtime figure at NewsChannel 9, working there as a reporter since Jan. 3, 2000. Before that, he worked at several radio stations in Ithaca, where he graduated from Ithaca College, and got his start in TV at a Time Warner Cable news station.
“I’m a Central New Yorker, through and through,” Kulikowsky said in a phone interview Friday. “I was raised here, I went to school here. I love this community and having the opportunity to bring the news every night is a privilege and an honor, so it’s kind of surreal to think that this is where I am today.”
Kulikowsky originally wanted to be a sports broadcaster — he loves basketball and played lacrosse at Ithaca College — but he quickly realized there were more jobs available in news than sports, so he gave it a try.
“I really kind of fell in love with news and it gave me the opportunity to appreciate and enjoy sports as a fan,” Kulikowsky said.
He loves the Syracuse Orange, but he also roots for Minnesota sports teams.
“My grandfather grew up in Minneapolis, so I’m a long suffering fan” of the Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, he said.
Kulikowsky also jokes that his wife, a native of Paris, France, who he met when she attended Syracuse University, says that “There’s not a sport out there I don’t watch.”
Sports led him to one of his favorite memories as a broadcaster, visiting Washington, D.C., when the 2003 Syracuse men’s basketball team was invited to meet President George W. Bush after winning the NCAA championship.
“To be inside the White House is a pretty awe-inspiring experience,” Kulikowsky said.
He’s learned a lot over the years from Wood and other local television veterans like Carrie Lazarus, Dan Cummings and the late Bill Carey.
“You just kind of learn it from them and see how they do it, you know, by osmosis,” Kulikowsky said. “That was what was so incredible about coming to NewsChannel 9 and working with the same talented people and you soak it all in.”
“There are people behind the scenes that are much more experienced than me and that’s been incredibly beneficial.”
Kulikowsky admits there’s an “incredible flood of information” these days, but vows to continue much of the work he did as a reporter — including his “Made in Central New York” series, highlighting local businesses that reach far beyond the CNY community — as he anchors the news.
“It’s been daunting to keep up with, but rewarding to stay on top of it and deliver the news,” he said. “The only thing that’s changed for the past 8 months is that I haven’t been out in the field (because of the coronavirus pandemic)… I always felt that an anchor isn’t just someone sitting at an anchor desk. They have to be part of the news gathering and talk with people in the community and gather information.”
“NewsChannel 9 is fortunate to have someone as qualified as Jeff to officially begin his new role at the anchor desk,” VP and General Manager of WSYR-TV Syracuse Bill Evans said in a statement. “Jeff’s hard work, passion, enthusiasm, and commitment to delivering the stories that make an impact and a difference in this community makes him the obvious choice. I am excited for what the future will hold for Jeff and the entire NewsChannel 9 team.”
But at the end of the day, the newsman says he’s a family man first.
“I’m just like everyone else,” Kulikowsky said. “I have two great kids and an incredible wife… she loves this community, she absolutely adores Central New York (and) she’s really the backbone of what I’m able to do. That’s kind of what I am.”