Oh, those guidance counselors, always looking out for the student’s best interest.
Elaine Effort, the 38-year veteran of KQV-AM 1410 radio, the award-winning journalist and reporter, the Pittsburgh media stalwart…
And it never would have happened, because as a senior at the University of Michigan, the Detroit native was preparing to go to law school. That’s right, Attorney Elaine Effort.
“Why are you going to law school?” asked Effort’s counselor at the time. The counselor had heard Effort on the radio while Effort was a student at Michigan, but Effort was intent on studying for the LSAT (Law School Admission Test).
“Well, you sound really good on the radio,” the counselor said. “You do such a nice job, why don’t you go to school for that?”
Effort responded: “Well, that’s what I do for fun. For work, I’m going to go to law school and become an attorney. There’s play and fun and hobby, and then there’s work.”
The counselor rebutted. “Well, most people try to find what they love, find their passion, and then do that. Let’s make the passion, the fun, the work.”
And for the last four decades, Effort’s fun has been her work.
The longtime reporter is retiring, as KQV officially signed off the airwaves Dec. 31, 2017. The station flipped to an all-news format in 1975; thus, for over 40 years delivered a constant coverage of news affecting Pittsburghers, to Pittsburghers.
The station’s general manager, Robert Dickey Jr., made the announcement three weeks ago, stating it was no longer financially feasible to operate the station. Unlike today’s music-intensive stations where music is the star and air talent can be voice-tracked from another city, all-news formats are expensive to run; local reporters, anchors, producers and editors add up financially.
Effort has covered it all in her 38 years as a reporter at KQV; fires, murders, robberies, assaults, celebrations, feel-good stories, annual Pittsburgh staple events, and more. And in the hundreds of interviews that she’s conducted, Effort told the New Pittsburgh Courier in an exclusive interview, Dec. 28, that one person particularly stood out.
A plane ready to leave Detroit and come to Pittsburgh never made it off the runway before it was clipped by another plane. Part of the plane bound for Pittsburgh burst into flames, killing one passenger, Effort recalled. “I was sent out to the Pittsburgh International Airport to wait there for the passengers who were not injured,” Effort said. “As people were getting off the (new) plane, there was a woman who said, ‘you should talk to the man who helped rescue people off the plane.’ Unlike the other people, he was calm, and cool, and he described how they felt the (initial) jolt.”
But that’s not the entire story. Veteran reporters like Effort knew there was more, and pushed for more. The man then described to Effort that after what seemed like an orderly evacuation off the plane, he saw a “fireball.”
And, “he said he turned around and walked back towards the fire to help people get off the plane. Someone had broken their leg, he said, and he went back into the plane several times and helped people out.”
Effort asked the man why he went back into harm’s way. “I felt the presence of God,” he told her. “I knew God was with me, so I went back into the plane and helped as many people as I could.”
Effort said she remembered that event and interview so vividly because, “he was honest in sharing his story. A lot of people don’t want to express their faith.”
During her time at KQV, Effort was the host of “Pittsburgh Profiles,” a weekend show that featured interviews with prominent local figures. Her final show featured noted scholar, author and Calvary Episcopal Church pastor emeritus Rev. Dr. Harold Lewis, and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. She caught up with the mayor at the City-County Building, Dec. 28, just in time for the final show.
The City-County Building was also the place where Effort became the story, something journalists never want to do. But in this instance, it was all positive news, as City Council honored Effort with a proclamation, naming Dec. 28, 2017 Elaine Effort Day in the City of Pittsburgh.
“The work has been its own reward,” Effort told the Courier. “I have loved it, I have no regrets, I have no complaints.”
KQV was the perfect place for Effort, as she described herself as a “news person who loves radio.” Of course, with KQV being an all-news format, “it doesn’t get any better than that,” she said.
Effort also lauded Dickey and her editors, who backed her when difficult, controversial stories had to be reported. “I stand by my story,” Effort always would say to her editors. “Are there other versions? I’m not surprised. But this is my version, and I stand by it.”
Effort said Dickey would often tell her, “You stand by the story, I’m standing by you.”
So, what’s next for Effort? She told the Courier even more time with her family—her husband, Edmund, and children, April and Edmundson. But professionally? Only time will tell.
“I have been threatening to retire for more than a year now, and it looks like this is it,” Effort said. “I’m going to retire, but I’m not going to stop growing and learning and working. Maybe there’s something else I will do, I’m not sure. I’m leaving my options open.”
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