Local news anchor Jeff Cole has known ever since he was a young man that he wanted to be the bearer of good things to come.
“When I worked at a country club as a kid, I watched a man get a hole in one,” he said. “Everyone told me not to say anything until we got back to the clubhouse. But I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I ran back to tell anyone who would listen. There is a certain excitement that happens when I can tell people something I feel is important to them.”
True to his desire, Mr. Cole went on to study communications at SUNY Plattsburgh and is now a seasoned news anchor at WWNY Channel 7 in Watertown. In this, his roots as a West Carthage native have served him. For the past 15 years he has grown as a journalist, moving from a field reporter to an anchor. Because he is a north country native, he harbors certain knowledge other reporters from outside the area don’t possess, and has forged long-time relationships in local communities.
“I know the people and the histories of the towns and can get answers for our viewers,” he said. “This may be a small television market compared to other cities, but I think people here deserve the same kind of professional journalism that we see in bigger markets. Being from this area allows me to deliver that.”
Mr. Cole is the ideal example of how success for young people is possible in even the smallest of cities, which is crucial to recognize as graduates begin to explore careers they believe are “bigger and better” outside the north country.
“We have to show an interest in our young people,” he said. “We have to listen to them and understand their eagerness to learn and to lead. We also have to have an enticing environment to give them reason to stay. If we have an economy with high taxes, that can be tough for someone just starting out. They will look elsewhere if this is the case.”
The news anchor’s greatest mentors are his grandfathers. Both have given him advice in terms of how to look at life and how to treat people, he said. One piece of advice Mr. Cole remembers is what his grandfather, Robert Place, shared many years ago while they were together at the family-owned sawmill in Carthage. Mr. Cole was learning how different products were made when the young boy asked his grandfather how he knew what he knew about creating products at the mill. His grandfather replied, “You can’t expect someone to do something for you if you can’t do it for yourself.”
It was life advice that would stick with him in more ways than one. The very place he stood with his grandfather all those years ago is now a place that offers shelter for several low-income families. Mr. Cole has long wanted to develop the land where the family mill once stood. He couldn’t expect someone else to fulfill his vision, so he decided to heed his grandfather’s advice and do it himself.
“Back in 2007 when I was president of Habitat for Humanity, I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great to use the property that used to be in my family to build homes,” he said. “Now it’s finally happening. We call it Braman’s Block. It’s a family name. To do something like this for Habitat for Humanity in my hometown is pretty phenomenal.”
Those that don’t know Mr. Cole might be surprised to learn
he loves to cook. He loves his private time, too, despite his high engagement at community events. If you’re brave enough to dive into icy waters, you may have seen the newsman behind the microphone at the Alexandria Bay Polar
Bear Dip. He also hosts other area events, he said, and enjoys every minute of it.
— Joleene Moody