Departing radio host Steve Wright reflects on time at WATZ
ALPENA — A voice many Northeast Michiganders have invited into their homes for decades has disappeared from radio waves as of Tuesday.
Local radio host Steve Wright learned this week that he would no longer serve as morning host for Alpena radio station WATZ, a role he filled for 32 years.
WATZ released Wright and his wife, Sheryl Wright, who worked as office manager, from employment, the station’s parent company confirmed on Wednesday. Other station staff are covering Wright’s role as the company decides how to replace him, according to Chris Warren, vice president of Midwestern Broadcasting.
WATZ decided to take the station in a new direction, and he and his wife didn’t fit in with that plan, Wright said, adding that he respects that decision and wishes the station well.
In 32 years as morning host, Wright has stepped intimately into many lives, keeping listeners company over their morning coffee or along for the ride on commutes to work.
“I know, literally, thousands of people by name, but I’ve never met them before.” Wright said.
He knows birthdays and anniversaries of strangers. He announced the good news when children were born, then, years later, shared tidings of those children’s marriages and children of their own.
Long-time listeners tell him he has become part of their lives, but, “they need to know they are a part of my life, as well,” Wright said.
Wright picked up a job at WATZ while a journalism student and school newspaper editor at Alpena Community College in the 1980s. He later started working the morning show as a temporary replacement for a departed host.
The station never found anybody to fill the slot, and, “I’ve been a fill-in for 32 years,” Wright said on Wednesday.
His was not the best radio voice in the world, Wright said. He didn’t work from a script but spoke from the heart, trying to offer listeners an alternative to negativity “to show people there is good in the world,” he said.
His work behind the microphone, and as operations manager and program director for the station, evolved into a caretaker role as he hunted down stories of people in the community who needed help and shared them on the air.
The community always stepped up, he said, lauding Alpena-area residents for their dedication to taking care of one another.
With his microphone, he rallied support for the hurting and brought the resources of the community together to meet needs — a role he intends to continue, wherever his path takes him next.
Fresh from learning of the end of his morning show career, Wright on Wednesday had “not a clue” what will come next for him. But, he will still show up at fundraisers, still help with Boy Scouts of America activities, still serve on local service organization boards.
In 2014, the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce named Wright its Outstanding Citizen of the Year. Wright and his wife — who he called his partner in every effort to help the community — served as chairpersons for the 2020-2021 United Way of Northeast Michigan campaign.
Most people can’t write a big check to support their community, “but everyone has time,” 10-minute chunks here and there that they can use to help others, Wright said.
“I wanna help you,” Wright said in his easy-going radio announcer voice. “It’s been an absolute pleasure to be able to do that. And, hopefully, to make a difference in somebody’s life somewhere along the way.”