50 Years Anchoring the News in Rochester

As an Anchor, if you can make it to 7 or 8 years at one station, you are considered a "longtime Anchor" at the station. 

How about 50 years, anchoring the news at one station. 

That's the stuff of Anchor legends and that's Don Alhart, who has been bringing the news to Rochester, NY viewers for 50 years on WHAM. 

Alhart says he thought about leaving Rochester once. It was in the late 1980s and the Penfield native had already been on television in his hometown for more than 20 years as a reporter and news anchor for Rochester’s ABC affiliate.

He interviewed at WJLA in Washington, DC and didn't get the job. 

Alhart thought he interviewed well, but two years later got his answer as to why the offer went to someone else. Jonathan Murray, another former colleague who'd go on to become a reality TV pioneer with shows like MTV’s The Real World and another about some women named Kardashian, had spoken to the folks in D.C.

“The tone of all your interviews was that you really didn’t want the job,” Murray told Alhart. “You wanted to see if you could get (an offer), but didn’t really want it. They sensed that.”

Alhart thinks he knows why: “My heart has always been here,” he told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

So he stayed in Western New York and 50 years later, here's still there in the anchor seat. 

When Alhart sits down and delivers the 6:00 news tonight, it will mark his 50th anniversary on the air, all at WHAM-TV (Channel 13, formerly WOKR-TV).

That's a feat in any industry, let alone the fickle world of TV. His first day at work was June 6, 1966, two days after he graduated from Ithaca College.

“There’s probably no one in Rochester who has been in the public eye as long as Don, no politician, no one in schools, a CEO or police chief,” says Peter Burrell, Alhart's boyhood pal whose career as a Hollywood TV and movie producer includes Ally McBeal and Boston Public.

“I’ve always felt if you’re going to be effective as a communicator, you have to know the community," Alhart says. "It helps you tell a story with real meaning.”

If anyone should be called, “Mr. Rochester,” it’s Donald Whitney Alhart, a civic treasure by anyone's measure.