CHARLESTON, South Carolina (WCBD) – Longtime News 2 Today anchor Brad Franko wrapped up a twenty-year career in television news Friday morning.
“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Franko said.
Over the past two decades, Franko has been recognized for his professionalism and investigative reporting and has received several awards from the South Carolina Broadcasters Association and the Charleston City Paper.
Upon learning of his retirement, WCBD News executive Tonya Estes said Franko was “irreplaceable” and will be greatly missed in the newsroom.
“He’s one of the best journalists I’ve ever worked with,” she shared. “People trust him and know he’s going to be successful, so that’s the kind of reputation he’s built in this community.”
A start in sports
Since 2004, Franko has woken up with the Lowcountry as the co-anchor of News 2 Today, but some might remember he got his start in sports broadcasting.
Franko joined the News 2 team in 2001 when he was 22 years old. As a student at Baldwin Wallace University, Franko had worked at the school radio station and for the ABC4 in Cleveland.
When he graduated, he said the sporting director looked at him and asked him what was next.
“I don’t know, I work here,” Franko told her. “And he said ‘No man you have to go’.”
Franko recalls opening journalismjobs.com and seeing an opening for a weekend sportscaster in Charleston, SC, so he decided to apply.
The sports director called him and asked for an appointment. That athletic director was Brendan Clark.
“I watched his tape and thought this guy had potential, let’s talk to him,” Clark said. “His voice is what made me take off. He has great tips.
So Franko flew out, but he almost didn’t make it to the interview.
“When I arrived, I almost turned around,” he recalled, adding that the bare building reminded him of an old Nintendo video game.
But he came in and, as Clark recalls, stretched the truth a bit during his interview.
“He lied to me,” Clark laughed. “I asked him if he knew how to shoot and stuff and he said ‘oh yeah’ and he totally lied to me.”
But nonetheless, Franko was hired and started as a weekend sportscaster on August 3, 2001. Clark wasted no time in throwing Franko into the thick of things.
“He left me as soon as I got here,” laughed Franko. “He dropped the keys and went on vacation.”
Clark admits it’s true.
“He kind of hated me because he came in and I said ‘train fast. You lied to me, you better practice because I’m taking a vacation,” he joked.
Kidding aside, the two remember their early days working together fondly.
“It made my job easier because walking into that office was so much fun,” Clark said. “I almost didn’t want him to tell stories sometimes so we could sit and talk all day and just laugh.”
“I was learning on the fly, really, I was learning to do this, but I had great people supporting me and making sure I was doing the right thing,” Franko said.
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Franko never planned to leave the world of sports reporting.
“If you had told me I was going to be a news anchor when I came here, I would have laughed at you,” he said. “I expected to be here for a few years and move on to ESPN, but the Lowcountry is hanging on to you, and it’s hard to go.”
But then an opening presented itself in the news department – a morning anchor. At the time, the morning show had only one presenter.
So how did Franko become the presenter of News 2 Today? According to Franko, he was just having a casual chat with the news director at the time and said “hey, why don’t I come host your morning show”.
“Just that comment and that laugh that we had turned into ‘are you serious,'” Franko recalled and with that he became the sole presenter in June 2004.
Looking back on the transition, Franko said he was grateful for his time as a sports journalist because he learned how to tell stories and now he would just tell stories of a different kind.
“That part wasn’t difficult,” he laughed. “Waking up at 2:30 a.m. is hard.”
And since then, Franko said it was an honor to wake up with the Lowcountry.
“They let you into their house at their most personal time of day,” he said. “Viewers rely on you to be there and that’s an obligation I don’t take lightly.”
The greatest moments
When asked, Franko can easily tell you which stories over the years he’s preferred to cover.
“Whenever I can throw a format out the window, sign me up!” he said.
Franko said he loves covering storms because although storms and the damage they can cause “sucks”, he felt in his element.
“It brings me back to this play-by-play sport where you’re in watch and describe mode,” he explained. “It’s adrenaline, it’s the rush.”
But no experience stands out more than flying with the Blue Angels in 2005.
“That’s probably the culmination of it all,” he said.
The Blue Angels were in town for an air show and the then news director asked Franko, “Do you want to fly with the Blue Angels?”
“What kind of question is this? Sure,” Franko replied.
Franko said he wouldn’t even ride a roller coaster, but “if someone gives you a fighter jet and a tank of gas, you take it.”
“I might have vomited two or three times but I kept telling the pilot to keep going…I don’t care what I say but don’t look back, keep going,” he laughed.
The hardest stories to tell
But just as easily as Franko can tell which stories he liked to cover, he can tell you which were the most difficult.
The Charleston Sofa Super Store fire is one of those times. On the evening of June 18, 2007, Franko was awakened by a call from a friend who was a firefighter who said, “Franko, nine guys are missing.
“I’m like what you talking about,” Franko recalled. “Guys missing? What do you mean by missing guys? »
The fire, which reportedly started at the loading dock, would claim the lives of nine Charleston firefighters and will be remembered as the deadliest disaster for firefighters since 9/11.
To this day, Franko chokes on talking about it.
He said he arrived at the scene around 10 a.m. the following day when they were just beginning to confirm deaths on duty. He stood in front of the still-smoldering building on Savannah Hwy with the fire chief and firefighters from across the county and watched them climb out of flag-draped stretchers.
At the time, the death toll was still unknown.
“No one had confirmed a number and I sat there and counted ‘two, seven, eight, nine ago,'” he recalled.
Franko had a special bond with these firefighters. His father is one, his brother is one, and his uncle too. He never forgot the kindness they showed him when he first moved to Charleston.
Chief Meteorologist Rob Fowler recalls the impact of Franko’s covering the fire.
“He was amazing,” Fowler said. “He was able to present this story, which was such a crazy story, in such a respectful way that I will never forget.”
Even today, Franko said, “the feeling here for weeks, months was something you never really forget.”
Fast forward eight years and another tragedy would strike on June 17, 2015. This time a gunman opened fire on the Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston. Again, nine lives were lost.
Franko remembers a producer calling him in the middle of the night and saying “there’s a shooting at the church. Senator Pinckney is dead.
Franko couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He said to himself “Still new?”
He still remembers exactly what it was like to stand on the corner of Calhoun and Meeting St. that day.
“It was so hot that day,” he recalls. “You are standing not far from this church and you are trying to understand what just happened there.”
The shooter, Dylann Roof, was arrested the following morning.
“It was awful reporting all morning and then just that feeling of relief when you get that notice that says ‘they got it,'” Franko said.
It’s still hard for Franko to talk about those moments to this day.
“Those two events were by far, obviously, the most difficult things I’ve had to report on.”
Friendships along the way
Franko noted that he wouldn’t have had a successful career without the friends, colleagues and mentors along the way.
“Great people who helped me learn to do this,” he said.
For more than a decade, Octavia Mitchell has been by Franko’s side in the anchor office and jokes that he’s her “work husband.”
“It won’t be an easy transition,” she said. “I will miss, I will miss his judgment on the news, his professionalism, and this man’s sense of humor,” adding that he is a “top notch impersonator.”
Meteorologist Josh Marthers is another such person who has worked alongside Franko for many years and admits it will be hard not to see Franko in the newsroom.
“Every major life moment that he and I had, we had together,” he said. “It’s going to be weird not seeing him here. It’s the journalist.
Carolyn Murray said seeing Franko go is a great loss, but the spirit of his judgment and commitment to accuracy will be alive and well.
“He really pushes us to do our best, so we will miss that very much,” she said. “Brad thrived in the news, we got to see his personality, he raised the bar on the anchor desk, and it was a lot of fun.”
Franko said he was grateful for everyone he met along the way.
“I’ve made some amazing friendships here that will last a lifetime.”
As for what’s next for Brad Franko…
“I’m done with the news,” he said. “I’m going to be a dad, a coach and figure it all out after this.”
Franko is the proud father of four boys: Lochlann, Declan, Callan and Ronan, and said he looks forward to spending more time with them and his wife, Carrie.
“It’s not because I don’t want to do this anymore, it’s because family matters are more important,” he explained.
He is thrilled to have a normal sleep schedule and coach his sons’ sports teams.
“My dad coached all the teams, so I have to do it,” he laughed. “It’s my obligation.”
Reflecting on his career, Franko looks back on his time on News 2 with nothing but affection and gratitude for the viewers who tuned in to him every morning.
“It’s about half my life in this building. I want the people of the Lowcountry to know that I was trying to watch over them. For me, it’s about the story and the person, and it didn’t matter what I wanted to do for the person whose story I was trying to tell. As long as they trust me, I hope I was up to it. Thank you for welcoming me as part of this community.