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“I’m very careful about what I say on Facebook and Twitter,” Pohl said. With sarcastic glee he added, “On Facebook I refer to myself as, ‘Just another enemy of the people here to do my job at 5 in the morning.’” Pohl, 61, is the general assignment news reporter for Michigan State University's campus radio station. “Whatever they assign me to do that day is what I do,” Pohl said.
He joined the WKAR staff in 1984.
For 15 years he was the host of WKAR’s “Morning Edition” and continues as a substitute host.
Besides a weekly, Thursday interview feature, Pohl covers the MSU Board of Trustees and president’s office, local press conferences and interviews with Michigan politicians. “More local than state level,” he said.
Pohl was in Judge Rosemarie Aquilina’s courtroom the first day Nassar survivors began testifying. “It’s a tough story; it’s an emotional story. It’s hard not to have your own emotions get caught up in a story like that,” he said. “I think anyone who was in that courtroom with Larry Nassar would tell you those were really powerful, emotional days.”
“Since I cover the university, I’m a little reluctant to talk about my feelings,” Pohl said. “But I will say, these are interesting times to be a reporter on this campus. I would say I’m pretty proud of the station’s coverage of the Nassar case and ongoing developments.”
Pohl said the MSU trustees and president were more accessible in the past to one-on-one meetings with reporters. “They changed the layout since the interim Engler Administration began,” he said.
“They’re more isolated and aren't making themselves available.”
That means usable sound bites are more likely to come from protesters. “They’re very accessible,” Pohl said. “I share things because I am a reporter — not because I’m for this, or against that,” he said. “I’m just trying to inform folks.”
His reporting duties about Lansing’s mayor have been easier since Virg Benero left the office. “Andy Schor seems very open and available and generous with his time,” Pohl said.
Pohl’s first radio job was at a small station in Albion that would broadcast Tiger baseball games on both AM and FM frequencies. His task was to turn off the FM signal when the games ended. “I listened to a lot of Tigers’ baseball,” Pohl said.
WALM-AM hired Pohl while he was carrying groceries for a store that also employed the wife of one of its DJs. Through her, Pohl got to know the guy. “I told him I was interested and he invited me out,” Pohl said. “I was off and running.”
Pohl grew up on a potato and onion farm between Albion and Concord. He went to a one-room school. “I like the quiet,” he said. “I love big cities but I wouldn’t want to live in one.”
He attended Jackson Community College from ’77 to ’79, then came to MSU to earn a B.A. in telecommunications with a theater minor. While at the university, Pohl worked part time at WFMK Radio as a weekend jock and at WKAR’s TV station as a floor director for “Off the Record.”
At WKAR, Pohl has interviewed a few idols. One was Ernie Harwell, the long time Tigers’ game announcer — the same fellow Pohl went to bed as a kid listening to on a transistor radio under his pillow.
“Everything you’ve heard about Ernie Harwell is true,” Pohl said. “He welcomed me into his home. The sweetest man you’ll ever meet.”
Meeting Dan Rather was another treat.
“He is someone I have great admiration for,” said Pohl. Rather was the 1996 spring commencement speaker for MSU. Pohl did a phone interview and got to meet him at the ceremony. Pohl and radio colleague, Jody Knol, traditionally read the graduate’s names as they receive diplomas.
“Of all the commencement speakers we’ve seen,” Pohl said, “He’s the only one who got up from his chair and shook the hands of every graduate. A real gentleman.”
Another idol was author John Irving. “‘A Prayer for Owen Meany’ is my favorite book,” Pohl said. During a phone interview before Irving’s 2009 Wharton Center speaking engagement, Pohl mentioned he had read the novel for WKAR’s Radio Reading Service. Irving wondered how Pohl did the main character’s unique voice. Pohl mailed Irving a sample tape.
He met Irving at a reception after his lecture. “I was told specifically, he doesn’t like to sign autographs,” Pohl said. “So I did not bring my dog-eared copy.” Instead, Irving agreed to sign the beloved book if it was mailed to him. “That was my biggest fan boy story,” Pohl admitted.
Last season he played Father Dewis in Riverwalk Theatre’s adaptation of “Buried Child.”
“It was the first time I ever performed in anything,” Pohl said. “It was great fun.” This season he will produce Riverwalk’s “Freud’s Last Session.”
Pohl hasn't set any retirement plans, but he has given it some thought.
“Besides not having to get up sometimes at 3:30 a.m., retirement would also mean the opportunity to be more myself in public and say what I think about things," Pohl said. “Letting the cork out of the wine bottle.”