By Jane Fusco
The alarm no longer rings at 2:30 in the morning.
For over 40 years, the clock’s pulsing sound at that early morning hour heralded the start of another workday for Frank Coletta, the long-time NBC-10 Sunrise news anchor. Coletta, a multiple award winning broadcast journalist, retired on July 26 after nearly 41 years at Channel 10, an unprecedented run in the history of local broadcast news.
“I could not have lasted 41 years here without the constant loyalty, encouragement, and support of all of you in the TV audience, and more recently, on social media,” Coletta said in a media release announcing his retirement.
Coletta ventured into the media business while still a student at Emerson College, working as a disc jockey on several local radio stations simultaneously, on different shifts. He dabbled a bit in print journalism at what is now Metro West Daily News in Framingham, Mass. before returning to R.I. and landing at Channel 10. Taking his seat in the anchor chair was an auspicious accident.
Coletta said, “I was the assignment editor and had sent all the reporters out to cover stories. There was no one to anchor the noon news.” So he did it.
When a snowstorm delayed sportscaster Chris Clarke from arriving at the station in time for the 6 p.m. newscast, Coletta filled in. Coletta launched the Sunrise show when it first aired in 1985 and remained its lead host until his last day on air. But he was not management’s first choice to anchor Sunrise.
The station’s general manager offered the anchor spot to two female reporters who refused due to the early hour. As the new show’s air date approached and there were no takers for the anchor chair, the general manager asked Coletta to take the seat, since he had been fronting and producing the local updates during the TODAY show. His quick wit, conversational tone, and relaxed nature made him an instant hit with the audience.
Each day, Coletta would welcome his viewers with a coffee cup salute, which eventually became a regular segment to promote local businesses. His thorough coverage of industry and enterprise led to his daily Business Reports and established Coletta as a leading business analyst.
On the lighter side of the news, he would often interject some well-known Italian phrases, like “that’s a lot of escarole (money)” and “what a chooch” (dimwit) into stories. Then there was his signature closing, “Watch out for the pipones (crazy people)” at the end of the newscast.
A vocal opponent of technology, especially when it wasn’t working properly, Coletta would be known to quip, “Those dastardly computers.” From 2006-2009, Coletta co-instructed a communications course at RIC that brought a real world perspective of news into the classroom.
Kayla Prescott Ferenc was a student in the first class in 2006. “Having Frank Coletta as my professor was one of the highlights of my years studying telecommunications at RIC. One that I still talk about today,” she said. “From our first day in class, it was obvious that he truly cared about each one of us and wanted to share the raw, unedited version of what it was like in the world of broadcast journalism.”
Nick Lima enrolled in the course twice when it was offered under two different majors. “I grew up watching Sunrise with Frank before school. Years later, to have Frank co-teaching my college courses and grading my papers was a very cool moment for me,” Lima said. “And of course, he taught the class the way he presented Sunrise: well-organized, thoughtful, funny, entertaining, and most of all, captivating.”
Rob Masse, who also twice enrolled in the class, said that Coletta started his morning on the news and ended the school day as his professor.
The announcement of his retirement brought sentiments and well wishes from many of the state’s public officials and community leaders, a bishop, and other media professionals. Viewers responded to Coletta’s retirement with mixed emotions via email and social media posts. Among all the congratulations and accolades were expressions of sadness at his departure.
“I feel like I lost a friend that I had coffee with every morning,” said Jacqueline Boucher of Coventry.
Jeff Rossi, who moved to Johnston from California in 2005, said Coletta was the first person he saw on television in Rhode Island. “I was amazed at how he related to the audience as if he knew them personally,” he said. “I am sorry that I won’t be able to watch him in the morning anymore.”
“His decades of institutional knowledge made him a tremendous resource for journalists young and old. The best way we can honor his career is by continuing to tell the stories that matter most to Southern New Englanders,” said Channel 10 News Director Scott Isaacs in a media release announcing Coletta’s retirement.
Former student Masse summed up what so many Facebook messages relayed. “Thank you, Frank, for 34 years of Sunrise and 41 years of journalistic excellence,”
On July 31, Channel 10 announced that weekend Sunrise anchor Mario Hilario, would move into Coletta’s anchor chair.
These days, Coletta can be found digging clams and fishing along Narragansett Bay. And sleeping late.