WARREN - Just as Roger Ailes has left an indelible mark on television broadcasting, so Warren made a lasting impression on Ailes, say three Warren residents who know the man who founded Fox News Channel 15 years ago.
"He and I had a number of conversations about his time in Warren. I know he felt growing up in Warren shaped him in a way most towns don't shape people," said Dennis Blank, a 1967 graduate of Warren G. Harding High School who became acquainted with Ailes while both were working in New York.
As the most powerful man in the universe, or one of them anyway, Warren native Roger Ailes can look back on the first 15 years of his crowning achievement, Fox News Channel, with satisfaction. And he does.
In this Sept. 2011 photo released by 2MK Studio/Fox News, Fox News chairman-CEO Roger Ailes speaks at a 15-year anniversary party held for employees at Chelsea Piers in New York. (AP Photo)
It was way back in February 1996 that, at the behest of News Corp. chieftain Rupert Murdoch, Ailes began creating from scratch an all-news network to challenge the venerable CNN as well as upstart MSNBC, which was set to launch that July.
Blank recalled the time around 1987 when he, as the marketing director for Fortune magazine in New York, was trying to get Ailes, a 1958 Harding graduate, to speak at a corporate communications conference.
He left several messages but didn't a return call. Knowing that Ailes was from Warren, Blank called Dan Sferra, who was Blank's classmate in high school, to see if he knew someone who could help.
Sferra recommended Stephen Papalas, who went to school with Ailes and was Warren's safety service director when Sferra was mayor.
Blank said Papalas told him to leave another message, and to add that if Ailes didn't call back that Papalas would kick his behind, although the words were more colorful.
"Ailes called me in five minutes," Blank said. "He spoke at the conference, and he was terrific. He and I became friends."
Blank, who retired from Time Inc. and runs the Warren Expressed blog and website, said he had serious doubts about Fox News when Ailes started it.
"I never said this, but I thought he was crazy," he said, noting he didn't think the world needed another 24-hour cable news network after CNN and MSNBC.
Blank said Ailes' ability to stay in touch with everyday people, such as those in Warren, made the difference.
"He's not swayed by all the smarty-pants media types around him. He understands the soul of the country in a way most media executives don't," he said.
John Taylor recalled Ailes' guest speaker appearance in November 2008 at the dedication of the Trumbull County Veterans Memorial near Courthouse Square in the city's downtown.
"The coolest thing," Taylor said, "was when he said, 'See that fountain (in the square); my grandmother used to bring me down, and I used to feed the squirrels. See the YMCA there; I used to come every Saturday and swim. See that spire (of the First Presbyterian Church); that's my church.' He has a rich history with Warren, and he loved it here."
Taylor said Ailes got to take one of his fond memories of Warren back to New York with him after his speech.
"The first and last thing he did was to go to the Hot Dog Shoppe," Taylor said of one of the city's landmark eateries. "When he flew home, he got a supply to take back to Manhattan."
Ned Gold of Howland also remembers Ailes' visit three years ago to Warren.
''He is very proud of his Warren, Ohio, heritage, and many of his views and beliefs were molded from his life growing up here,'' Gold said. The irony may be that Ailes is conservative but grew up in northeast Ohio, which tends to be more liberal than other parts of the state.
Gold remembers Ailes visiting the Robins Theater, where he used to go as a teen and also the home he grew up in on Belmont Street.
''He was a 1958 graduate of Harding High School, and back then, everyone went to the Hot Dog Shoppe. That was one place he enjoys stopping at,'' Gold said.
Gold said many people enjoy seeing Ailes when he came back noting he did so much to help others.
''He is a very generous person who has done so much for the community but wanted to be anonymous for much of what he did,'' Gold said.