Hired for ability, not disability | News, Sports, Jobs

Michael Reiner at his desk in the newsroom of Youngstown Channel 27 WKBN. His day begins at 4 am, writing and editing news copy, and posting to the station’s website and social media. (Submitted photo)

YOUNGSTOWN — Wellsville resident Michael Reiner, 25, works as a digital web producer for Youngstown’s Channel 27 WKBN.

Among news stories he posted Thursday on the WKBN website was: “Columbiana County Board of Developmental Disabilities recognizes WKBN.”

The story is about the station being recognized for hiring a person with a disability. That person is Michael Reiner. His disability is cerebral palsy. He walks with forearm crutches.

Reiner loves sports and early developed a sports writer’s skills. I have competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 8th grade. In high school I have freelanced high school sports for The Morning Journal. Later, as a journalism major at Kent State University, he worked in sports for the student television station, TV2 KSU.

CCBDD Superintendent Bill Devon told WKBN that it’s good business to hire those with disabilities. “They are very successful, dedicated and loyal. . . You get an employee who shows up every day, that’s a very good employee.” Reiner worked as an intern doing digital media for the CCBDD Reach 4 More program.

It was Justin Shilot, digital media manager for WKBN, who first spotted his talent and drive when Reiner was only a freshman at KSU.

“I grew up in Wellsville and I follow its basketball team. Michael was writing recaps of the Wellsville games on Facebook for fun and it caught my attention. It was more than you’d expect: stats, quotes from coaches and players, photos. He took that initiative. I found out he was a friend of a cousin of mine and I reached out to him,” said Shilot.

Shilot spoke about Reiner to WKBN Director of Digital/Production John Amann. “I told him Michael was doing all this work just for the love of it.” Reiner was invited to intern at the station in 2017.

In the summer of 2019, before his senior year as a journalism major at KSU, Reiner served another internship at WKBN, this time in web production.

Shilot and he worked closely during that stint. “We were a two-man team, tracking down all the scores for all the football games throughout Friday nights in four counties, posting and reviewing them over and over.”

A month after graduating in May 2020, he snagged his first real job, director of social media and marketing at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort.

After a year there, he began working for WKBN in September 2021.

“We got a peek at him as an intern,” said Vice President and General Manager David Coy. “He’s a hard worker and loves this crazy business.”

Reiner’s work day at the station begins at 4 am and ends after the noon news. He writes and edits news copy, posts news stories and images to both the WKBN and Channel 33 WYTV websites, continually updating the websites with breaking news, and posting on Facebook and Twitter. Technology allows him to watch in real time which stories are being clicked on and by how many people in the web audience.

“It’s a fast-paced environment and I love it. It’s ever-changing. I love the people I work with and I love telling the stories of the people in the valley,” he said.

Michael lives in Wellsville with his parents, Bill and Paula Reiner, and twin brother Mitchell, who works in sales in Pittsburgh.

“He has always been positive,” said his father. “He never says no to any challenge. He will try anything. Even physical tasks that some others might be timid about trying. If I say, ‘Want to go off-roading?’ he says, ‘I’m ready, let’s go.’”

Chelsea Simeon, digital executive producer, is his immediate supervisor at WKBN. “There’s nothing not to like about Michael. He’s the hardest-working employee here. I have to chase him out of here some days. Everybody loves him and he gets along with everyone,” she said.

About his disability, she said, “It’s kind of crazy: that never comes up. He doesn’t let that define him or slow him down.”

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