WLAA Profile: CTN’s “hyperlocal media” show FYI celebrating its 1,000th episode

Dana Denha is putting together another episode of her popular FYI show on Ann Arbor’s award-winning cable station CTN. But this episode is special and marks a milestone for a program that has become as much a part of Ann Arbor as the Art Fair or Michigan football.

The next episode of FYI will be the 1,000th episode of the program that premiered in 1992 – 30 years ago, another milestone. In the early days, a small group of city employees would rotate hosting duties and discuss pertinent information about living and working in Ann Arbor. Over time, the show evolved with CTN taking over hosting duties.

The first official host was Gayle Friedman, who was instrumental in shaping the format viewers see on the show today. After Gayle, Steve McCullough acted as the only permanent male host of the show, followed by Lani Garcia as it gained in popularity each year.

In 2007, Denha took over hosting duties for FYI – but the times they were a changing. “The work was certainly different in 2007 than it was in 1992,” says Denha. “The job now required not only finding all the content for the show, but also shooting segments and editing most, if not all, of the content.”

Denha has produced more than 600 episodes for a program that almost all local organizations, nonprofits and most events in Washtenaw County have appeared on at some point.

“FYI is a staple in Ann Arbor and at CTN because the stories are concise and interesting, and the variety of topics and guests featured over the years has been endless,” says Melissa Bondy, assistant manager of Community Engagement & Education for CTN. “Everyone who is anyone in Ann Arbor and the surrounding communities has appeared on the show. It’s hyperlocal media at its finest!”

Denha isn’t surprised at all that the show has filmed 1,000 episodes or lasted 30 years. “I never had any doubt that FYI would hit 1,000 episodes, even if I weren’t here to share the stories with Ann Arbor, someone else would be,” she says. “It’s important to be true and authentic, as always share with the audience pertinent information related to the City of Ann Arbor, but also to have fun and share a laugh. I want the guests on my show and the people watching to feel like their talking to a friend, and it’s even become a family affair with my daughter making cameos and my husband serving as videographer.”

Denha, 39, grew up in Sterling Heights and graduated high school from Henry Ford II. She earned her Bachelor’s Degrees from Wayne State University in both Media Arts & Studies & Fine Art Photography.

“This degree (Fine Art Photography) has been extremely helpful for me as a videographer, teaching me a wealth of knowledge about creativity & shot composition,” she says.

Denha was a special projects intern at WDIV, going undercover to get the scoop on some of the big stories of the time. She moved to City of Dearborn Television (CDTV) where she produced and hosted their flagship series the Dearborn Journal. Less than a year later, in late 2007, she landed her job in Ann Arbor as the producer/host of FYI.

Denha is married and the couple has a 5-year-old daughter. “I actually met my husband at CTN,” she says. “We started as co-workers, something clicked romantically and we’ve been happily married since 2015.”

Her first episode of FYI was a memorable one.

“To say I was nervous for the first episode is an understatement,” she says. “I was interviewing the author of the 2008, Ann Arbor/Ypsi Reads book selection, The Eighth Promise: An American Son’s Tribute to his Toisanese Mother, William Poy Lee and the Ann Arbor District Libraries (AADL) own Tim Grimes. At the time CTN had been collaborating for many years with the AADL, creating multiple programs annually on the Ann Arbor/Ypsi Reads program.”

She says the interview was “OK,” but it created a lasting friendship between herself and Grimes and his family.

Denha’s highlight reel at CTN is full of memorable and special moments for FYI’s longest running host.

“I can truly say when someone asks me about what I do for a living that I love my job,” she says. “I get to meet new and interesting people on a regular basis, I’m always learning about topics from people that are really passionate about their work. Flying in a jet, attending a movie premiere (with the likes of Montel Williams), and hitting the greens can all be a part of my typical day at work.”

Denha will be the first one to tell you that FYI isn’t a solo performance but a team game at CTN.

“FYI would not be what it is today without the help of numerous people throughout the years, from full time staff members working as the crew to temps going above and beyond in the field to get that interview and shots that will make a story that much better,” she says. “Everyone truly cares about the quality of the show and creating a unique series for people throughout the county.”

FYI is a staple to CTN, and if you live and/or work in Ann Arbor, you should be tuning in on one of their many platforms, Comcast (XFINITY) channel 16, AT&T Channel 99, YouTube/ CTNannarbor, Video On demand at a2gov.org/watchctn, Roku, Apple TV.