A Legacy of Storytelling

Masha Bonhart with former Major League Baseball player Dave Parker

Marsha Bonhart shifts from broadcast to books

By Val Hunt Beerbower

For decades, Daytonians have spent an hour or so of their time each day with a familiar face: Marsha Bonhart, retired from her distinguished career in journalism in 2014 after about 35 years in the field. Today, she is enjoying a well-deserved retirement after departing as the development director for the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. Bonhart has a few words of advice to share with her colleagues in the business community.

“Achieving your life’s goal may not be easy, but if it’s what you really want, you develop tenacity, make the sacrifices and make it happen,” says Bonhart, whose career trajectory certainly helped her hone those skills.

The Toledo native got her start in broadcast journalism at WKEF in Dayton from 1980-1983, where she became an anchor for the 11 o’clock news. Then she left to become a health reporter and weekend anchor at KTTV in Los Angeles, where she remained until her return to the Gem City in 1987.

The news team at WKEF

“When I returned to the area, I worked at WDTN for nearly 27 years, which is the longest I have worked at any single job,” she says. “Since WDTN, I have been a director of development for a dance company, a media/PR director for a large school district, and, finally, a retiree.”

Bonhart says her relationships with educators throughout her life influenced her decision to become a journalist, and ultimately are what got her in front of a camera rather than behind a byline.

“I worked on the newspaper and yearbook staffs in high school,” she says. “I was really interested only in print journalism. I wanted to eventually write for Life Magazine, to cover wars/skirmishes in foreign countries, but my high school journalism adviser, Raymond Ortyl, had a strong influence on me and insisted that I look at the broadcasting industry. He taught me how to really file a story and he steered me to attend his alma mater, Ohio University, which still has one of the best journalism schools in the nation. I thought I should listen. Now, more than 50 years later, I still connect with him occasionally. The power of a teacher!”

Having worked in different media markets taught Bonhart the value of finding a community you can make your own, and she says Dayton offers this lifestyle without compromising career prospects.

“I have worked with some terrific journalists, print and broadcast, in Dayton—some really tough reporters—and the Dayton market has always been a great place to hone your craft,” she says. “There are great stories that have come from the Gem City area. I pay close attention to what happens here. I have always treated this area as my home—because it is.”

Masha Bonhart with Phil Donahue

In this next phase of her life, the ambitious Bonhart has taken up a familiar mantle: editing books and dissertations as well as managing press and public relations for Wilberforce University. Her advice to colleagues and neighbors heading toward the end of their careers is to keep moving ahead.

“You have to look at what you like to do, take that skill and turn it into a retirement ‘career,’” she says. “I am doing what I enjoy most—connecting people, showcasing what they have to offer and using words to do that.”