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Clyde Gray, Courtis Fuller, John Lomax To Discuss Local TV Landscape

John Kiesewetter

  Three of the most prominent African-American TV anchors – John Lomax, Courtis Fuller and John Lomax – will kick off the downtown Public Library’s “Finding a Voice and Shaping an Identity: African Americans and the Media” series for Black History Month at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Lomax, hired by WKRC-TV (Channel 12) in 1983, has been part of the “Good Morning Cincinnati” newscast since it premiered in 1990.

Fuller, WLWT-TV (Channel 5) weekend anchor, came to Channel 5 in the late 1980s. He took a break from TV to run for Cincinnati mayor after the 2001 riots – losing to former Channel 5 anchor Charlie Luken. He returned to Channel 5 in 2003.

Gray was a TV newsman here 33 years – 23 years as anchor – when he retired from WCPO-TV (Channel 9) in 2014 to devote full time to his public relations and marketing firm.

The announcement for the library’s “African Americans in the Television Anchor’s Seat” forum says they will “share how they got started in broadcasting, their challenges and the changes they’ve observed in the industry.”

They also might talk about the lack of changes: Since Gray’s retirement 18 months ago, the only minority face on the late news is Channel 5 meteorologist Kevin Robinson.

“I got a call recently late at night from a very good friend,” Fuller tells me. “He pointed out that there are no anchors who are African-American in Cincinnati doing the news Monday thru Friday in the evening and he wanted to know why. Of course, I told him Kevin Robinson is chief meteorologist at Channel 5 and he does an excellent job. He is a polished professional. He agreed one hundred percent.

“But my friend continued and noted that he was specifically talking about news anchors. I paused for a moment and was unable to give him a legitimate answer to his question. I told him have a good night and a better day tomorrow,” Fuller says with a smile.

Back in the late 1980s, I remember writing a story about the city having NO African-American anchors. Today, the picture is much different – in the morning and on weekends – with Mark Hayes, Fuller (Channel 5); Timyka Artist, Sherry Hughes (Channel 9); Rob Williams, Jessica Brown, Frankie Jupiter (Channel 19) and Lomax (Channel 12).

“Off the top of my head, I'd agree the on-air people do seem more diverse. It would be interesting though to see what it's like behind the scenes?” says Lomax, referring to the producers and decision-makers who shape the content and coverage.

On the current television environment and race, Fuller says “I am reminded of a quote ‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.’ I just continue on the path paved by many others, like my dear friend the late Ernie Waits. The media image mirrors a much larger societal weakness.  Sadly the diversity discussion is not a yesterday thought. It remains very much a present one. As a nation we should be embarrassed that we are still struggling with such issues in the year 2016.”

Fuller and Lomax came here, not figuring to spend the majority of their lives here.

“I never intended to be here this long, but the old adage is true, that life happens while you're making plans,” Lomax says.

“The folks in this great city have been very supportive of me during my career,” Fuller says, “and I've tried to reciprocate by giving back…. I will talk about my journalism scholarship that I established a few years ago.”

The African-Americans and the Media seriescontinues at the main Public Library, 800 Vine St., with:

Saturday, Feb. 20, 11 a.m.: Genealogy and Newspapers: Television content coordinator and accomplished genealogist Thomas Jordan presents a workshop on genealogy research techniques using newspapers. Co-sponsored by the Hamilton County Genealogical Society.

Saturday, Feb. 20, 2 p.m.: Cincinnati Black Press and Its Editors: As The Cincinnati Herald celebrates its 60th anniversary, its publisher emerita Marjorie Parham, current publisher Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney and historian and author Najiyyah Duncan share the rich history of Black newspapers and lead a lively discussion on the future of the Black press.

Saturday, Feb. 27, 2 p.m.: WCIN Radio–A Cincinnati Icon: Hitting the airwaves in October 1953, WCIN-AM, the oldest Black radio station east of the Mississippi River, opened the door for other Black formatted stations to exist in the area. WCIN on-air personality Everett Cork and local historian, author and former WCIN reporter Gina Ruffin Moore will examine the station’s important role in the community.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.