Ron Fischer Shot A Half Century Of News, History At WCPO-TV
You might not know Ron Fischer's name, but you've seen his work.
In nearly 51 years at WCPO-TV, he has photographed presidents (dating back to Lyndon Johnson), parades, press conferences, plane crashes, court proceedings, World Series, natural disasters, arrests, murders, meetings and all kinds of events for Channel 9.
He shot pictures of fires and wrecks for Al Schottlekotte's top-rated newscasts in 1967 from Channel 9's"NewsBird" helicopter, the city's first TV helicopter.
"It was a little two-seat 'bubble' helicopter. You had to take the door off to shoot. There were no cameras mounted like (on Chopper 9) today. It was a wild time. You could look right down into the fire, and feel the heat," says Fischer, 70, who retires Friday, Dec. 23.
The 1964 Purcell High School grad from Pleasant Ridge was hired in March 1966, at age 19, to process color slides. He had grown up in Pleasant Ridge shooting pictures, and processing them in a basement dark room.
He was hired by Schottelkotte, the former Enquirer columnist who anchored the city's No. 1 newscast for 22 years (1960-82) by insisting all TV news stories be filled with film, photos or images, anything but the anchor's face. "Everything with Al was a visual image," he says.
The UC student newspaper and yearbook photographer eventually transitioned into a TV photographer. "But what the first thing I shot was, I have no idea."
Fischer just has always been around, shooting the news of the day on whatever new technology trend-setter Schottelkotte could get his hands on. Fischer shot 16mm color film; black-and-white film; still photos; color Polaroid shots (to get breaking news photos on TV quickly); ¾-inch videotape (with cassettes the size of a hardback novel); and ¼-inch videotape (never heard of that before!). The ¾"-inch video camera operator back in the day wore a backpack holding the battery and a shoulder bag with the recorder.
Then came all the variations of InstantCams and live broadcasting equipment. "Now on our cell phones, we have an app to go live," he says.
Fischer is the last Channel 9 employee who dates back to the old Symmes Street studio under Channel 9's Walnut Hills tower. The station moved to Fifth and Central downtown in the late 1960s, then relocated to Gilbert Avenue near Eden Park in 2004 so the Convention Center could expand west to Central Avenue.
He worked with children's TV star "Uncle Al" Lewis; movie hosts Bob Shreve and Wirt Cain; variety show host Nick Clooney; sportscasters Dennis Janson and Jack Moran; future Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson; and news anchors Clyde Gray, Walt Maher, Pat Minarcin, Carol Williams and Mike Binkley. In 50 years, he's worked for 11 news directors and eight general managers. (Is that all?)
It's entirely possible that Fischer will be WCPO-TV's last 50-year employee. And maybe the last one at any Cincinnati TV station, where staffers often move up to bigger markets or switch stations in town to increase their pay. Working 50 years wasn't his goal – until recently.
"I never really thought of it, until I got to like 45 years. And 50 sounded good," he says.
Hear Mark Heyne's April interview with Fischer on WVXU-FM's "Cincinnati Edition" here.