We'll Miss You Carol Williams, A Class Act For Three Decades
For more than 30 years, people here have eaten dinner while watching Carol Williams deliver the evening news on WCPO-TV.
Starting Monday, she'll be at home watching the evening news like the rest of us. Williams, who has been working part-time since the start of 2016, retires Friday.
"I've got to tell you, this past year has been most enjoyable. It's been nice having dinner with my husband, and not driving home at midnight," she told me last week.
She's been a class act for more than three decades. A rock solid journalist you knew you could trust, someone who could have moved on to bigger cities but didn't. We appreciate that.
Before she retires, here are nine things I want you to know about the Channel 9 news anchor:
1. Williams is one of Channel 9's last few remaining ties to Al Schottelkotte, the city's dominant news anchor through the 1960s and '70s.
She's been a cornerstone of Channel 9 news since 1986 as Clyde Gray, Pete Delkus, Paula Faris, Gretchen Carlson, Bill Hemmer, Steve Norris, Laure Quinlivan, Randy Little, Stacy Case, Joe Webb, Hagit Limor and a dozen news directors and general managers have come and gone. Like Carlson, Hemmer, Faris, Delkus and Pat Minarcin, she had the talent to move to bigger markets. But she chose to stay here.
Unlike anchorwomen Norma Rashid and Sandra Ali, she's able to leave TV on her own terms.
2. Williams was brought here to move Channel 9 into the modern TV era:
When she was hired in the summer of 1986, Schottelkotte was still anchoring the 6 p.m. news with Pat Minarcin. Minarcin was solo at 11 p.m., and paired with Betsy Ross at 5:30 p.m. back then, she said.
Over at WLWT-TV, the Jerry Springer-Norma Rashid team was gaining viewers for Channel 5, on their way to becoming No. 1 in 1987. Channel 9 general manager Terry Connelly and news director Jack Cahalan hired Williams to take them into the modern era – having the same male-female anchor team at 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. with Minarcin -- to compete with Springer and Rashid.
TV news was evolving. Typewriters still were all around the newsroom in 1986. Morning newscasts were only 30 or 60 minutes. The city's first 5 p.m. news didn't premiere until fall of 1987 – on Channel 9 with Randy Little – when WCPO-TV took the "Oprah Winfrey Show" away from Channel 12 after one season.
3. Her newscast was No. 1. After Minarcin left, and Clyde Gray jumped from Channel 5, and Springer's national daytime show premiered from Channel 5, the Clyde & Carol team was the No. 1 newscast for five years in the 1990s.
4. She stepped down while on top in 1997.
Williams was so valued by her bosses – they didn't want to lose her – that they let her walk away from the top-rated 11 p.m. newscast in 1997 because she was a single mother.
She switched to day shift to be home evenings with her 6-year-old daughter Katherine, while Stacy Case anchored with Gray at 11 p.m. (Katherine, now 25, is a 3-D animator in Baltimore.)
In 2003, Williams was lured back to nights, after the late news ratings fell to third. She was rewarded with a nine-year contract. Gray signed a long contract too. She was paired with Craig McKee in 2015, nearly a year after Gray left.
She's been planning her retirement for more than two years. In negotiating her last contract, Williams wanted just one year. The company countered with a two-year deal, with her working part-time the second year (2016), anchoring only at 5 and 6 p.m.
5. She's married to a federal court judge Michael Barrett.
Williams married Barrett, the former Hamilton County Republican Party chairman, several years after he was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio by President George W. Bush in 2006.
6. Her favorite interviews were President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey.
Asked her favorite stories, and she immediately mentioned Obama and Oprah. She went to Winfrey's Harpo Studios in Chicago when Channel 9 got "Oprah" in 1987. She has tons of pictures from three decades at Channel 9, but none with Oprah.
"I regret that that was before cell phones," she said.
She's also proud of her reporting from the 2012 Piner, KY, tornado.
"My daughter was away at school, so I said, 'I want to go out and cover that.' It was such a relief not to be worrying about my child."
7. She has Randy Little's stapler.
Cleaning out her desk, she found a stapler belonging to former 5 p.m. anchor Little. She knows it's his, because this message it taped to it: "This is Randy Little's stapler. Do not take it."
"I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it. I might give it to someone (in the newsroom)," she said.
8. Williams has a master's degree in education, and considered a teaching career.
After receiving an English degree at Duke, she earned a master's degree in education at John's Hopkins. She has tutored some at Riverside Elementary School, and this winter is co-teaching a writing for the media class at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music.
"I enjoy teaching at CCM. It's an ideal situation for me. This is one of the things I wanted to try," she said.
She wants to travel too. She looks forward to her freedom. "You couldn't take days off during ratings periods (especially February, May and November sweeps) or when someone else was off," she said.
Will she teach more in retirement? She doesn't know yet. "I'd like to do something to help people," she said.
9. She could have left for a bigger market, but didn't.
She didn't set out looking for a job in Cincinnati from Lancaster. With the help of a "head hunter," she sent out tapes to many stations, including CNN Headline in Atlanta.
“I consider myself lucky to have landed at a station and in a city that’s such a good fit for me," she told me in 2005. "I’ve had some offers to go, but since my daughter Katherine was born in 1991, I haven’t wanted to move to another market, and haven’t tried to get another job. I like it here."
Why didn't she look elsewhere?
"I really liked it in Lancaster PA," she told me last week. "When I moved here from Lancaster, I remember shedding tears. And I said, 'I can't keep doing this. I'm just going to stay in one place.' "
And she did.
We're happy she stayed. And I'm glad she's able to leave on her own terms, and get to say a proper goodbye to her many fans.