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For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media – comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Local media is still his beat and he’s bringing his interest, curiosity, contacts and unique style to Cincinnati Public Radio and 91.7 WVXU. Contact John at johnkiese@yahoo.com.

WCPO-TV Plans Long 70th Birthday Celebration

John Kiesewetter
WCPO-TV logo on old building at 500 Central Ave. downtown, torn down in 2004 for convention center expansion.

WCPO-TV has such a rich history that it's taking several months to celebrate its 70th anniversary.

"As you know, this station has a tremendous legacy and we’re looking to celebrate the 70th anniversary many different ways throughout July and the rest of 2019," says Jeff Brogan, vice president and general manager.

WCPO-TV began broadcasting on July 26, 1949, as Channel 7. It moved to Channel 9 in the federal government channel realignment in 1952, when WLWT-TV moved from 4 to 5 and WKRC-TV switched from 11 to 12.

Under news director/anchor Al Schottelkotte, Channel 9 led Cincinnati TV newsrooms with the latest technology, everything from the first live remote telecast to the first TV station here with a live broadcast news van, a helicopter, news cars and a 7 p.m. newscast.

Channel 9 also broke some of the biggest news stories, from finding two Rembrandts stolen from the Taft Museum in 1973 to exposing questionable deaths at Drake Hospital during Donald Harvey's employment in 1987, which led to his conviction as a serial killer.

The station made news – and won a prestigious Peabody Award – when reporter Elaine Green interviewed James Hoskins at gunpoint after he took nine employees hostage in the station in October 1980.

Channel 9 also won Peabodys for its Harvey stories; an investigative I-Team report on problems with construction of Paul Brown Stadium (1999); and reporter Laure Quinlivan's Visions of Vine Street one-hour documentary about abandoned Over-the-Rhine buildings (2001), a decade before the OTR renaissance started.

Last month, WCPO-TV brought back the old "Channel 9" station identification "sounder" from the 1960s and '70s with an old logo from when the station was located at 500 Central Avenue, just west of the convention center. WCPO-TV moved to its current 1720 Gilbert Ave. location in May 2004 to make room for the convention center expansion.

"Rewind" segments have aired in newscasts about the history of WCPO-TV, the only full-power Cincinnati television station with one owner, Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Co. The station recently has broadcast faces of some of its most popular personalities: anchors Schottelkotte, Clyde Gray, Carol Williams and Pat Minarcin; sportscaster Denny Janson; children's TV host "Uncle Al" Lewis; and beloved newsroom manager and historian Allan White.

The retrospectives ramp up next week, when special guests and segments will be seen in newscasts "looking back at the history and different milestones of WCPO," Brogan says. Some "former WCPO-TV on-air employees" have been invited for live interviews during the 7 p.m. news Monday-Wednesday, July 22-24.

On Thursday, July 25, Tanya O'Rourke will host a one-hour special about the station's history at 7 p.m., with help from sports director John Popovich and chief meteorologist Steve Raleigh. "The special has many different elements, but primarily will look back at the shows that aired on WCPO and our place in telling Cincinnati’s stories through our news, weather and sports coverage," Brogan says.

Reporter Tom McKee, who retired in December after 40 years (he was one of Hoskins' hostages in 1980),  was brought back to produce the "Rewind" features that air mostly in weekday newscasts at 6 a.m., noon, 4 and 5 p.m., and on weekends, Brogan says.

"It appears we have enough material to continue with fresh segments through at least August," Brogan says.

WCPO-TV will put the 70th anniversary special on its Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire apps, along with 40th and 50th anniversary specials the station produced 20 and 30 years ago.

"We do not currently have a section on our website with the 'Rewind' stories…. (But) we've had some great feedback from viewers about everything we're doing and are now considering adding these rewind segments on our site." Brogan says.

John Kiesewetter joined the WVXU news team as a TV/Media blogger on July 1 2015, after nearly 30 years covering local and national broadcasting for The Cincinnati Enquirer. He’ll be posting news about Greater Cincinnati TV, radio and movies; updating your favorite former local TV/radio personalities or stars who grew up here; and breaking news about national TV, radio and media trends. You’ll also learn about Cincinnati’s rich broadcasting history.