70 Reasons To Celebrate WCPO-TV's 70th Birthday

Jul 24, 2019

On July 26, 1949, WCPO-TV debuted on Channel 7 as Cincinnati's third television station.

WCPO-TV – which was moved to Channel 9 by the federal government in 1952 – has done a wonderful job in recent weeks recalling its rich history.  And it will air a one-hour anniversary special Thursday, July 25 (7 p.m., Channel 9).

Channel 9 was a TV home for the Uncle Al Show children's show; Paul Dixon; Al Schottelkotte; Clyde Gray and Carol Williams; Nick Clooney; Bob Braun; the I-Team; and Bob Shreve.

For decades the station was Cincinnati's TV news leader, promoting itself as "9 Stands For News" while breaking stories about finding two Rembrandts stolen from the Taft Museum in 1973 and raising questions about deaths at Drake Hospital during Donald Harvey's employment in 1987.

But 9 was more than news, as you'll see below. Here are 70 reasons to celebrate WCPO-TV's 70th birthday:

1. Uncle Al Show: Station art director Al Lewis and his wife, Wanda, hosted Channel 9's signature children's show for 35 years (1950-85), including a stint on the ABC network in the late 1950s.

"Uncle Al" Lewis and wife Wanda as "Capt. Windy" with Lucky the Clown from the 'Uncle Al Show.'
Credit Courtesy Media Heritage

2. It's 11 O'Clock In The Tri-State: Time for the Al Schottelkotte News! That's how WCPO-TV's late news opened when Schottelkotte, a former Enquirer reporter and columnist, anchored the city's No. 1- rated newscast for 22 consecutive years.

3. Bob Braun: A few weeks after WCPO-TV signed on, 20-year-old Bob Braun was hired by the station to perform, usually pantomiming to records on TV shows. After winning top prize on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts in 1957, anchorman Rob Braun's father jumped to WLW TV and radio and became a huge star.

4. Donald Harvey: Anchorman Pat Minarcin, a former Associated Press reporter, was the first person to connect the dots between patient deaths at Drake Hospital and employee Donald Harvey in 1987. Within months of Channel 9's special report, the serial killer pleaded guilty to murder charges.

5- John Matarese: Since starting his "Don't Waste Your Money" consumer reports in 1999, they have been picked up by two dozen stations from coast to coast.

WCPO-TV broadcast from 500 Central Ave. downtown from 1967 to 2004.
Credit John Kiesewetter

6.  500 Central Avenue: From 1967 until 2004, WCPO-TV was located at Fifth Street and Central Avenue, where the Fifth Street ramp from I-75 enters downtown. It was torn down for the convention center expansion.

7.  Sports of All Sorts: John Popovich started Cincinnati's longest-running TV sports show on Dec. 21, 1980, about 18 months after he joined Channel 9. "Popo" hosted it for 33-1/2 years on Sunday nights before handing off to Ken Broo and Keenan Singleton.

Joe Webb retired from WKRC-TV in 2018.
Credit Courtesy Joe Webb

8. Joe Webb: Hired in 1987 when Minarcin was anchor, Joe Webb used his storytelling skills in the 1990s to profile local communities in a delightful series called "Hometown," in the style of CBS' "On The Road" features.

9. Wheel and Jeopardy!: WCPO-TV was one of the first stations – if not the first – to pair syndicated shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! 7-8 p.m. in the early 1980s. They aired on Channel 9 until 2012, when the station sought cheaper alternative programming.

10. Cincinnati TV firsts: Under news director-anchor Al Schottelkotte, Channel 9 led Cincinnati TV newsrooms with the latest technology with the first live remote telecast (1961), dual film projectors to air "B roll" during stories (1962), TV station helicopter (1967), live remote truck (1975), TV news minivans (1985) and satellite truck (1995).

1968 advertisement for Nick Clooney's daytime show on WCPO-TV.

11. Nick Clooney Show: Another local TV first was Nick Clooney's first live midday TV variety show. The "Nick Clooney Show" aired on Channel 9 (1969-72) after he left WLWT-TV, and before the show moved to WKRC-TV in 1972.

12. Paula Faris: Long before ABC's Good Morning America, Channel 9 viewers watched Faris as a weekend sports anchor (2002-05).

Carol Williams and Clyde Gray were the faces of Channel 9 news for most of three decades.
Credit Courtesy Greater Cincinnati SPJ

13. Clyde Gray: WCPO-TV saw star power in Gray, who did two stints at WLWT as a reporter and occasional anchor in the 1980s. He became one of Cincinnati's highest profile African Americans as Carol Williams' co-anchor for 23 years. He returned to Channel 9 in 2014 after a four-year absence to co-host Cincy Lifestyle with Mona Morrow.

14. Carol Williams: When Schottelkotte was winding down in 1986, WCPO-TV hired Williams from a Lancaster, Pa., station to co-anchor with Minarcin. She was a cornerstone of Channel 9 for more than 30 years before retiring in 2017.

15. Bill Hemmer: Originally hired as a sports anchor in 1989, Elder High School and Miami University graduate Bill Hemmer switched to news after taking a year-long around-the-world backpacking trip. He left Channel 9 in 1995 for CNN, and moved to Fox News in 2005.

Long-time WCPO-TV newsman Allan White.
Credit Courtesy Richard Schuldlos

16. Allan White: Schottelkotte's right-hand man from the beginning was Allan White, a reporter for Scripps' Cincinnati Post evening newspaper and a weekend radio newsman for WCPO-AM.  White was part of the TV station's original three-person news team with Schottelkotte and chief photographer Frank Jones. White, the station's historian, died in December at 94.

17. DuMont Television Network: Thirty years before Fox Broadcasting, WCPO-TV carried DuMont, the nation's original fourth network, which ceased broadcasts in 1956.

18. Paul Dixon: Popular WCPO radio DJ Paul Dixon was put in front of the cameras when the company launched television in 1949, and in two years his crazy, unpredictable show with lots of pantomiming to records was broadcast nationally on ABC and DuMont networks.

Dotty Mack holds a photo in 2011 of her performing with Paul Dixon on WCPO-TV in the early 1950s.
Credit John Kiesewetter

19. Dotty Mack: Dotty Mack was so popular pantomiming records on Dixon's show she got her own program, on WCPO-TV and on DuMont.

20. Color slides: Schottelkotte's visual news style was made possible by a library of more than 49,000 color slides of people, places, signs and buildings shown as he read news stories. The slides were ditched in the late 1970s, when video tape became common.

21. I-TEAM: After the award-winning Harvey stories, WCPO-TV created an investigative I-Team which eventually featured reports by Laure Quinlivan (before becoming a city council member) and Hagit Limor.

Gretchen Carlson, Dennis Janson and Tanya O'Rourke at Books By The Banks in October 2017.
Credit John Kiesewetter

22. Gretchen Carlson: Three years after reigning as 1989 Miss America, Carlson was working as a reporter-anchor at WCPO-TV. She left in 1994 for Cleveland, then Dallas, CBS News and Fox News.

23. Tanya O'Rourke: A second-generation broadcaster, O'Rourke started at WCPO-TV in 1992 on the weekend assignment desk and advanced to being a writer for the 11 p.m. news and overnight assistant producer for the morning show before becoming a reporter. She's been the main late news anchor since 2016.

24. Dennis Janson:  WCPO-TV in 1984 lured sportscaster Dennis Janson away from WKRC-TV, where he was part of the No. 1 anchor team with Clooney and backwards-writing weatherman Ira Joe Fisher.

25. Jack Moran:  Jack Moran, Waite Hoyt's Reds radio sidekick in the late 1950s, was known for wearing loud plaid sports jackets as Schottelkotte's sports anchor until he retired in 1982.

Waite Hoyt, who called Reds games for WCPO-AM, was WCPO-TV's first sportscaster.
Credit Courtesy Media Heritage

26. Waite Hoyt:  The legendary Reds radio announcer, who called games on sister WCPO-AM (1230), was Channel 9's first sportscaster 1959-61 before handing off to Moran.

27. James Hoskins: After killing his girlfriend in his Over-The-Rhine apartment, James Hoskins showed up at WCPO-TV, taking reporters Elaine Green and Tom McKee and seven other employees hostage in October 1980. He let them go after taping an interview with Green, then killed himself in the newsroom. Employees were not allowed inside the building until late the next day.

28. Peabody Awards: WCPO-TV owns four prestigious Peabody Awards – more than any other Cincinnati station — for Green's Hoskins interview (1980); Donald Harvey coverage (1987); problems with construction of Paul Brown Stadium (1999); and Quinlivan's Visions of Vine Street one-hour documentary about abandoned Over-the-Rhine buildings (2001) a decade before the OTR renaissance.

Kathrine Nero anchored mornings until last July.
Credit Courtesy Kathrine Nero

29. Katherine Nero: The Memphis native came to WCPO-TV as a sports reporter in 1998, but was moved to anchoring morning news. She told me in 2018 that her dismissal was "a blindside."

30. Chris Riva: Monroe native Chris Riva, who was Nero's co-anchor 2014-2018, was let go by the station in March 2018, four months before Nero.

31. Chic Poppe: For 40 years, tireless reporter-photographer Chic Poppe usually was the first journalist at the scene of a crime or fire, sometimes arriving before police. As I wrote when he retired in 2008, "Poppe had a sixth sense when it came to finding breaking news."

Michael Flannery was a reporter, anchor and TV show host on Channel 9.
Credit Courtesy Michael Flannery

32. Michael Flannery: After hosting WXIX-TV's Club 19 children's programming, comedian Michael Flannery was hired in 1995 to co-anchor Good Morning Tristate with Nero and to do feature reporting. He also hosted a late-night comedy quiz show called Know It Alls in the late 1990s.

33. 9 On Your Kids Side:  From 2002 to 2007, Flannery raised thousands of dollars to help hundreds of special needs kids through his regular "9 On Your Kids Side" reports. Channel 9 canceled the popular segment in 2007 when Flannery's contract was not renewed.

34. 9 On Your Side: After pulling the plug on Flannery, the station took the title from his features and adopted it for the entire station's branding, as well as for its evening newscasts.

Credit Courtesy WCPO-TV

35. The Latest @ 11: In the early 2000s, WCPO-TV executives actually changed the title of the 11 p.m. news to The Latest @ 11. To me, it was still just the 11 p.m. news.

36. Around The House: Reporter Jay Shatz turned his passion for home design into a program shortly after the station's owner, E.W. Scripps, started the HGTV network. After leaving Channel 9, Shatz produced shows for HGTV and sister DIY Network from his Jay TV company until 2017.

37. Dan Monk: WCPO-TV hired one of the city's best business reporters in 2013, when it lured Don Monk from the Cincinnati Business Courier after 18 years.

Reporter Tom McKee retired in December after 40 years at Channel 9.
Credit Courtesy WCPO-TV

38. Tom McKee: Channel 9's versatile news reporter, retired in December after 40 years. His favorite stories involved politics, business and education, especially his "Democracy"  series leading up to elections.

39. Bob Alan: Bob Alan was the popular weatherman for the Minarcin-Williams-Janson team in the 1980s. He's also one of the last main weather anchors on Cincinnati TV who was not a meteorologist, before going to WWOR-TV in NYC in 1995.

40. Pete Delkus: After Bob Alan, WCPO-TV hired chief meteorologist Pete Delkus to deliver the weeknight forecast from 1996 to 2005, when he left for WFAA-TV in Dallas.

Meteorologist Steve Raleigh and anchor Julie Dolan co-hosted 'The Now Cincinnati' in 2015.
Credit Courtesy WCPO-TV

41. Steve Raleigh: Chief meteorologist Steve Raleigh came here in 2005 to replace Delkus from San Francisco's KRON-TV, where he was the first person to do a weather report from atop the Golden Gate Bridge. Raleigh knew Cincinnati well – he was a news reporter and weekend weather anchor at WLWT-TV in the late 1980s, and married Julie Leis, daughter of Hamilton County sheriff Si Leis, in 1987.

42. Call letters:  The WCPO call letters stand for "Cincinnati Post," the evening newspaper owned by Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Co. They were first used in 1935 for Scripps' AM radio station (1230 kHz).

43. Celebrate Cincinnati: Nobody was better at celebrating Cincinnati with positive features than producer Jim Friedman. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Friedman produced wonderful one-hour local specials about The Best &Worst Of Cincinnati (based on Cincinnati Magazine's annual listings), the First Day of area residents doing something significant, and a behind-the-scenes look at The Magic of Television. His success led to a job as Scripps Howard Broadcasting director of programming 1989-93 to spread his TV magic over all Scripps stations. Friedman, now a Miami University marketing professor, won 64 regional Emmys and one national Emmy for more than 150 specials.

Newspaper advertisement for Jim Friedman's live TV special for a New Year's Eve telecast celebrating Cincinnati's bicentennial in 1988 with (from left) Randy Little, Pat Minarcin, Bob Alan, Carol Williams and Dennis Janson.

44. Jack Fogarty: Former WCPO radio news director Jack Fogarty, who broadcast from a small booth off the Cincinnati Post newsroom, joined the TV news operation in 1960. He did a regular feature called, "I May Be Wrong But…."

Randy Little began his career at WKRC-TV, and switched to WCPO-TV in 1987.

45. Randy Little: Randy Little jumped to WCPO-TV from WKRC-TV in 1987, after losing his job anchoring the Channel 12's top-rated newscast when Clooney returned from Los Angeles to reclaim his old job. Little and Denise Dory launched the 5 p.m. news when WCPO-TV started airing Oprah Winfrey at 4 p.m. in 1987.

46. Tim Melton: Before Janson, nightly sports reports were anchored by Tim Melton from 1979-81. At the time, he was married to professional golfer Nancy Lopez. After Channel 9, Melton worked three decades at Houston's KTRK-TV.

47. Betsy Ross: Game Day Communications president Betsy Ross, frequently seen as a fill-in sports anchor on WXIX-TV, started her Cincinnati TV career as a Channel 9 anchor-reporter from 1981 to 1986, before going to WLWT-TV and ESPN.

48. The Spotlight Report: All of Schottelkotte's 11 p.m. newscasts included his signature news background or feature segment called "The Spotlight Report."

49. "Gongless Days": Schottelkotte tracked the accuracy of WCPO-TV's forecasts by weatherman Todd Hunter with a toteboard listing "Gongless Days." If Hunter's forecast for the previous day was wrong, they'd ring a gong.

Gary Burbank did two BBC TV specials for Channel 9 in 1990.
Credit John Kiesewetter

50. Gary Burbank:  Thanks to producer Jim Friedman, fans of WLW-AM satirist Gary Burbank saw him on TV in 1990 as Earl Pitts, The Big Fat Balding Guy and his other radio characters in two Channel 9 BBC specials.

51. 1720 Gilbert Avenue: WCPO-TV moved to 1720 Gilbert Ave., at the entrance to Eden Park, in 2004, at the dawn of high-definition TV. Look closely at the windows along Gilbert Avenue: They're 16-by-9 aspect ratio, identical to HDTV screens.

52. Symmes Street studio:  WCPO-TV 's first studio for Dixon, Uncle Al¸ Dotty Mack and other live shows was next to the tower on Symmes Street in Walnut Hills. When the circus came to town in the early 1950s, producer Len Goorian had the bright idea to bring the animals in for a live show. One of the elephants pooped in the studio, under the hot spotlights, which Goorian described as like a "mustard gas attack." The elephants were never invited back.

53. Gunsmoke: Schottelkotte wasn't totally serious. To help promote Channel 9's new CBS lineup in 1964, WCPO-TV arranged for Schottelkotte, the city's most popular anchorman, to appear as a bailiff on Gunsmoke, TV's No. 1 TV show in the late 1950s.

54. Network swaps: WCPO-TV was Cincinnati's ABC affiliate from its earliest days until 1961 when it swapped networks with WKRC-TV. Then 35 years later, the two swapped networks again in 1996.

Comedian Bob Shreve hosted all-night movies on Channels 9, 5 and 12 over a 20-year span.

55. Bob Shreve: Funnyman Bob Shreve hosted late-night movies on the Schoenling All Nite Theater on WCPO-TV in the 1960s, and later took his late-night act to WLWT-TV and WKRC-TV.

56. Move Up Cincinnati: Replacing the Brent Spence Bridge, opening new bike and walking trails, examining streetcar ridership, fixing the Roebling Suspension Bridge, paying for public transit, reporting CVG passenger usage – these are some of the topics for  the station's "Move Up Cincinnati" periodic series covering transportation development today unlike any other news outlet in town.

57. Gilligan's Island: Cincinnati viewers of CBS' Gilligan's Island sitcom got an extra treat in 1966, when the castaways heard newsman Al Schottelkotte's voice on the Professor's radio. Schottelkotte also narrated the Cincinnati Zoo train ride for years.

58. Larry Smith: The Dayton native, who appeared on WHIO-TV as a 14-year-old puppeteer in the 1950s, dropped out of Ohio State University in 1957 to bring his puppets to the Uncle Al Show for three years. Smith was WXIX-TV's first big TV star when the station debuted in 1968.

Larry Smith's puppets were seen on the 'Uncle Al Show' in the late 1950s.
Credit Courtesy Media Heritage

59. Larry Handley's dark place: Morning meteorologist Larry Handley blasted his bosses when his contract was not renewed after 15 years in 2014. "Recently Channel 9 has become a very dark place for me. Nearly every day was heavy and bleak and that is no way to spend so many hours week after week," he wrote in his farewell email to the staff on July 14, 2014.

60. Xavier basketball: In the 1980s and '90s,  Channel 9 was the TV home for Musketeers basketball during the Bob Staak, Pete Gillen and Skip Posser eras. Channel 9 brought us a game in Evansville the night before the Freezer Bowl in 1989, and the 1994 Crosstown Shootout game when UC coach Bob Huggins wouldn’t shake hands with Gillen after the game.

61. Kevin Necessary: How many TV stations employ an editorial cartoonist? WCPO-TV hired a fine one in Kevin Necessary after he was downsized by the Enquirer.

62. Exquirers: The station took advantage of the Enquirer's staffing cutbacks and growing online presence for its wcpo.com website in the last 10 years by hiring former entertainment editor Tasha Stewart; online editors Meghan Wesley and Brian Mains; sportswriter Mike Dyer; opinion editor Dave Holthaus; and about a dozen freelance writers and copy editors at its peak – six decades after WCPO-TV news launched with Schottelkotte, an Enquirer columnist.

Al Schottelkotte interviewing President Gerald Ford on June 6, 1976.
Credit Courtesy White House

63. Wrists holding microphones:  Schottelkotte revolutionized TV news with his all-visual philosophy. He did a voice-over for ALL stories, while showing video or slides. Reporters didn't do stories or "packages" on air. They were never seen in the 1960s and '70s, except for their wrists and hands holding a Channel 9 microphone during interviews.

64. CNN Headline News: Shortly after CNN Headline News premiered in 1982, with fast-paced half-hour visual newscast 24/7, Schottelkotte said he heard at a national news convention that the style was based on his Channel 9 newscasts.

65. Hasker Nelson: For 25 years, WCPO-TV Community Affairs Director Hasker Nelson hosted and produced the weekly Black Memo public affairs program from 1974 to 1999.

Craig McKee was hired in 2015 from a Milwaukee station to replace anchorman Clyde Gray.
Credit Courtesy WCPO-TV

66. Craig McKee:  When Clyde Gray retired before his contract expired, WCPO-TV hired Milwaukee anchor Craig McKee (no relation to Tom) to be main co-anchor in June 2015.  He had previously worked for stations in Phoenix,  Charleston-Huntington and San Diego.

67. Jon Esther:  In 1982, Jon Esther and Barbara Marshall replaced legendary anchorman Al Schottelkotte on 11 p.m. newscasts. Esther had TV news experience in Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Louisville before coming to Channel 9 in 1977, and anchoring Cincinnati's first 7 p.m. news in 1979. Marshall left after eight months and was replaced by Nel Taylor until Williams was hired.

68. Wirt Cain: Announcer Wirt Cain did a number of jobs on WCPO-TV in the 1960s and '70s, including hosting afternoon movies and appearing on Clooney's variety show.

69. Bob Holtzman: Before Cincinnati area viewers saw him on ESPN, they watched Bob Holtzman report news for Channel 9 from 1996 to 2000. He still lives in Northern Kentucky.

70. The Rembrandts: Two days after two Rembrandt paintings were stolen from the Taft Museum on Dec. 18, 1973, a West Side bar owner handed over one of the two to Schottelkotte in his tavern. Schottelkotte took it back to the station, and refused to let museum officials or police see it until he opened the 11 p.m. news with the Rembrandt in the Channel 9 studio.