10:45 a.m. Wednesday Sept. 26 update: Tributes to reporter Joe Webb from former WKRC-TV coworkers Deb Dixon and Larry Davis:
"In a newsroom, we don’t really have time to watch the news. But I made the time to watch Joe’s stories," says Dixon, who retired in May after 44 years at Channel 12. "I knew I would be left thinking about the parties involved, and I would be left feeling something for them. That’s a gift that is fading away in the storytelling world of Facebook Live and tweeting story highlights.
"Joe can’t be replaced. Hopefully the new reporters at local 12 had time to watch his stories and learn from them."
Webb was a newsroom leader by example, Dixon says.
"In the newsroom at the end of the day, reporters would sometimes gather around, with Joe usually in the middle, to dig deeper into the stories of the day, beyond what we could include in a two minute story. I've missed that since I left. Joe is also very funny, and a good man. I have a feeling there are more stories for Joe Webb to tell."
Davis, who retired in July after 45 years in broadcast news (the last 17 at Channel 12), says:
"Joe was such an amazing story teller because he made sure he knew the subject of the story-inside and out. Joe had a real gift for connecting with viewers through his writing and delivery. That’s a talent that local viewers will miss dearly. Joe was one of the best, and I was fortunate to work with him for so many years. Cincinnati and journalism will miss him!"
Original post 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, September 25: WKRC-TV wanted to keep reporter Joe Webb, but the 31-year Cincinnati TV news veteran says he wanted to retire and do something else.
"I'll be 64 in November," says Webb, the sixth on-air person to leave Sinclair Broadcast Group's Channel 12 in a year. He follows reporters Deb Dixon and Larry Davis; anchor Brad Johansen; and meteorologists Scott Dimmich and Brandon Orr.
His bosses asked him in the summer "to put some numbers together" to renew his contract. After talking to his wife Karla, Webb decided to retire. Webb says he "didn't talk at length" with station managers about extending his contract. His last day is Thursday, Sept. 27.
Webb is one of Cincinnati television's best storytellers. He's right up there with John Popovich, sports director at WCPO-TV, where Webb started his Cincinnati TV career. Webb was hired from Oklahoma by Channel 9 in 1987, when Pat Minarcin was anchor. He left when his contract expired in June 2002, and joined Channel 12.
In the late 1990s, Webb wrote and reported a delightful series of Channel 9 Hometown profiles of communities throughout Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. They were like the Charles Kuralt/Steve Hartman On The Road features on CBS – offbeat, fascinating, feel-good stories. They provided some good news during a crime-packed newscast. He and videographers Larry Deal and Rich Schuldlos did stories on the Anderson Ferry, Mercantile Library, Carew Tower, goetta, and small towns like Osgood, Ind.
Webb liked to say that "the stories that fell through the cracks in the newsroom found a home in Hometown." The features aired in newscasts, and once the stories were compiled into five half-hour specials aired by WCPO-TV. Hometown was part of that bygone era (just 20 years ago!) when TV stations did much more than only local news – features, game shows, home design series, etc. Now all they do is news.
Webb's WKRC-TV bio says the Oklahoma native "got into television because he loves to meet new people and ... tell their stories." So what's his favorite Cincinnati TV story?
"There are hundreds," he says. "There are hundreds I want to tell every day. There are so many great people in Cincinnati, and so many great stories. I just love talking to people."
He loved covering Super Bowls and the World Series for WCPO-TV. The story with the biggest and longest impact over the years was the Carrollton bus crash on May 14, 1988, about a year after he started at Channel 9. Wrong-way drunk driver Larry Mahoney hit a church bus full of kids coming home from Kings Island on I-71 near Carrolton, Ky., killing 27 people.
"I spent more time on that story than any other," Webb says.
Webb and his wife Karla were born and raised in Oklahoma. He grew up in Ponca City, and graduated from Oklahoma State University. They both consider Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati their home. "We love it here," he says.
In fact, Webb has been here so long that people think he grew up here. Some think he's the son of legendary radio newsman Don Webb, who worked at WKRC-AM and WLW-AM. (No relation.)
People come up to Webb and say, "You don't remember me, but we went to high school here together." And Webb will say, "You're right, I don't remember you. I went to high school in Oklahoma. I get that all the time."
The Webbs have two grown children, Sam and Grace. Sam, 28, is a freelance videographer. Grace, 24, teaches third grade in Lexington.
During his retirement, Webb plans to unplug and relax, "just take some time off." He likes to garden, play guitar and cheer for his Oklahoma State Cowboys. He looks forward to doing some volunteer work, a little writing, and to teaching a TV reporting and production class next spring at Xavier University.
Good luck, Joe. Thanks for all the great stories. You'll be missed.
You truly made our Hometown special.