Rob Braun Leaving WKRC-TV

Jun 18, 2019

Wednesday 10:45 a.m. June 19 update:  WKRC-TV General Manager Jon Lawhead says the station wanted anchor Rob Braun "to stay, but he decided it was time to move on."  The station is starting "an immediate search – both internal and external – to find our next main evening anchor," Lawhead said.

As I reported yesterday, Braun told the newsroom Monday he was leaving WKRC-TV after 35 years when his contract expires June 28. WKRC-TV posted a story Wednesday morning with these comments from Lawhead:

"Rob Braun will be ending his 35-year career with Local 12 a week from Friday, June 28th. It was our desire for Rob to stay but he decided it was time to move on. We want to thank Rob for all of his contributions to our newsroom and our station. While you can never replace someone like Rob, we will begin an immediate search – both internal and external – to find our next main evening anchor. Join me in wishing Rob and his family well as they begin this new chapter in their lives."

The story confirmed that Braun will anchor his last newscast June 28. "Local 12 will be celebrating Rob and his career on that day," it said.

Original post 3:23 p.m. Tuesday, June 18: Rob Braun, the second-generation broadcaster who has anchored WKRC-TV news for more than 30 years, will leave Channel 12 when his contract expires at the end of June.

After 70 years, it's the end of an era for the Brauns on Cincinnati television.

Rob's father Bob Braun debuted on WCPO-TV in 1949, and hosted WLWT-TV's top-rated noon variety show from 1967 to 1984. Rob has anchored the city's most-watched newscasts for much of his Channel 12 career. He has the longest tenure of all Cincinnati main evening news anchors.

Rob Braun told the newsroom Monday he was leaving June 28.

When his father hosted the Bob Braun Show, Rob interned at Channel 5 news before starting his full-time news career at WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tenn., at age 24. He hosted the station's live coverage of the 1982 World's Fair, and did news reporting.

Meteorologist John Gumm chatting with Braun during a Local 12 newscast in October 2016.
Credit John Kiesewetter

Rob, now in his early 60s, came home to WKRC-TV in 1984, as general assignment reporter, when WLWT-TV executives didn't want to hire him with his father on the payroll. Rob soon was moved to anchor weekend news, then launched WKRC-TV's 7 p.m. newscast in 1987.

In 1988, after anchor Nick Clooney resigned, Channel 12 introduced a new anchor team – Braun, Deb Silberstein and meteorologist Tim Hedrick – for 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. weekday newscasts. He later co-anchored with Kit Andrews, and since 2010, with Cammy Dierking.

Reporters Larry Davis, Deb Dixon and Joe Webb all retired in 2018.

Braun's departure is the seventh high-profile newsroom staffer to leave Channel 12 news in the past 18 months. Veteran reporters Deb Dixon, Joe Webb, Jeff Hirsh and Larry Davis retired; news anchor Brad Johansen went to Raleigh, N.C.; meteorologist Brandon Orr went to Florida; and sports reporter Aly Cohen was not renewed.

Go back three years, since the death of chief meteorologist Tim Hedrick, and the station also has lost long-time reporter Rich Jaffe; meteorologist Scott Dimmich and anchor Sydney Benter.

Braun could not be reached for comment. General manager Jon Lawhead did not respond to my email.

Braun hosts the annual Eagle Scout Court of Honor in downtown Cincinnati. He's with my Eagle Scout sons Joseph and David in 2011.
Credit John Kiesewetter

Rob's retirement  departure comes a week after Nielsen  demographic data for May sweeps showed that Channel 12 had dropped in late and morning news with viewers ages 25 to 54, which advertisers target. The 11 p.m. newscast was down 25 percent in 25-54 from May 2018, falling from first place to a tie for third behind WLWT-TV and WXIX-TV. In the morning, WKRC-TV lost 24 percent in the demo from May last year, but remained second to WXIX-TV.

Braun's departure is not totally unexpected. In April of last year, Braun told coworkers that he had received death threats after Channel 12  began airing Braun and Dierking reading a statement from owners Sinclair Group complaining about media companies pushing "their own personal bias and agenda."

Braun said at a newsroom staff meeting last year that he had his life threatened in person, and his family's life, since WKRC-TV and sister Sinclair station WSTR-TV broadcasted the corporate mandate.

Deadspin's mashup of Sinclair news anchors in April 2018. Braun and Dierking are in the bottom left corner.
Credit Courtesy Deadspin / YouTube

Sinclair received a nationwide backlash last year after Deadspin mashed together three dozen Sinclair anchors – including Braun and Dierking – reading the Sinclair script in unison, as if they were mindless corporate robots.  

When I contacted Braun last year about the death threats, he responded: "Sorry, John, I've been advised by my union and my attorney to say nothing publicly." So I could not determine the nature, type or specific reasons for the threats.

Channel 12 staffers told me last year that they were not happy that Braun and Dierking – Cincinnati natives from high-profile families – were put in that position by Sinclair.  Two Channel 12 staffers said Braun tried to rewrite Sinclair's script in his own words, but it was rejected. 

Bob Braun's wallet-size publicity photo from WLW-AM in the early 1960s.
Credit John Kiesewetter collection

Rob's WKRC-TV bio notes that "Rob Braun's appearance on Cincinnati television was a surprise to no one, except maybe Rob, himself. Being the son of a show business family, everyone expected him to follow in his family's footsteps.

"Instead, Rob tended to shy away from it and ended up owning a food concession business. He and his brother owned the business for 15 years, working events such as Cincinnati's River Fest, county and state fairs, and Blue Grass Festivals. Rob also ran restaurants in Cincinnati and in North Carolina. During this time, Rob dabbled in acting and on-air commercial work. He soon found that this was leading him to more on-air work, so he decided to give show biz a try."

An Eagle Scout, Braun often hosted the annual Eagle Scout court of honor in downtown Cincinnati.

His father started on WCPO-TV in 1949, shortly after the station began broadcasting. In 1957, he jumped to WLWT-TV and WLW-AM, Cincinnati's dominant TV-radio combination, after winning the top $1,000 prize on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. He took over Ruth Lyons' 50-50 Club in 1967, and hosted it until September 1984. He later worked at WSAI-AM. He died in 2001 at age 71.