Reporter Tom McKee and sportscaster Ken Broo -- who roomed together as WCPO-TV interns in the summer of 1973 -- will both retire this month from Channel 9.
Together they've spent 67 years on Cincinnati television – 40 for McKee and 27 for Broo.
McKee is Channel 9's most senior news reporter, and a long-time officer for the Society of Professional Journalists' Cincinnati chapter. He started at WCPO-TV on Jan. 2, 1974, after graduating from Ohio University in 1973. (Legendary Channel 9 anchorman Al Schottelkotte called him in the fall, after McKee had returned to Athens after marching with the OU band at a Washington Redskins game, and asked: "When can you come work for us?")
He's done two stints in the Channel 9 newsroom, 1974-1984, and since September 1989. His last day is Friday, Dec. 21.
Broo, a 1974 OU grad, debuted on Cincinnati TV in 1987 as WLWT-TV's sports director. He jumped to WKRC-TV (1990-96); moved to Washington D.C. for WUSA-TV (1996-2000); returned to WLWT-TV (2000-2013); and abruptly switched to WCPO-TV in 2013. His last Channel 9 sportscast is Sunday, Dec. 30.
He's "the only anchor or reporter to have worked for WCPO-TV, WLWT-TV and WKRC-TV," according to his bio at KenBroo.com.
During McKee's hiatus from Channel 9, he was vice president of Video Features Inc., operated by former Channel 9 reporter Elaine Green. While at Channel 9, McKee and Green were among the nine hostages held by gunman James Hoskins at the station at 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 15, 1980. Green won a prestigious Peabody Award for her 14-minute Hoskins interview conducted at gunpoint, in which he confessed to killing his girl friend in their 12th Street apartment.
"He wanted a shoot-out with police. We were incidental at that point," says McKee, who as at the station late after producing Schottelkotte's 11 p.m. newscast. He was making out the assignment sheet for the next day and working on elections coverage.
After the taped interview, Hoskins let his hostages go. He shot himself to death in the newsroom about 9:30 a.m., while Channel 9 news broadcast from a mobile truck in the parking lot.
"Nine people were fortunate not to be shot dead," says McKee as we talked while he was riding to Pike County this morning to cover a hearing involving the Rhoden family murders.
I've written a lot about the Hoskins event, but McKee told me something I didn't know until this morning: When McKee and Green had lunch with Hoskin's ex-wife about a year after the hostage situation, the first thing she said was, "I'm surprised that anyone got out alive."
In his 40 years at Channel 9, McKee has covered all kinds of stories. His favorites involved politics, business or education. He's most proud of his "Democracy" political coverage series every other year from 2000 through 2012, when citizens asked questions for candidates to answer. The 60 programs in 2012 on Channel 9 and wcpo.com – on which McKee was producer and reporter -- won a Walter Cronkite Award for Civic Engagement for outstanding television political coverage. He was presented the award at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., honored along with ABC's Jonathan Karl and Martha Raddatz and others.
"That was a thrill," says McKee, who grew up in Maumee, Ohio, south of Toledo.
Every day when he went to work, McKee remembered the lessons drilled into Channel 9 news staffers by Schottelkotte, an authoritarian who anchored the city's top-rated newscast for 22 straight years (1960-1982).
"Do it right – or just don't do it," McKee says. "Do it with integrity, honesty and fairness. If we can't do that, then people won't watch."
In this era of claims of "fake news," McKee says that "what we do is more important than ever."
When someone mentions "fake news" to him, McKee is tempted to invite the person "just to follow us around for a day and see what we do, and see how we vet the information to get the most accurate story possible," he says.
When President Trump visited Blue Ash, McKee's assignment was to cover the crowd outside. After talking to Trump protesters, he walked over to the Trump supporters.
"A young man, in his late teens, said, 'The Fake News is here!' So I asked him, 'What do you mean by fake news?' And he couldn't answer. He had bought into the concept without understanding it. That's the challenge we face."
For about 10 years, McKee has been an officer for the local journalism organization that has won several "chapter of the year" awards from the national Society of Professional Journalists. He was local president in 2017, when the chapter celebrated its 50th anniversary, and has served as a regional SPJ officer.
McKee, 67, has stepped away from his regional duties in preparation for retirement. But he still remains involved in SPJ's annual local journalism contest, which is moving to online next month.
McKee has talked to Channel 9 bosses about some projects. He might teach or do some freelance work. He also wants to get back to Athens and march again with Ohio University's "Marching 110," also known as "The Most Exciting Band in the Land."
"I still enjoy the (news) business, and have a passion for it. But after 40 years, it was time," he says.
Broo rejoined McKee at WCPO-TV in 2013, after Dennis Janson retired. He anchored weekend sportscasts and took over the Sunday night Sports Of All Sorts show from sports director John Popovich, also an OU grad.
The New Jersey native also has enjoyed a dual career in radio, hosting WLW-AM's weekend SportsTalk for many years and filling in for Mike McConnell and Bill Cunningham. (I'm guessing he'll continue his radio shows; I'll update this after I talk to him.)
While working at Channel 12, Broo was the Bengals radio play-by-play announcer for sister station WKRC-AM. He also was a weekend rock 'n' roll DJ on WGRR-FM, and always infuses music interviews and history in his SportsTalk shows. (He collects 45 rpm records and jukeboxes.)
At OU, Broo broadcast Bobcat football, basketball and hockey, and was evening sports anchor for WOUB-TV. He started his career at WKFI-AM in Wilmington, Ohio, and moved from there to WKST-AM in New Castle, PA, and to Cincinnati's WSAI-AM.
Then he transitioned to television. He did sports for KWTV-TV in Oklahoma City, KOTV-TV in Tulsa and WTSP-TV in Tampa, where he was "Florida Sportscaster of the Year" three times. He brought his "Broos & Bravos" to WLWT-TV in 1987, when Jerry Springer and Norma Rashid anchored the city's No. 1 newscast. He jumped to WKRC-TV in 1990.
While living here, Broo also worked for Bud Sports Productions, "becoming 'The King of Junk Sports' on ESPN handling commentary for Mickey Thompson Racing, Tractor Pulls, Professional Horseshoe Throwing, Lumber Jack Contests, Bud Sports Daredevils and Professional Horse Jumping," according to his bio at KenBroo.com.
Channel 9 will hire a sports broadcaster to replace Broo, says Jeff Brogan, WCPO-TV vice president and general manager.