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John Kiesewetter on the world of local and national TV

Senior Entertainment Reporter John Kiesewetter has been covering TV and media issues for 20 years. After joining the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1975 as a summer intern, he worked as a county government and suburban reporter; assistant city editor and suburban editor; and features editor supervising the Life section. He has a B.S. in journalism from Ohio University.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Chic Poppe, We'll Miss You

For more than 40 years, Channel 9 reporter/photographer Chic Poppe had a sixth sense when it came to finding breaking news. He was legendary for being the first journalist at the scene of a crime or fire, sometimes arriving before the police. But Channel 9 was able to keep Saturday's retirement party secret from Chic, who always knew everything.

The party at the Duke Energy Center was packed Saturday night. Channel 9 staffers showed their love and admiration for Chic by producing a half-hour tribute tape. Police Chief Tom Streicher appeared on the tape. Sheriff Si Leis attended the party! (When has Si Leis ever come to any function honoring a news reporter???) Three former news directors came to salute him (Scott Deiner from the CBS affiliate in Dallas, Jim Zarchin from Scripps cable HQ in Knoxville, and Stu Zanger who still lives in town.)

It was an evening filled with tales about how Poppe was on the front lines of breaking news, decades before the current Breaking News wars here. And how respected he was for his great sources and amazing instincts. Many of these stories I recounted in my Page 1 profile on Dec. 28:
--How he'd shoot traffic during a bad snowstorm by pointing the TV camera out the window, while driving his Channel 9 news van.
--How he slept with 6-7 police/fire scanners/pagers, to get to breaking news before any other reporter.
--How he got his camera set up in the kitchen of a Price Hill home, with a great view of a neighboring house sealed off during a hostage incident. The SWAT team eventually arrived at the same house, and officers were not happy to find Chic already there! Shortly after the SWAT team sharpshooter set up in the kitchen, a police commander knocked on the door and escorted Chic out of the house. (Streicher recalled this one on the tape.)
--And my favorite story: Chic got exclusive video of Donald Harvey, the 1980s Drake Hospital serial killer, as he walked down a Hamilton County courthouse hallway to the grand jury by (a) figuring out the back route deputies used and (b) hiding in a janitor's closet, and (c) jumping out to shoot video of Harvey as he was passing by. If that happened today, deputies probably would have pulled a gun and shot Chic. This is my favorite tale because it shows his institutional knowledge, great sources and creativity in getting the news.

Poppe retired at the end of the year after knee surgery and learning he had prostate cancer. He was one of a kind, a true Cincinnati news legend. Whenever other stations and news outlets heard Channel 9 mention Chic Poppe by name, and give him credit for getting video or information, they knew they were nailed on a story and had to hustle to catch up.

I'm hoping you also have some good stories about Chic, or want to congratulate him upon his retirement. I can't wait to read them.

Chic, you're the best. We miss you. Enjoy your retirement, if you can ignore the scanners....


at 1/20/2008 11:11 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I interned at WCPO about ten years back. On a slow news days, Chic invited me to join him on a cruise around downtown. We cruised the streets and he pointed out some landmarks... the courthouse and the people who hang around it, the police station, and some of the nastier parts of downtown. I recall him pointing out some of the hookers along the sidewalks and how you could spot one from the other people simply walking down the streets. He talked about the eye contact they make and how it's a dead giveaway.
He seemed to know everything about the city and I realized how little I knew.
That hour-long car ride was quite an education. He didn't have to invite the intern along... he certainly didn't need my help; but I"m glad he did.

at 1/20/2008 12:52 PM Anonymous John Phillips said...

Chic, chasing fire trucks wouldn't be the same without you! You're a class act and an example of how it ought to be done. Here's to you and your health.

at 1/21/2008 8:56 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey john do you have any idea when new smallvilles and pushing daisies may be coming on? or does it just depend on the strike?
-chris in middletown

at 1/21/2008 10:01 AM Blogger John Kiesewetter said...

To Anon 8:56 a.m.
Don't know how many "Smallvilles" are left for sure, but I think there are a few. My guess CW is doing a rerun this week to save a few for February sweeps. "Pushing Daisies" is out of new shows. With way writers strike is going, you won't see new ones until next season.

at 1/21/2008 11:20 AM Anonymous Colonel Panic said...

"--How he slept with 6-7 police/fire scanners/pagers, to get to breaking news before any other reporter."

At first glance, I thought he was sleeping with 6 or 7 different people, such as dispatchers... then I re-read it and came to my senses.

at 1/21/2008 1:02 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has Ch.12 named a permanent anchor replacement for the Noon & 4 p.m. newscast to fill Dayna's old spot? It seemes like some days they have John L. at Noon and somedays Anna T.?


at 1/21/2008 2:51 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey kiese any update on time warner getting USA HD. Monday Night Raw is being broadcast in HD tonight?

at 1/21/2008 3:38 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there an HD guide in the Sunday TV listings?

at 1/21/2008 5:48 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just called Time Warner they said they will not add any more HD channels right now. They said it will be a few months for these channels to be upgraded.

at 1/21/2008 6:42 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

who's got the best hi-def package? Cable, or satellite?

at 1/21/2008 8:39 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

As one of the competing reporters, I realized Chic set the standard for breaking news. I knew if I could beat him to something, I'd be doing a good job.

Well, it never happened.

Good luck, Chic. You'll be missed.

at 1/21/2008 10:27 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the early 80's we used to hang out after the shows and talk about the old, golden days of film. The guy could splice like a surgeon!

at 1/22/2008 2:11 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

A while back I saw news footage from INSIDE a burning Westchester apartment building. The cameraman was literally behind the firefighters as they were advancing a hoseline up a stairwell to the fire floor. I was simultaneously shocked and amazed that a videographer could exploit the chaos of a fire scene to get into a burning building with little more than a camera and a winter coat. But needless to say, Chic once again captured the story like no-one else could...or dared to.

at 1/22/2008 3:30 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

the best HD package has got to be satellite.

at 1/22/2008 9:01 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, Chic. How well I remember when we had 74 Chevy Vegas as news cars. What a horrible experiment! We survived, though, lassie. We survived!

at 1/22/2008 11:25 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chic Poppe should not only get a retirement party, he should get a medal for putting up with the parade of morons running the newsroom and the front office for so many years.

at 1/23/2008 9:10 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to have to deal with Chic when I worked at ARTIMIS, and whenever I spoke to him he was nothing short of rude and arrogant, giving you the "don't you know who I am" attitude. He also interviewed my father in law at a fourth of July parade and was also rude. I certainly won't miss him.

at 1/23/2008 1:01 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chic, we've often talked about the Frisch's salad bar being your favorite lunch stop (we both love their croutons!). I'll buy next time!

at 1/23/2008 8:25 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

My fondest memory involves us loading film magazines in the old developing room. It was tough back in those days and we had a lot of work to do. We all smoke a lot and I remember once a cigarette falling into one of the chemical trays. Holy smokes! Them was the days Chic!

at 1/24/2008 11:15 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the memories - especially the time we got locked out of the news van in freezing weather. That sterno you had stashed in your coat pocket saved the day!

at 1/24/2008 12:07 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chic, do you still have your Schottelkotte Yellow Sportscoat?

I think 9 should have a retro day, where EVERYONE has to wear one of those awful jackets!

at 1/24/2008 9:00 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

The striped pants were the best! Chic, remember your bowtie? It was plaid - and LOUD!

at 1/25/2008 10:34 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chic, you were the first cameraman to sport tennis shoes in the late 70s. It paid off. You got all the great gets.

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