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....