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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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Saturday, April 12, 2008

60 Years Of Television

All the TV stations look alike these days, with their syndicated shows and local newscasts. That wasn't the case when TV started, which made researching the 60th anniversary of Cincinnati television for my Sunday story so much fun.

For starters, there was only one TV station on the air in 1948 – Crosley Broadcasting's WLWT-TV – thanks to Crosley's engineering resources and huge entertainment staff at WLW-AM, "The Nation's Station." WLWT (originally Channel 4) was on the air for more than a year before WKRC-TV arrived on April 4, 1949, and WCPO-TV began on July 26, 1949.

By the time the other guys got on the air, WLWT already had broadcast the first Reds game, UC football game, variety show, weather forecast, religious service, boxing, wrestling, and pro basketball game (the Harlem Globetrotters from Music Hall). In fact, all of those first were done as experimental W8XCT, before WLWT began commercial broadcasting on Feb. 9, 1948.

So why celebrate the anniversary now? Because Channel 5 managers are choosing to celebrate the week of April 14, the 60th anniversary of becoming NBC's second affiliate (after WNBC-TV in New York). by the way, it's also the 60th anniversary week for the premiere of the old "Midwestern Hayride" country show (1948-72), which aired as a NBC summer replacement show the 50s, and the 60th anniversary of the first Reds Opening Day telecast.

For today's Channel 5 folks, becoming a NBC affiliate was a big deal. But here's what I found interesting: It took 18 more months to get live network TV feeds here! WLWT ran kinescopes – films made of TV broadcasts -- until the network coaxial cable reached here in September 1949. To celebrate the arrival of live network programming here, NBC broadcast a special with NBC stars from NY called "NBC Salutes WLW-Television" on Sept. 5, 1949.

With my stories you'll see two photo galleries, one for old WLWT shows and another for famous WLWT personalities (from Bonnie Lou to Bill Hemmer). Click on the photo links on the story. (Can anyone identify the names of the three Lucky Pennies musicians in the "Midwestern Hayride" photo with Dean and Penny Richards? Or anyone in the Betty Clooney photo with studio orchestra from Mount Olympus?)

My list of famous faces from 5 ran much longer. Here are some others, and maybe you can add some more:

Bob Trumpy, did his first TV for Ch 5 sports.
Clyde Gray, did two stints at Ch 5 (1979-83; 1985-90) before going to Ch 9.
Rob Braun, interned there in 1984, but not hired because his father was working at station hosting noon "Bob Braun Show." (Where would Ch 5 be if they had him today?)
Chris Cimino, was a 1995 weatherman. Now at WNBC, and a frequent "Today" show weather fill-in. (I saw him Saturday morning).
J.D. Hayworth, former Arizona congressman was a Ch 5 weekend sports anchor in late 1980s.
Pat Barry, was a Q102 DJ hired as main weather anchor in early 1980s.
Gene Randall, former CNN anchor, was anchor here in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He anchored Ch 5's special for the Riverfront Stadium opening in 1970.
Steve Physioc, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim TV play-by-play announcer did Reds TV on 1986 with Marty and Joe.
Tom Hume, former Reds pitcher, was Reds color analyst in 1990 before becoming a Reds coach.
Andy Furman was a Channel 5 sports reporter/producer before going to WLW-AM full-time.
Toria Tolley Hammill anchored here before going to CNN.
Steve Hortsmeyer was hired by Tony Sands for the Ch 5 weather department in 1977.
Steve Raleigh did news and weather on Ch 5 1986-88, then came back to town in 2005 for Ch 9.
Didn't "Today" show reporter Jack Lescoulie do an afternoon show on Ch 5 in the '60s?
Wally Phillips was on WLW TV and radio before going to WGN.

Can you think of others?


at 4/12/2008 9:29 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Betsy Ross -- before going on to ESPN.

at 4/13/2008 1:41 AM Blogger Toddy-O said...

John, the ultimate was Durwood Kirby. Later on, Jay Ward butchered him as Kirwood Derby on Bullwinkle.

Sports-wise: Joe Morgan got his start, Bill Brown in the 70's. Weeb Eubank doing Bengal games. Betsy Ross went to ESPN from WLWT (post-WCPO days) Would you also add SportsTime to the mix? If so, add Cammy Dierking, Randi Douglas, Stacy St. James, Todd Donaho to the list, to name just a few.

Variety shows: Kenny Price definitely had a national impact, same goes for Bonnie Lou (in the 50's). Let's not forget that John Waters used a Ruth Lyons song in one of his first movies with Divine. And Bob Shreve. The first coax image of Cincinnati was Shreve with Charlie Vaughan directing.

Randy Weidner-Hamilton came out of the Braun show and hit the soap opera circuit.

Bill Nimmo was the first announcer on WLW-T, from high atop Carew Tower.

News-wise, Steve Douglas, John Getter, Steve Handlesman (who's either at WMAQ or WRC-always a NBC O&O) but WLWT has always excelled with behind the scenes people. Jeff Hirsch and Rich Jaffe were at 5 before 12. Steve Norris even did a stint at 5 before settling in at 9.

It was WLWT's engineer force, along with NBC's folk who made Color TV. And remote gear. And they taught NBC how to do baseball games.

And it was the AVCO boys that ran WCET for years, who taught a lot of us television and whom several went to WLWT and then beyond, Jeff Heusser in particular.

John, you should talk with the Historical Society and UC-Raymond Walters, who have two good collections of WLW-T programming. UC-Raymond Walters has a copy of the one episode of the Ruth Lyons' 50 Club that was shot for Armed Forces (and an episode none of the retrospects of Ruth Lyons have ever shown).

Todd Osborne

at 4/13/2008 8:49 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kiese, I think Jack Lescoulie did a couple of things that were 5-related. I think you're right on the afternoon show, but he also did a kids-oriented show for NBC (after he wore out his welcome on "Today") called "1-2-3-Go." One of their episodes originated from Cincinnati and involved the Cincinnati Police as they investigated a case at the Cincinnati Art Museum. This would have been around '62 or thereabouts/

at 4/13/2008 10:26 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Possibly Bill Brown, the television play-by-play announcer of the Houston Astros. I remember seeing him broadcast Reds games here in Cincinnati and his Astros Media Guide Bio says he was the Reds television announcer from 1976-82. If the Reds games were broadcast on Channel 5 during those years, he would also be an alum.

at 4/13/2008 11:56 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve Douglas was one of the best local anchors here in the late 60's and early 70's. He was teamed with Tom Atkins. He left here for Washington D.C. and was killed in an ultralight accident that was captured on camera.

at 4/13/2008 2:05 PM Blogger Scott Evans said...

I was a news 5 weather watcher for 4 years with Pat Barry and his successor. Great memories, happy bday WLWT.

at 4/13/2008 3:54 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee Cowan worked as an anchor/reporter for WLWT in the mid-90s. He went to work for CBS national and is now a reporter for NBC on Nightly News.

at 4/13/2008 5:50 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dare say you should include Charlie Luken, who left to become mayor of Cincinnati (of course, he also left politics to become an anchor at channel 5).

Lee Cowan - who has been a CBS & NBC national correspondent.

Ryan Owens - reporter who is now an anchor of ABC News' overnight newscast.

Solomon Wilcots was a weekend anchor who went on to national.

Its really amazing that given 5's rich history in basically launching the model of local television, has devolved into this bland no-name abyss of broadcasting.

at 4/13/2008 9:16 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

don't forget about Lee Cowan.

at 4/14/2008 10:16 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI...Ryan Owens is no longer a co-anchor of ABC World News Now (the overnight show).

Rather, he is now a correspondent on ABC World News with Charles Gibson.

at 4/14/2008 10:55 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about Jerry Springer???

at 4/14/2008 11:13 AM Blogger John Kiesewetter said...

Anon 10:55 a.m.:
Yep, Springer was among the 15 in the online gallery and on D4 of Sunday's paper. Thanks.

at 4/14/2008 11:52 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Getter & Pat Weinstein(the met in Cincinnati. The last Steve Douglas(who married my college chum Valerie Lemke(?) just had a brain freeze. Debbie Banker Merritt Condtardi.
from the neighborhood

at 4/14/2008 12:12 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

And its Valerie Lampe!
from the neighborhood

at 4/14/2008 12:58 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan Rather is now a correspondent for ABC News with Charles Gibson??? Wow!!! (note sarcasm font)

at 4/14/2008 1:06 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of those names mentioned here would be rolling in their graves if they knew what WLWT is like now. Last week is a perfect example. The Colerain house fire story, WLWT reported on a secret room inside that house with a secret panel to enter it. Turns out to be a closet for clothes that is opened with a door knob. Apparently I have several ""Secret Rooms"" in my house I didn't know about. They have no credibility....all steak. embarassing.

at 4/14/2008 2:49 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, anon 1:06, did you see the prosecutor today? if you missed it, it must be because you don't work for channel 5...the only station to carry the news conference live.

he spoke quite a bit about the hidden room with the secret panel where the couple was growing their pot.

the closet was where they were growing the orchids. also reported correctly by 5.

guess YOUR facts are as good as YOUR sources...otherwise you would have been reporting the inside scoop, too. oh well.

at 4/14/2008 6:37 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually the prosecutor's map showed a closet. And what about the involuntary manslaughter charges that WLWT was talking about last week?

at 4/15/2008 10:40 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 6:37:

yep. the prosecutor's map showed a closet. and a narrow hidden room where they were growing pot.
just like 5 said.

5 had sources that were so good they even knew the entrance to the hidden room was a disguised piece of paneling. again, just like the prosecutor said.

the manslaughter charge...well i guess that's when the reporters said if the fire could be tied to the pot, the homeowners would face charges up to involuntary manslaughter.
let's see...that would be...exactly what the prosecutor said.

did you even watch the news conference?

oh, i forgot which blog i was on...
this is the one where you're supposed to slam 5 no matter what the facts are...
you know, just like kiesewetter says.

at 4/15/2008 10:42 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

clearly you must work for 9 or 19, because 12 and 5 were the only one's reporting that there was also marijuana being grown in the basement. Sorry you didn't have as strong of sources.

That said, Prosecutor Deters said point-blank that the room in question was disguised and you wouldn't have seen it. It didn't have a typical door handle as others on this blog have implied.

As for coverage of the manslaughter, I heard both 5 and 12 report that any charges for manslaughter would ONLY result if they found the fire was the cause of the firefighters' deaths.

at 4/15/2008 10:45 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

those charges were IF the crimes could be tied to criminal activity, but the fire was NOT.

This whole case is a big embarrassment for local police, prosecutors, and the media.

So many reports hinting that marijuana was at the root of this fire, when in fact it was NOT. No delay in reporting the fire. 911 shows they told dispatch everyone was out of the house. A fan in an orchid closet simply broke. And there HAPPENED to be marijuana plants in the house. Not even on the same electric line as the fan. They weren't even touched by the fire.

And yet folks were dropping hints for weeks that this couple was to blame for the fire - when nothing could be further from the truth. And their name is now ruined forever in this town - because you will never convince some people otherwise.

The powers that be decided someone must pay for the lives of these firefighters - so the couple is thrown to the wolves. And in the context of the fire - they did NOTHING wrong.

at 4/15/2008 11:55 AM Blogger bmurdock said...

Thom Brennaman did sports for WLWT before leaving to broadcast for the Cubs, then D-backs, and back to Cincy.

at 4/15/2008 1:36 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heres a question for everyone to think about:

If the marijuana was not in the house then would the owners of the house of been more upfront with the firefighters when they got there.

at 4/15/2008 6:45 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cris Collinsworth did his first television on WLWT. I know because I produced his segment called Cris' Kids once per week for the sports segment. We started the Cris Collinsworth scholarship fund and gold outing through the station as well. This was all in the mid to late 1980s. His first "play by play" was the Johnny Bench Bicycle Classic Race at Union Terminal during the Bicentenial year celebration. We televised it live and on tape.

Julie Smith Weindel

at 4/16/2008 12:25 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the marijuana in the house - didn't the homeowners have more to gain by insisting the firefighters stay OUT of the house? The wife did tell 911 everyone was out of the house - and their attorney says they did meet someone at the top of the driveway, again saying everyone was out. And the fire call was automatic, because the smoke detector was hooked up to their ADT system. Can we please now stop villifying these people who Joe Deters said have no blame for the firefighters' deaths????

at 4/17/2008 12:48 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spent 17 years with WLW-T. When I started I was a page who ran errans, jockied elevators to Ruth Lyons and Paul Dixon shows for a few months and then moved to News..
I was News Clerk or goffer,,, film processor , pictue mounter,, and copy boy.. We did a 15 minute News cast at 11. The staff consisted of: News Director, Gene MacPhearson, his assitant Elevlan McGruder, chief photographer Jack Robertson,Photographers, Gene Neuber, Bill Auganbaugh & Bill Kellenbrink... News talent Peter Grant and Glenn Wilson. Sports, Alan Stout soon replaced by Ed Kennedy and Ted Klususski (sp) ,, Weather, Tony Sands, writet Hal Hanes and Director Art Nevins... That was it ,,,the entire staff 24-7.. We shot black and white negative film,,pasted B&W fax pictures on hod cards, used a rear-screen slide projector (a modern marvel of its day) and used four carbons with each page of script...
In the coming years we added to the staff went color and I guess got modern,,,but in those early years I still think we turned out a better product than what they do today... We never sent a reporter out to stand where a news story happened hours earlier to do a "live report",,,, we had film of the story as it happened///// As we used to say """" Film at 11"""
I left the station in 1980 as Executive Proiducer of Special Programming to free lance for NBC and Major League Baseball,, later starting my own business , Aztec Video Productions... But my heart will alway be with WLW-T.. I like to say the Golden Years were fron 1948 to 1962... From then on it became the Glory Years 1963-80.... Van Cottengim....

at 4/17/2008 1:30 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. I forgot Al Lenord our only field reporter....

at 4/29/2008 3:02 PM Anonymous gene randall said...

My years at WLWT made possible everything in my career that followed. I have never found a match for the graciousness of the Cincinnati audience.

Gene Randall, former Channel 5 anchor.

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