Sunday, July 29, 2007

WJW History Part 2-News Takes Hold

Late 1950's Ad for the "Nite Movie"

This is Part 2 of The orginal WJW-TV told by personalites and employees of Channel 8..

News Takes Hold
Soupy Sales: Her name was Patty Rowe. (Girl that Soupy worked with on a Variety Show-ed.) She was a piano player. We did "Soup's On" for about a year and won the Plain Dealer Award for best new TV show. The station took it off the air the next day, and I headed to Detroit.

Jackie Golnick [Traffic]: In those days, the FCC had strict regulations on how many commercials you could air: no more than four in a break. Today, it's whatever you want. You can do nine commercials in a break. Probably the biggest change I saw in my job in the continuity department was when we lost cigarette advertising [in 1971]. We'd run cigarette ads in just about every break, especially in prime time. We took a big hit when those went away. Today, everything is car dealerships.

Jim Doney: Empire Coil sold the station to Storer Broadcasting. Storer owned several stations and had a strong relationship with CBS. WXEL had been with the ABC and DuMont networks, which weren't even full-time networks.

Howard Hoffmann: Old man Storer had a seat on the Board of CBS, so when he bought the station, he stole the affiliation [in 1955] from WEWS and they got ABC. It hurt 'em for a little while, but they did fine.

Jim Doney: About the same time they switched the station from Channel 9 to Channel 8 [on December 10, 1953]. Storer wanted to increase the power, but that interfered with a station in Steubenville, which was also broadcasting on Channel 9. Storer also bought WJW radio so the TV station could get the call letters; they thought it was very prestigious to have three call letters instead of four.

Helen Celke: There was a lot of publicity when we changed from Channel 9 to Channel 8. When the Storer family bought it, we took the WJW call letters from their radio station, which was at 850AM.

Chuck Schodowski: I came out of high school...I had no college...I went right into working in a foundry. Whew! I got tired of that in a few years. I used to drive past the Channel 8 transmitter and I'd say to myself, "Man, would I love to work at something like that!" So one day I was downtown and I stopped at Channel 3 and I asked, "What do you have to do to get a job here?" Well, they said you need this and this and this...and at the very least you need a First Class FCC license. So I went out and took a three year course, one a night a week, and learned TV repair while I was working in the foundry. I take my test and get my license and came back to Channel 3 and told the guy, "Here it is! This is what you told me to get!" Let me tell you, he was impressed with that! And he gave me a shot as a summer replacement. I worked my butt off. Did real well. I was only there for the summer, but the Chief Engineer liked me a lot because I was so eager, so he called here and set up a job interview for me because they were getting their first tape machine and they needed another engineer.

Helen Celke: I used to hire talent. We'd hold auditions and people would walk in off the street. I would invite the ad agencies in to watch the whole process. Some of the people were so funny it was almost sad because they thought they were so good. But every so often we would get some really good people. One of them...someone right off the street...became the spokesman for Society National Bank and retired in Paris!

Chuck Schodowski: Channel 8 used to have a movie on in the '50s and called it Night Owl Theater. They had this cartoon that came on the screen...a little guy pulling a wagon that would give you the station ID. He comes along and looks at the camera. So when I starting work here, I met the guy who did the cartoon. His name was Rick Reinard, and he did all the artwork here and he actually drew this cartoon on film and put it on the movies. Now he's a big animator in Hollywood — worked on these really big movies.

Helen Celke: Everything was much simpler then. A lot of people in those days only stayed with their jobs for a few years, but at Channel 8, things changed so fast it was like you were always working for a different company. So much was live, like the commercials. You never knew what was going to happen. If there was a football game on the air and the score was 55-3, they'd come back to the studio and the guy might be there and he might not be there. It was never boring!

Howard Hoffmann: We did everything. Anything that went on the air, I was a part of it.

John FitzGerald: I wound up doing the Browns games with Bill McColgan in 1953. People would recognize you. One night in a bar, this guy walks up to Gale Egan, who was a sports writer with the Plain Dealer and did a show with me and starts punching him out. Didn't like what Gale had said on the air!

Chuck Schodowski: Cleveland, now, is the 14th or 15th largest market. Back then it was the 7th or 8th. A very important market because of the cross section of people that lived here. When I first started here in 1960, we had special commercials that were sent to us by the network where we had to cover some of the network commercials. I never understood why until I found out that Cleveland was a test-market for many, many products. When they would run the national spot, we would cover it and run a local spot and then they would see how the product did in Cleveland. Like the Princess Phone. It was first in Cleveland for two or three years before they sold it nationally. We were a big market because of the diverse, ethnic people here. It's really a special kind of market.

Dick Goddard [Meteorologist]: I was on the GI Bill — got $150 bucks a month, which then in the late '50s wasn't bad. I got a full time job at the Akron Weather Bureau, so I worked full-time at night and went to Kent State during the day. Five years later I get my degree in art ready to quit. But out of the weather bureau I'm doing forecasts and the General Manager of the old Westinghouse station, KYW, called me and said, "Goddard, we're looking for a guy who hasn't just been out IN the weather but he knows a little bit about it." The same week I got an offer to work for Disney in California, I got an offer from Westinghouse. I figured, "Oh well. I'll try TV. I know I won't make it. At least I can tell my grandkids I was on TV!"

Doug Adair [Anchor]: Helen Celke called me in 1958 when I was working for a station in Dayton doing the Sohio Report. She invited me to come to WJW and audition as a staff announcer...a position that was very common in those days. It wasn't like I had a news background; actually, I had a speech background. I always thought news was the last thing I wanted to do. It wasn't as much fun as doing commercials.

Jim Prunty: We fed a 10-minute newscast everyday to TV stations across the state called the Sohio News Network. Warren Guthrie did it every morning at 11:00, but since Cleveland was the only city observing daylight savings time in those days, we had to do it again.

John FitzGerald: Warren was brilliant. He'd been in the Navy, and his job every morning was to give the Fleet Admiral a one page briefing of all the world news. That's how he became so skilled at it.

Doug Adair: When I came to Channel 8, I began working with Warren, who was the head of the Western Reserve speech department. He was Channel 8's first real newscaster and I came to idolize him. Warren had the most unusual ability in the world. Every day, he would come into the newsroom and look over stories his editor had picked out. He would look at them...write down one or two words for each one...then he'd put his feet up and rest because he was so tired. Then they'd do two rehearsals...not because Warren needed them, but because the director would need them. Guthrie never had a script. He took his 2 or 3 words for each story and then delivered a newscast that was flawless.

John FitzGerald: Guthrie had very little interest in local news. One of the general managers tried to push him into doing local, but he wouldn't. He just didn't care if so-and-so's garage had caught fire. So they followed Warren's national news with five minutes of local news called "City Camera," which is how Doug began to make a name for himself.

Doug Adair: We started off using Polaroid pictures. I could hear them using staple guns attaching the pictures on the board as we were doing the news. I'd start reading stories and they'd go to the pictures...and you might not see me again till right before the commercials.

John FitzGerald: The staff carried around Polaroid cameras, and when they'd spot something, they'd snap a picture and bring it back to the station. While we were on the air, we'd hear this "snap snap pop" of the pictures being stapled to the board.

Doug Adair: Then after the newscast was done, we'd take the pictures off the board and mail them out to the people that were involved. That idea immediately caught on. It helped catapult local news to a prominence that no one would have believed as possible. "City Camera" was so popular that we passed Walter Cronkite and Douglas Edwards in the ratings.

Dick Goddard: In every major market in the '50s, they usually had really a good looking lady on one — well endowed — you had a comedian or magician on the other and on the third station, who knows what you had. So I was the first guy to come to Cleveland as a meteorologist. I was so bad when I started. The rumor at Channel 3 was that I was the nephew of the General Manager. (Laughs.) Years later, some of the veterans told me, "We took a vote, Goddard, when you first came as to whether you'd stick around, and the vote was 8 to 2 that you wouldn't!"

Jim Prunty: We carried the Browns for years because CBS had them and we were a CBS station. Sometimes, we would feed the entire country from here in this control room. There would be two complete sets of films and commercials, because if one film chain broke, you only had one chance to get it right and a lot of money was at stake. So you needed a back up. And then if the game didn't sell out, we had to operate a third film chain which is what Cleveland saw because we had to black out the game.

Doug Adair: One time, I was about to leave on vacation and they told me that Joel Daly from Channel 5 and I would replace Warren. I was sick about it. When I saw Warren, I said, "I have no business at all taking your place." I later read this somewhere, that Joel and I were the first local anchor team in the US.

Joel Daly [Anchor]: At that time — we're talking 1964 — it was unheard of to hire someone from across the street. It was decided that we go with a two-man anchor format, which had also never been done. I mean, there was Huntley and Brinkley, but they were in different cities. Up until then, the news ran 12 minutes, then the sports came on and then the weather. It wasn't a half-hour, continuous show because the unions insisted that people who appeared anywhere on a 30-minute show be paid as if they did the entire show. We got the union to change the rules, and as a result, ours was the first local half-hour newscast that became the standard all over the country.

Doug Adair: Joel and I started what some people call the "fun and games." Actually, it was never that; we just went for a feeling that at the end of the show, when we finished, you had to leave the audience with something to smile about. It began to grow where Joel would try to get me on the air or do something to me.

Joel Daly: Doug and I were such good friends; we'd kid each other on the air. I'd do the worst things to him. I became the bad guy. People would come up to me on the street and say, "What are you gonna do to him tonight?"

Doug Adair: He got me one time, in particular. The film editor called me in to look at what he was working on. Like every reporter, I would be out on the street doing a report and I'd mess up from time to time. Joel would find my outtakes, string them together and embarrass me. Well, the film editor said, "We got Joel this time!" He'd found a bunch of Joel's outtakes and was going to use them at end of the show. What he didn't show me was that at the end of all these bloopers, he had sliced in one piece of film where Joel said, "There! That's my imitation of Doug Adair."

Copyright © 2000 New World Communications of Ohio, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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