Vault: Happy 68th birthday WEWS

Posted at 11:03 PM, Dec 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-17 15:21:53-05

Happy birthday to us.

WEWS signed on the air as Ohio's first television station 68 years ago. At 8 p.m., our first television broadcast was the Cleveland Press Christmas Show starring acting legend Jimmy Stewart.

The show aired from Cleveland's Public Auditorium downtown.

Our WEWS call letters are a tribute to the founder of our company Edward Willis Scripps. The Scripps company has owned WEWS for the TV station's entire existence, Dec. 17, 1947 to today—very rare in the world of media consolidation.

It's our birthday, but you get the special treat.

In our video player, you will find a rarity, an entire 11 p.m. newscast from 1978. It's the Sunday following the Blizzard of '78. News director Garry Ritchie co-anchors with another Cleveland broadcasting legend Bill Jacocks.

Tappy Phillips, who went on to a storied career at WABC in New York, showcases her story from the news set. Akron Bureau Chief Tom Koch rides along in National Guard helicopters to show the struggles of folks in rural counties following the snowstorm.

Weather and sports are handled by two more Cleveland legends, Mark Koontz and Nev Chandler. And if that's not enough for your viewing pleasure, Mister Morning Exchange himself, Fred Griffith, has a commentary.

There are some striking differences between newscasts of today and those from nearly 38 years ago. The newscast doesn't lead with weather. Odd, since we were just days after a real blizzard. Most of the stories were on film. No live shots—which would be almost taboo today. WEWS had Cleveland's first live truck in 1975.

I've edited out the commercials except for a couple of promos for the Afternoon Exchange, a new TV5 offering at tat time, and the Morning Exchange. Afternoon Exchange would move from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. with the closing of the Cleveland Press newspaper in 1982 and a few moths late be revamped and re-branded as Live on Five.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Garry Ritchie's son Art for this tape. As often happens in the archives, the tapes people have in their home collections hide some real gems.