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Albert J. Schottelkotte, 1927-1996

Aug. 26, 1997

Albert J. Schottelkotte, the face and voice of television news in Greater Cincinnati for a quarter of a century, died Dec. 25 in his Lawrenceburg, Ind., home. He was 69 years old. “Through a long and noteworthy career, Albert J. Schottelkotte defined how news was reported in Cincinnati,” said William R. Burleigh, president and chief executive officer of The E.W. Scripps Company. “He was THE voice of Cincinnati. He was aggressive, he was thorough, and he loved the community that was his beat.”After his active journalism career passed, he undertook the presidency of the Scripps Howard Foundation with the same dauntless dedication. He leaves a unique legacy.”Schottelkotte, was president and CEO of the foundation from 1986 until Dec. 5, 1996, when he became chairman of the foundation board. He was a retired senior vice president of Scripps Howard Broadcasting Company. He began his news career in 1943 when he was hired – on his 16th birthday – as a copy aide for The Cincinnati Enquirer. Within three months, the Cincinnati native became a general assignment reporter – the youngest journalist at that time on a major U.S. newspaper . In later life, Schottelkotte humbly explained his promotion, “The city editor looked up one day and didn’t see any other warm bodies in the newsroom – they were all off to war. “After two years away for army service in the Korean Conflict, he returned to The Enquirer in 1952 and began writing his “Talk Of The Town” column. It ran for nine years.A move in 1953 foreshadowed Schottelkotte’s destiny as a broadcast journalist. In the army, he had lectured on current affairs. With this experience he was offered a nightly news report at 6 p.m. on radio station WSAI-FM. It was the first local news program to make regular use of taped reports and interviews.In 1959, he joined Scripps Howard’s WCPO-TV, anchoring the 11 p.m. “Al Schottelkotte News.” For two years, he continued his newspaper column, radio show and the television news. Then, in 1961, he turned his full attention to television and became director of news and special events for WCPO. That year he also developed and anchored the first half-hour newscast on local television. Scripps Howard Broadcasting tapped him in 1967 as general manager of its newly created news division and in 1971 he became vice president/news for the company. Throughout his corporate rise, he remained Cincinnati’s premiere news anchor. Without interruption, he led the news ratings in Cincinnati for 22 years from 1960 to 1982. During many of these years, his audience shares equaled or exceeded the combined totals of the opposition news.Schottelkotte’s early news reports were unlike any other. To illustrate his stories, he relied heavily on film, videotape, photos, Polaroids and a library of 50,000 slides of local landmarks and people. Years later Ted Turner copied Schottelkotte’s approach to news when he launched the Cable News Network. Under his leadership, Scripps Howard Broadcasting became known in the industry as a pioneer. The Channel 9 Newsbird was one of the first helicopters in TV news capable of live transmissions from the air. Schottelkotte developed the first working agreement of a local station group with CNN – a breakthrough to be followed by major changes in TV news. He established a Columbus, Ohio, news bureau which, for 10 years, was the only full-time bureau maintained by any Ohio station. Schottelkotte pioneered in many facets of local news. In 1961 he developed and anchored the first half-hour noon newscast in local TV, leaving it to take over the 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts in 1967. Other programs of long duration that he created included “Impact,” a Sunday evening current affairs discussion program, which launched many local political careers, and “Sports of All Sorts,” one of the first of the Sunday late-night sports programs. In the fall of 1981 he became senior vice president of Scripps Howard Broadcasting and in September of 1982 he was named station director of WCPO, leaving the 11 p.m. anchor chair he had occupied for 23 years. He continued to anchor the station’s early evening news until 1986 when he was chosen to lead the Scripps Howard Foundation. He would have retired from the foundation in March 1997.As president of the foundation, Schottelkotte was responsible for establishment of the Cincinnati High School for Communication Professions, the Scripps Howard Visiting Professional Chair at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, development of a unique summer training project for journalism teachers at predominantly minority universities, expansion of the Ernie Pyle Museum and Historic Site at Dana, Ind., birthplace of Scripps Howard’s legendary World War II correspondent, and many other programs that fostered excellence in journalism. His active broadcast career ended in 1994 when he discontinued his twice weekly “Spotlight Reports” on WCPO. Schottelkotte has been the recipient of numerous honors for his career achievements. In 1981 he accepted the International Radio-Television News Directors Association Award for best spot news reporting for his staff’s coverage of WCPO’s takeover by a gunman. He was one of the five initial members of the Cincinnati Journalism Hall of Fame, established by the Society of Professional journalists in 1990. That same year he received the Distinguished Broadcaster Award of Alpha Epsilon Ro, the University of Cincinnati’s journalism fraternity. He was named to the Cincinnati Broadcast Hall of Fame by the Cincinnati Historical Society when the committee waived its policy of inducting only retirees. He leaves his wife, Elaine Green, a former WCPO reporter who now owns a television production company, and 12 children from a previous marriage: six sons – Paul, of Mineral Wells, W. Va.; Joseph, Bellfontaine, Ohio; Matthew and William, Cincinnati; Michael, Covington, Ky.; and Louis, Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; six daughters – Carol, Martha, Mary Jo, Linda Brewer, Amy Wohleber and Ellen Noble, all of the Cincinnati area. In addition, he leaves two step-children: David Green, Cincinnati; and Tracey Corrigan, Athens, Ohio; former wife, Virginia Schottelkotte, Cincinnati; a brother, James Edward Schottelkotte, Cincinnati; and a step-sister, Janet Heil, Cincinnati.