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John Kiesewetter and the End of an Era

December 15, 2014

The forced retirement of John Kiesewetter from the Cincinnati Enquirer marks an end of an era that traces back to the beginnings of broadcasting. John had been at the newspaper since 1975 and was always an enthusiastic supporter of history-minded projects and efforts, including those of Media Heritage. His encouragement and insights will be missed.

Possibly the first “broadcast” newspaper writer—it was all radio in those days!—was Magee Adams, who started writing columns for the Enquirer in the mid-1920s. Magee was sight impaired and reported on the incredible potential of this “new” technology that sent words and music through the “ether.” Magee wrote for the Enquirer, off and on, into the 1960s. Between Adams and Kiesewetter came a long list of terrific journalists who specialized in radio and, later, television. Writers like John Caldwell, James Devane, Luke Feck, Marty Hogan, Art Derrick, Steve Hoffman and Tom Brinkmoeller. Other Cincinnati and regional newspapers featured such mainstays as Charlton Wallace, Dale Stevens, Greg Paeth, Rick Bird, Dale Huffman and the spirited Mary Wood. There most certainly were others. These writers, or “critics,” provided background information, conducted celebrity interviews and gave their opinions regarding the quality and interest of thousands of programs over the years. Taken as a whole, the men and women were a civil group who never seemed interested in making their harshness the center of the story. John Kiesewetter is apparently the last in this long line because his job at the newspaper has been eliminated.

There's no doubt the job has changed. Instead of a handful of radio stations and four television stations, electronic media today spans the internet, cable, satellite and broadcasting with HD and sub-carrier channels, multi-channel streaming, podcasts, blogs and a veritable endless waterfall of information. The consumer pie has been carved into such thin slices, it's amazing anyone can keep track. 1950s-era media critic Luke Feck recalls watching an evening program on one of Cincinnati's three TV stations in his office in those days because he didn't have access to a television at home. He would type up a review immediately following the broadcast and submit it to the editor and typesetter by 10:25pm in order to be included in the paper's morning edition.

Newspapers are struggling to find relevance among the next generation of media consumers. Radio and television are also facing similar issues. Time will tell what the future holds for the Fourth Estate. In the meantime, we lament the passing of excellent journalists like John Kiesewetter and those who went before him who seemed to care deeply about celebrating quality radio and television broadcasting and preserving its history.

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