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TV Personality for the New Millennium

By Joe Wessels · March 25th, 2009 · Wessels

There isn’t much to watch on local TV anymore. It’s a sad notion considering that most of us are in the Cincinnati television market, which once was a national leader in local programming.

It would be a little hypocritical of me to blame the Internet, though Al Gore does have some explaining to do. How did Cincinnatians lose our cutting-edge demeanor when it came to new technology and entertaining ways to get the public interested in it? Cincinnati was known nationally for Powel Crosley Jr.’s 500,000-watt powerhouse, WLW- AM; the first publicly-licensed television station, WCET-TV; and great media personalities, including Rosemary Clooney and Doris Day back in the day and The Cool Ghoul and Bob Braun later on. And don’t forget the late Uncle Al, Al Schottelkotte, Paul Dixon, Ruth Lyons, Jerry Springer (whose commentaries on WLWT-TV in the mid-1980s help instill my civic pride and concern for our community) and even Michael Flannery, the current Cincinnati Public Schools board member and former children’s programming host with the trademark red glasses on WXIX-TV.

More recently, back in high school in the late 1980s, a friend and I used to skip classes to go to the Westin Hotel lobby to be in the audience of the short-lived Live on 5 show.

I now find watching local TV almost unbearable. I’m fed up with mindless “personalities” who don’t know Anderson from Avondale or Lawrenceburg from Lawrence of Arabia and think everything north of the Ohio River until you reach UC is either “downtown” or “Over-the-Rhine” and use those two names interchangeably.

Except for Bob Herzog.

If you haven’t heard of him, you might want to tune in to WKRC-TV’s morning news show. Yes, he’s the traffic guy. No, he’s not a reporter per se.

But he makes me — a print journalist hypercritical of all that TV attempts to call news — enjoy watching television. So much so that I wrote him an e-mail and told him as much and invited myself to the Channel 12 studios one morning to watch him work and get to know him.

Herzog indulged me, and I was delighted to find out he’s as engaging in person as when he’s in front of the cameras six days a week.

He’s certainly goofy, hosting “Dance Party Friday” (find YouTube clips here) during his traffic segments when there aren’t road problems, sometimes even dressing in bubble rap or bringing in someone to teach him Hip Hop moves. Bizarre, but smile-inducing.

Herzog also makes quips and comments on the odd news stories of the day, all with a genuine grin that just makes watching him enjoyable. And I definitely relate to his utter fascination with Huey Lewis and the News and most things ’80s.

Herzog started at WKRC in 2005 after hosting weekend movies on WSTR-TV and working at a Country radio station in Dry Ridge, Ky. He attended Xavier University, his eyes set on med school. Bored in those classes but getting good grades, he knew he was destined for something different.

“I just like talking to people,” Herzog says, “and telling stories.”

The Green Township native and Oak Hills High School grad (who still lives there) opted for practicality and went to law school. He practiced at a downtown law firm for a year before realizing that being an attorney wasn’t his calling either.

Married to his high school sweetheart with four kids, Herzog came close to giving up on TV in order to get a more stable, better paying career. Then he was offered the Channel 12 job he has now, and he hasn’t looked back.

Even though he comes into work at 4 a.m. most days, he stays up until 11 p.m. to help with family duties. After his shift ends mid-morning he returns home to sleep.

His family, Herzog says, is the single most important thing in the world to him. I thought it was making us all smile.

Take a peek one morning at the traffic report on Channel 12. It might help recall the good old days of local television.

CONTACT JOE WESSELS: joe@joewessels.net



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