January 24, 2012
Nick Clooney - Great Living Cincinnatian
This story is the second in a series recognizing each member of the 2012 class of Great Living Cincinnatians. Awards will be presented at the Chamber Annual Dinner on February 16, 2012. More info
While Nick Clooney’s career has not followed any traditional path, he has made a difference at each stop.
Born in Maysville in 1934, Nick grew up listening to famous journalists like Edward R. Murrow and William Shirer and dreamed of becoming a reporter. He got his first opportunity when he was 16 on a local radio station. The first assignment, appropriately, was to read the news.
But for years, Nick learned broadcasting on the entertainment side of radio and television. By the late 1960s, he hosted his own morning talk and variety show — first in Columbus and then in Cincinnati on WCPO-TV. In 1974 he was the host of the ABC network game show, Money Maze. When ABC canceled Money Maze, Nick returned to Cincinnati as the news director and anchor of WKRC-TV and, in this role, found his niche.
Clooney built an outstanding staff of reporters and anchors, some of whom still work at the station.
He demanded that the station invest in the latest technology, including the capability to broadcast live from remote sites. Just two days after the technology became operational in 1977, the Beverly Hills Supper Club caught fire resulting in 165 deaths and 200 injuries. Because of Nick’s unrelenting demands, WKRC was the only station that could report live from the scene of what remains one of the region’s major stories. Within five years, WKRC overtook Al Schottelkotte and WCPO, which had dominated the local ratings for almost two decades.
In the late 1980s, Clooney returned to radio and contributed commentaries — often shot in the study of his home in Augusta — on social trends and history for WKRC. And beginning in 1989, he wrote a column for the Cincinnati Post three times a week until the paper closed in 2007. He also gained a reputation as the host of American Movie Classics, for which he won a national Emmy nomination.
Nick’s love of American history, respect for the political process and his deeply-held principles also led him into two high-profile forays into public service. In 2004, he made an unsuccessful bid for Congress in the Kentucky Fourth District. Two years later, he joined forces with his son George in an effort to throw a spotlight on the unfolding tragedy in Darfur.
As Clooney has lived a lifetime in the public eye, two primary themes emerge. First, no matter where his work takes him, Nick is rooted in Ohio River Valley. Nick and his wife Nina could never imagine straying too far, for too long, from their home in Augusta, just a few blocks from the ferry that connects them to the world.
Second, Clooney’s greatest asset has always been his ability to connect with people. Whether it is reporting a story on the evening news or speaking to a room full of people, Nick communicates that he cares deeply about people. And the people, in turn, respond and reciprocate.