Jim Otte has been investigating government spending since joining WHIO-TV in 1988.
A native of Cincinnati, Otte began his career at radio stations in Oxford, Hamilton and Columbus. During that time he covered Ohio politics for National Public Radio. At WHIO-TV, he began the "Wastebusters" segment on Channel 7, focusing on waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayers' money throughout the Miami Valley. As a member of the I-Team, Otte enjoys interviewing the people who are impacted by government spending decisions. He is a two-time winner of the Ohio Associated Press "Best Reporter Award," in 2009 and 2012. Jim and his wife, Cindy, have three children.
Q & A
How did you get into broadcast journalism?
It all began at a little radio station in Oxford, Ohio. While I was a student at Miami University, I fell in love with the news business. Like much else in life, it is an acquired taste. It was a departure from my upbringing in the quiet suburbs of Cincinnati. On the news beat, days are often filled with politics and personalities, courts and criminals, floods and fires. I thought, "What better way to be a part of history than to spend a lifetime watching it happen and telling other people all about it?" From college, I moved to commercial radio in Oxford and Hamilton. Later I moved closer to the action in Columbus. I began covering the Ohio Statehouse in late 1982.
I have seen a lot of Governors come and go. Who was my favorite to cover? Dick Celeste. He knew how to communicate, whether the news was good or bad. After six years with the Public Radio and TV Bureau at the Statehouse, I joined WHIO-TV. Over the years, my most memorable story has been the Lucasville prison riot. I spent the better part of two weeks standing in a field outside the prison as troopers and national guardsmen tried to figure out what to do next.
I tell people wherever I go; the best part of the job is meeting people who have grown up watching Channel 7. They are an amazing bunch of people. Also, along the way, I have been blessed to win my share of awards from the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists.
Yes, the news is not often very enjoyable. But I've always thought that reporters get to see people at their very best, too. That's the part that keeps me going.
And between stories I do have a private life. When I'm not paddling my kayak on a lake or stream in Ohio, I'm taking my teenage son to a sporting event. He runs Cross Country, and plays soccer, and volleyball. My wife and I have two daughters who are in college. The middle daughter is at the University of Cincinnati. The oldest is at Miami.
Visiting her gives me an excuse to get back on campus from time to time, look at the campus radio tower and drift back to the where it all began.
Where were you born?
Cincinnati. The west side is filled with my immediate family and countless cousins, aunts and uncles.
Where did you grow up?
Cincinnati. Monfort Heights, to be exact. It's a Western Hills suburb.
What was your favorite TV show then?
If it was on TV in the 60's, it was my favorite. From news and sports to Hogan's Heroes.
What was the first thing you ever wanted to be?
A carpenter, like my dad.
How might someone have described you in high school?
Geek. And they would be correct.
What was your first job?
I worked for my dad's company in high school and college. Carpenter, roofer, truck driver, crane operator and a lot of other things.
What was your first job in television?
My first job in TV was floor director for the university station. My first paying job was reporter for the Public TV Bureau at the Ohio Statehouse.
What do you like about your job?
You never know where this job will take you or who you will talk to throughout the day. I've interviewed big names in politics and sports. I've met a lot of great people along the way who have made this job a real adventure.
What do you not like about your job?
I spend a lot of time away from my family.
What might people be surprised to know about you?
I broke my arm playing soccer in an adult recreation league in the mid-90s. I returned to play another season, but was forced into retirement by my wife.
What is the hardest thing you ever did?
One of the many hard things you have to do on rare occasions as a reporter is approach the family members of a victim involved in a terrible tragedy. I try my best to respect people's privacy.
What would be a perfect day for you?
My perfect day is breaking a big story, beating the competition, going home to get my kayak and hit the water with my family.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to go into the business?
Be ready for anything. Joy, sadness, triumph and tragedy.
If you could only keep one 5-minute tape from your career what would be on it?
The Lucasville prison riot of 1993. I spent a lot of time there during the riot and afterwards. Being a part of history is one of the best parts of this job.
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