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 working with my wife on our house or visiting our kids. Luckily they live close enough to see them for family events on weekends and holidays.
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.
Working at WHIO-TV is a dream come true for me. From the time my father was transferred to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the mid-1960s, my family always watched Channel 7.
I finished grade school at St. Helen's in Riverside (formerly Mad River Twp.), then graduated from Carroll High School. I later earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcasting from the University of Cincinnati. While in the Queen City, my roommate and I would often hop on the bus for a trip down to Riverfront Stadium to watch the Big Red Machine play! My senior year at U.C., I was fortunate to get an internship at WKRC radio where I learned to really apply what I was learning in college. I worked in radio news for three years, with stints at WING radio in Dayton and WCKY in Cincinnati, before landing a job as a reporter at WHIO-TV in August of 1981.
For much of the 1980’s, I covered the Dayton Police/Montgomery County Courts beat, reporting on all kinds of stories from the local criminal justice system. I covered a number of high-profile trials, including the murder trial of Ted Sinks. He was convicted of killing his wife and burying her body on the seventh floor of the Dayton Newspapers Building in downtown Dayton. During those years, I won four Emmy Awards. Three of them were for Spot News (now called Breaking News), including live coverage of a grueling police search for a teenager who was abducted by her mother’s killer. In 1990, I was thrilled to receive an Emmy for Investigative Reporting, for a three-part series on repeat drunk driving offenders.
In 2013, I added two more Emmys for two half hour specials that my co-workers and I produced. One was "Miami Valley Murder Mysteries"; the other was called "PTSD: Invisible Wound"--our goal here was to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress among our military combat veterans. I added two more Emmys in recent years for another “Miami Valley Murder Mysteries” and a special half-hour report about problems at the Dayton VA.
From 1991 through August of 2009, I anchored News Center 7's evening newscasts with my good friend and colleague, Jim Baldridge. He is now enjoying a well-deserved retirement. I'm fortunate that another very hardworking newsman succeeded Jim. James Brown and I are both sticklers for accuracy and grammar, and while we both like to joke around, we take very seriously our responsibility to our viewers here in the Miami Valley. From 1987 through 2014. I co-hosted the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon, which raised money for Dayton Children’s Hospital. I also emcee a number of events every year—including the Dayton Defense Education Gala, the United Way Big Thanks Volunteer Breakfast and the Hundred Club, which recognizes police officers and firefighters who go above and beyond and provides scholarships to children of those who die during their public service.
Between 2007 and 2012, I was fortunate to be honored twice as Best Anchor by the Associated Press and once by the Society of Professional Journalists. Since 2007, I've been honored with induction to the Radio/TV Broadcasters Hall of Fame of Ohio, Carroll High School's Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame and the Dayton Area Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Three of my co-workers and I also received a regional Edward R. Murrow award for a half-hour special we did in 2010 called "Domestic Violence: Breaking the Cycle."
When I'm not working, I enjoy spending time with my husband, Bob, our daughters, Christina and Maria, and our black Labrador and rescue dog, Missy. I'm a big sports fan, cheering for local high schools, the U.D. Flyers, Wright State Raiders, Ohio State Buckeyes, and Cincinnati Bengals and Reds. I love to exercise, especially running, swimming, and yoga. I enjoy cooking, and my favorite thing to do is relax by the pool with a wonderful book (after swimming my laps, of course!).
Q & A
Where were you born? Charleston, South Carolina
Where did you grow up? In Dayton from the time I was 9 years old. Before that, we lived in Texas, Arizona, and South Carolina. My dad was in the Air Force.
What was your favorite TV show then? Probably Andy Griffith
What was the first thing you ever wanted to be? A nun.
How might someone have described you in high school? Friendly, outgoing, and not very serious.
What was your first job? Serving hamburgers at Hardee's.
What was your first job in television? Anchoring morning cut-ins on WKRC-TV in Cincinnati
What do you like about your job? I love the challenge of communicating the news of the day in a clear, concise manner.
What do you not like about your job? Having to be concerned about hair, makeup, and clothing.
What might people be surprised to know about you? That I'm very athletic and that I can be very silly.
What is the hardest thing you ever did? It's something I still do every day—being a working mother.
What would be a perfect day for you? It would be a day spent doing something fun with my family, where we're all laughing and enjoying each other's company…maybe playing at a water park all day, then getting cleaned up and having a nice dinner out somewhere (any dinner's nice that I don’t have to prepare and clean up!)
What advice would you have for someone wanting to go into the business? Learn how to write well, be curious about the world around you, and pursue your dreams.
If you could only keep one 5-minute tape from your career what would be on it?
A combination of anchoring with Jim Baldridge, and some of my reporting for which I won Emmy awards.
Favorite book: The Five People you meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.
Favorite CBS show: Survivor and 60 Minutes
Favorite food: Chocolate of any kind
Favorite hobby: Reading for pleasure, and exercising—walking, running, swimming
Favorite Miami Valley place: I love all the parks, including Carillon, John Bryan, and Cox Arboretum
I could not be prouder to lead the I-Team, News Center 7's investigative and special reports unit. I say that with so much humbleness. During my more than 20 years working in the TV news business, I've always admired WHIO-TV, America's #1 CBS affiliate, as one of the best in the business. In early 2019, I could not resist the opportunity when WHIO-TV recruited me to join their management team as Special Projects Executive Producer. One thing I particularly love about my role is it allows me to work one-on-one with some of the business' best reporters while also continuing my first journalism love: reporting and storytelling. Therefore, I get the honor of also being a contributing I-Team reporter. You can watch my in-depth I-team reports regularly on News Center 7.
I guess you could say my journalism passion was unearthed in my hometown of Mountain Brook, AL, which is a suburb of Birmingham. Thanks to my high school's work study program, I was fortunate to be able to start my TV news career at 16, spending the next two years with WVTM-TV. More than 20 years later, my journalism journey has taken me on a path from Alabama to Alaska to Ohio, with career stops in Missouri, Kansas, North Carolina and Wisconsin along with way. That means I have the added experience of doing just about every job a TV newsroom can offer.
I am an extra proud University of Missouri School of Journalism graduate. Go Tigers! While at MU, I focused my studies on investigative journalism (the world's premier investigative journalism organization, Investigative Reporters and Editors [IRE], is located at Mizzou). I spent all four of my college years working for the university-owned NBC affiliate KOMU-TV, where I helped start the station's Target 8 consumer/investigative unit, which is still in existence today.
Ask anyone who knows me well, and they'll tell you I'm one of the most passionate folks you'll ever meet when it comes to advocating journalism's founding principal of being a government watchdog. I have a long track record of reporting on government waste, holding people in power accountable, giving those that feel they do not have one a voice an outlet and uncovering personal stories behind trends.
My move to Dayton comes after spending the last five years in Wisconsin. For the last three years I worked for News Center 7's CBS sister station in the small north central city of Wausau at WSAW-TV. I was hired to start the station's investigative unit and served for three years as WSAW's senior investigative reporter along with anchoring the 4 p.m. newscast. Our I-Team's reporting highlights included exposing a crisis and government coverup inside the state's juvenile justice system, loopholes impacting veterans' emergency care, and the lack of resources for families battling the opioid crisis, which received an Edward R. Murrow regional award of excellence for best series. I'm humbled to say numerous other stories our team put together were honored by the Midwest Broadcast Journalism Association and Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.
My first two years in Wisconsin were spent at Madison's WISC-TV, where my investigative reporting on gangs and the opioid epidemic received a regional EMMY award for Outstanding Achievement for Media Interactivity. I was also part of the investigative team honored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association for exposing how emergency radio failures were putting first responders' lives at risk.
Oh yeah! There's Alaska. It will always be a second home to me. I spent seven years there at KTVA-TV and later KTUU-TV, primarily as a political and investigative reporter. Yes, before you ask, this included covering Sarah Palin's administration. Prior to KTVA-TV, I worked as a general assignment reporter at KAKE-TV (ABC) in Wichita, Kansas, where among much crime news I covered the infamous BTK serial killer's reemergence and capture. My resume also includes news reporter roles at Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina's Spectrum Cable News and Montgomery, AL's WSFA-TV.
Most importantly I truly appreciate life and love those important loved ones in my life. I say that with the perspective of surviving both testicular cancer at 21 years old, and a massive "widowmaker" heart attack when I was 35 years old. I think health education and taking care of yourself is so important. I'm constantly on a mission to find healthy food that doesn't taste healthy. You'll find me working out most mornings. My husband and I love traveling, catching up on our backlog of DVR shows, and being fur dads to our three dogs. To no one's surprise I'm also a proud news junkie. We're glad to now call the Miami Valley home, and look forward to getting to know our new neighbors.
Q & A
Where were you born? Gillette, Wyoming
Where did you grow up? Mountain Brook, Alabama
What was your favorite TV show then? The local news 😊
What was the first thing you ever wanted to be? A news anchor – since I was a little kid.
How might someone have described you in high school? The news guy. I anchored our school's TV newscast, and worked for our local NBC station.
What was your first job? Intern at WVTM-TV
What was your first job in television? Promotions producer at WVTM-TV
What do you like about your job? Give those that feel they do not have one a voice an outlet, and being able to act as a check and balance on government leaders.
What do you not like about your job? Anytime someone is a victim – especially children – it deeply bothers me.
What might people be surprised to know about you? I've survived a massive heart attack. It took them a while to figure the cause out because I was healthy at the time. I have a rare genetic condition that causes my cells to be too small, leading to plaque buildup.
What is the hardest thing you ever did? Recovering from my heart attack. It sidelined me for seven months. I had to rebuild my body's strength.
What would be a perfect day for you? Getting to sleep in late. I'm always in a better mood. And any time with dogs is also a win in my book.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to go into the business?
- Have an ethical backbone! Ethical standards are key to making sure we do our jobs right daily.
- Read a lot. Make sure you are a passionate news consumer, and understand what is happening in your community and the world.
- Be a good story idea generator. This means being involved in your community and understanding the context behind issues.
- Learn best practices for storytelling. Being a great storyteller helps any topic, no matter how difficult it is to understand, easier to explain. And never forget journalism is about people and relevance to their lives.
If you could only keep one 5-minute tape from your career what would be on it? I'd make something similar to a resume reel. The stories where I think we've made a difference by exposing corruption or helping people would be the key saves on this reel.
Favorite book: Tied: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee or The Power of One by Bryce Courtney
Favorite CBS show: 60 Minutes
Favorite dream car: Range Rover
Favorite food: Thai
Favorite hobby: Traveling
Favorite Miami Valley place: Subject to change, but so far Dayton's Oregon District.
Favorite movie: Crazy In Alabama
Favorite music: I'm eclectic. From oldies, to classic rock to Top 40. I like it all. Mostly. Not the biggest country fan. (Sorry!)
Originally from Virginia, I spent the last three years as a reporter and weekend morning anchor at WVIR-TV, the NBC affiliate in Charlottesville, Virginia, which is also where I grew up. I graduated from American University in Washington, D.C. in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and political science. During my time at American, I also interned with the Washington Bureau for Cox Media Group, the parent company of WHIO-TV. When I’m not “on the job,” you’ll probably find me trying out a restaurant in town, or cheering on one of my beloved New England sports teams -- the Red Sox and Patriots. I’m looking forward to telling stories that matter to you.
Please feel free to connect with me on Facebook, or Twitter, or shoot me an email, if you ever hear about something I should look into.
Where were you born? Fairfax County, Virginia
Where did you grow up? Charlottesville, Virginia
What is your favorite TV show? Suits
What was the first thing you ever wanted to be? A news reporter!
How might someone have described you in high school? The guy on the newspaper staff
What was your first job? Lifeguard
What was your first job in television? Reporter and weekend morning anchor at WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA
What do you like about your job? Getting to do something different every day
What do you not like about your job? The deadlines can be tight!
What might people be surprised to know about you? I competed on the swim team all four years in college
What advice would you have for someone wanting to go into the business? Intern, and not just at places that “look good” on your resume. Pick a place where you’ll get to learn ‘hands-on.
If you could only keep one 5-minute tape from your career what would be on it? My live shots from the middle of the huge January 2016 snowstorm we got in Virginia. My photographer and I had a lot of fun with our live updates…even though we were freezing.
Favorite book: The Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell
Favorite CBS show: The NFL on CBS
Favorite food: BBQ – any style!
Favorite hobby: Rooting for the Red Sox & Patriots
Favorite music: Country (much to the chagrin of my family)