Written by: Tom Rieland
Date: June 9, 2017
I was at a retirement gathering recently for Jerry Wareham, who led the Cleveland public television and radio stations for many years and a man came up to me to introduce himself. He was John Morison and, as it turns out, he was a studio director and production manager at WOSU TV starting when the station went on the air in 1956.
John grew up in Columbus and when he was 16 years old worked for what is now WSYX-TV co-hosting a teenage dance party show at a dime drug store set.
At Ohio State, Morison got involved with a fledgling student radio station going by the call letters WOIO, which broadcast through an internal OSU system to a few dorms. As still a student, he was hired by WOSU TV at the inception of the station and directed many studio shows like “Research Doctor,” that explored medical research on campus and “Songs for a Summer Evening.”
When WOSU acquired a remote production bus, which often had to be towed to Ohio Stadium or St. John Arena to broadcast a game, Morison was directing football and basketball. He says it was “like breaking eggs,” in that new stuff was coming at them all the time. They were creating local programming on television for the first time.
During one of the first local broadcasts of Ohio State-Michigan football game, Morison said they had wired up three cameras to the remote bus and one was having trouble and shutdown. Right before kickoff, another went down and they were stuck with one camera with a zoom lens.
“When a team scored, I would have the camera pan across the crowd and up to the scoreboard. I just sat with my feet up in the remote truck,” Morison said. In the Columbus Citizen newspaper the next day, Radio TV columnist Jo Bradley Reed said she watched the game of Channel 34 and it was “the best coverage of a sporting event he had ever seen.”
Morison remembers a studio English class series, likely part of the Ohio School of the Air project, which had classrooms across Ohio watching. The teacher wanted to do something related to the concept of organization, so “she brought in the Director the OSU Marching Band and he rolled out a big chart for Script Ohio and how that worked as a concept of organization.” It was a great way to illuminate a lesson and was but one example of the creativity of many of the producers and on-air staff.
Morison moved up within WOSU and was involved in the early planning for the Fawcett Center for Tomorrow, which was built in 1970 to house WOSU TV and Radio. He went on to have an amazing career in public broadcasting, working as the manager at WHRO PBS in Norfolk and serving on the boards of PBS and NPR.