MORAINE, Ohio (WDTN) – As we continue to celebrate WDTN’s 70th anniversary, we’re reminded of the one person who embodies the history of our station. When longtime legendary Chief Photographer Bob Phillips, better known as “Scoop,” retired in 2009, he had been here for 51 of our then-60 years, making him the man who captured more than half a century of Miami Valley history.
In 1958, Bob Phillips was working at Wright-Patt, and just got the news he was being reassigned to Virginia when a sign on the back of a bus changed his life forever.
“I’m coming over the Third Street bridge and there’s an RTA bus chugging over the bridge heading toward downtown, and I’m behind it coming to Dayton, TV 2 and the news…” says Phillips.
Bob applied for and landed a job, and so began a legendary career. But those first few years, the news staff consisted of Scoop, and just two other people. They worked days, nights, and weekends, and the conditions weren’t exactly glamorous.
“I had a camera and a broom closet. It would get 95 degrees in there in the summer and to develop film, I would have to buy a bag of ice to cool the temperatures down,” he says.
Film served WDTN very well in the early days, but of course, it is all we had back then. When the 1970’s arrived, local television stations made the transition from film into video.
Looking at that early equipment, it looks pretty primitive, and the tapes were rather large compared to what they eventually became. As we rolled into the 80’s and 90’s the cameras certainly changed and the tapes got even smaller, eventually arriving at what we are using today.
But no matter the tools, the job at its very essence, remains the same: telling a story, and getting people to tell theirs, getting it first and getting it right, and capturing the events, both memorable and mundane, that have traced the timeline of the Miami Valley.
Some have put WDTN in the world spotlight like the Bosnia peace talks at Wright-Patt that finally put an end to years of bloodshed in the Balkans, and made Dayton synonymous with peace, and 18-year-old Michael Fay, convicted and caned in Singapore for theft and vandalism.
Others drew national attention, like the bizarre case of China Arnold, convicted after three trials of killing her baby in a microwave oven. Tiffany Tehan, the Xenia runaway mom who set off a national frenzy when she abandoned her husband and daughter, and ran off with her secret lover. And Jim Barton, the Springboro police lieutenant found guilty of arranging his wife’s murder, in a trial that became a national sensation.
And there were some stories that only the Miami Valley will never forget: the 1992 Christmas killings, still the single worst crime spree in Dayton history. The 1999 disappearance of Erica Baker, still unsolved, and still leaving a hole in our hearts. The loss of first GM and then NCR that changed who we thought we were. And the unforgettable smoke and flames of the Beverly Hills supper club fire, the Miamisburg train derailment, and the Sherwin Williams fire.
But as Scoop taught us, you have to look beyond that, to find the real story.
“I’ve always had the philosophy that news is people and I think we have to be out with the people. They’re the story, not the smoke coming from the roof, but the eyes of the victim. It’s a people business, pan off the smoke and go to the people,” he said.