Like rings in tree trunks or fossil layers in rock, there’s a tried-and-true method for dating a television newscast: check the hairstyles.
“We look back and the first thing we say is, ‘Oh look at my hair,’” said John Popovich, WCPO’s sports director.
Over a 40-year career, he’s learned that a lot can change in the news industry, including styles.
“We're in a business where you're looking at pictures, you're looking at video, you're looking at things that you see the passage of time. In a lot of other businesses, you don't deal with that,” Popovich said.
And in the TV business, the appearance standards change with the times. You might have noticed WCPO’s African American anchors wearing their hair natural, something WCPO journalist Kristen Swilley says is an important shift from years past.
“I think as an industry when we're trying to prove how authentic we are, it's so important for us to be real and be our authentic selves and present true stories. I think how we look is an important part of that,” Swilley said.
Anchor Tanya O’Rourke has also seen standards change for women in TV news.
“When we first started, it was like you have to dress like a man, and you had to have really short hair to make yourself look older and be more professional,” O’Rourke said. “Now look at us. Now they tell us to wear dresses and be feminine.”
But the number one question she gets is about her hair, and change can invite some harsh criticism. O’Rourke remembers her early days when main anchor Carol Williams once came in with a new cut.
“People were so mean,” O’Rourke said. “They were saying, ‘We will never watch Channel 9 again ever. We hate her hair,’ And I'm answering all of these calls. The phones were lit up. It was insane.”
Even the haters eventually grow used to change, and for talents like Popovich, looking back on the hairstyles reminds him of the memories made at the station.
“So you look at that young guy with that lush, thick, dark hair, you know a lot of years have gone by,” Popovich said. “It reminds me of things I did.”
Watch WCPO’s 70th anniversary special at 7 p.m. Thursday on air, on WCPO.com, the WCPO app and on your streaming devices.