Jim Knippenberg Society of Professional Journalists Scholarship Fund
At The University of Cincinnati
In 2010, the University of Cincinnati Journalism Department — along with a number of Cincinnati thought leaders and members of the region's working media — founded the Jim Knippenberg Society of Professional Journalists Scholarship Fund to promote journalism education at the nation's first municipal university and to honor the late Jim Knippenberg, a longtime reporter and editor at The Cincinnati Enquirer and journalism professor at UC.
The newly created scholarship fund — when fully endowed — will provide a $2,500 scholarship each year to a journalism student at UC, where Knippenberg studied and taught. He earned two degrees from UC: A bachelor's degree in literature in 1968 and a master’s in education in 1971. He had taught a journalism course on reviews and columns at UC since the mid-'90s.
Knippenberg — a 1964 graduate of Elder High School — passed away Nov. 13, 2009, at the age of 63. In his 37 years at The Cincinnati Enquirer, he served many diverse roles with a thoughtful, positive and often quirky approach: copy boy (in the 1960s), general news reporter, music writer, entertainment writer, entertainment editor, assistant magazine editor, assistant features editor and gossip columnist.
Knippenberg, whose Psst! gossip column for The Enquirer was must-read material three times a week, reported on the behind-the-scenes doings of the likes of Bob Hope, Rosemary Clooney, Billy Joel, Judy Collins and Alice Cooper — all while giving paparazzi a good name. “I blab about everything I hear and see on the party and bar circuit,” he would say. “I like to think Psst! is a lively mix of names, faces, people, events and here and there a dash of gossip.” Knip — as he was known to colleagues and friends — received more than 50 phone tips a day, about 20 percent anonymous callers. His Rolodex was so coveted in the newsroom, when he retired from The Enquirer in 2008, editors demanded that he leave it behind.
Among his many colorful adventures for The Enquirer: Riding every roller coaster in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana while hooked up to a heart monitor.
Knippenberg became a household name in the Cincinnati region by reporting good gossip, not salacious. Like when actress Cloris Leachman came to town for the Broadway Series production of Show Boat at the Aronoff Center. She became a Knip gossip item by sharing bites of pancakes with total strangers at First Watch, a Downtown breakfast haven. “She had such a good time she sent them tickets and backstage passes – she was gracious as all get out,” he recalled.
So was Knip — gracious as all get out — to everyone he met, especially aspiring journalists. "He made a strong impression on students," recalled Jon Hughes, director of the UC journalism program, on Knip's passing. "I think it was a combination of his humor, his intelligence, his humanity."
Each spring an enthusiastic contingent of Cincinnati leaders and media host a fund-raiser for the Jim Knippenberg Society of Professional Journalists Scholarship Fund at The Celestial, a fitting venue as it overlooks Downtown Cincinnati and many of the region's entertainment venues, where Knip plied his trade