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WKRC-TV's John Lomax Finally Gets To Sleep In

John Kiesewetter
John Lomax waves from the WKRC-TV van in the 2014 Opening Day parade.

After 30 years of getting up before the bars close, WKRC-TV morning anchor John Lomax finally will have some more daylight to enjoy his family and photography.

Starting Monday June 1, Lomax will go part-time to anchor the second half of Good Morning Cincinnati, from 7-9 a.m. on WSTR-TV (Channel 64) and 9-10 a.m. on Channel 12.

"This should allow me to get up about 4:45 a.m., rather than 1:30 a.m. That's a significant difference," says Lomax, who turned 69 earlier this month. "This essentially means getting to work at 6 a.m. versus 3 a.m."

Sheila Gray and Bob Herzog will continue to co-host Channel 12's local news from 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Credit John Kiesewetter
WKRC-TV morning anchors gathered to talk about the passing of meteorologist Tim Hedrick on April 25, 2015. From left: John Lomax, Sheila Gray, Bob Herzog, Jen Dalton and John Gumm.

"This is totally my choice. I wanted to spend more time with my family and doing other things. You know I really enjoy photography and want to do more of that, and sleep in a bit, too. I've gotten up so early for so long, I was just tired of being tired," says Lomax, who I have run into when we're both shooting pictures at Reds events, such as Opening Day parades and the 150th anniversary open house at Great American Ball Park last July.

Credit John Kiesewetter
John Lomax taking a picture of me taking a photograph of him at the 2014 Opening Day parade.

"The early wake-up call really dominated other parts of my life. I do think I'm still relevant, and capable, and I have the absolute best co-workers, so I wanted to continue to contribute. I'm really thankful that management here was willing to accommodate me," Lomax says. On his Facebook page, Lomax stressed: "To emphasize, I am NOT retiring; just cutting back."

Lomax, the longest-tenured news veteran at Channel 12, started as the Northern Kentucky reporter on June 13, 1983, when Nick Clooney was the main news anchor.

He began anchoring the morning local news in November 1990 with Jill Kelly, who had replaced Bev White. At the time, they did just an hour from 6-7 a.m. before ABC's Good Morning America. (Channels 12 and 9 swapped network affiliations in 1996.) 

Credit Courtesy WKRC-TV
John Lomax's Channel 12 photo.

Lomax and Kelly hosted Good Morning Cincinnati with meteorologists Steve Horstmeyer (who also worked weekends at the time) and George Zabrecki. He's also co-anchored with Cammy Dierking for years, including hosting Good Morning Cincinnati from a Fountain Square studio with Horstmeyer from Aug. 22, 2001, to January 2005. He's worked with John Gumm, in addition to the current team of Gray, Herzog, Tera Blake, Adam Clements and Jen Dalton.

His morning newscasts have been No. 1 in the Nielsen household ratings for most of his tenure, including the May "sweeps" which ended last week.

But he wasn't planning on spending most of his career on the other side of the clock.

"I wanted an anchor gig, but my time on the morning newscast was intended to be temporary. Those plans were disrupted by personnel changes, and I was told to keep doing the morning newscast until management figured out what they wanted to do. That was nearly 30 years ago," he says.

He considers himself "a morning person," although not a "get up at 1:30 in the morning" kind of person, which required some significant adjustments in his family life. 

Credit John Kiesewetter
John Lomax and me at the Reds' 150th anniversary open house at Great American Ball Park last July.

"My wife (Donna) worked and my children (Brandon and Lindsay) were small. I wasn't going to miss the things that happened with them, so let's say there were quite a few times I only got four or five hours of sleep. On the other hand, I was one of the only dads on the block who was home when his kids came home from school," he says.

It wasn't easy getting into a groove. He tried to take naps, "but it was not refreshing. It just made me angry." He eventually discovered that going for a run when he got home from Channel 12 gave him "a burst of energy to keep me going for the rest of the day."

Clooney was a huge influence on his career.

"I've never really patterned myself after anyone in the business, in terms of on-air performance, but Nick was the gold standard for how to conduct yourself professionally and the type of mindset you need to approach the job. He embraced me from my beginning at Channel 12 and I'd do anything for him," he says.

"To be honest, full-time reporting was something that molded me as a news man. It was critical to my development as a full time anchor. When we tell stories from the set, I like to think I have retained the sensitivities you have as a reporter, that you're telling stories about flesh and blood people, with real emotions, real feelings and you're often catching them at the worst times in their lives. It is a privilege they trust us with their stories. That said, I do think anchoring has been good for me and my career and I'm thankful for the opportunities it's afforded me."

His co-workers affectionately call Lomax the "Godfather of News." Gray called him a "calming presence" in her Facebook post Friday.

"I've had the chance to work with very talented people on the morning newscast, but that really extends to the entire building… people you see on the air and those who are not. I genuinely care about so many of them -- I love Cammy like she's my blood -- and maintain contact with many who have left the business. 

"My relationship with Sheila, Bob, Jen, Tera, Adam, and the others on the morning shift is what prompted me to want to stay on a part-time basis. My co-workers, past and present, are the primary reason I think I'm one of the luckiest guys in broadcasting."

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.