It's a long way from Cincinnati TV sports to Fox News Channel's New York headquarters, where Bill Hemmer takes another career step by hosting his own Fox News show starting Monday, Jan. 20.
Hemmer, an Elder High School (1983) and Miami University (1987) alum, debuts Bill Hemmer Reports at 3 p.m. weekdays, taking over the hour that Shepard Smith vacated when he left Fox in October.
"When I was a sports reporter at WCPO-TV with Dennis Janson and John Popovich, I felt that was the top of the heap. Those guys gave me a shot at 24, and covering my two favorite teams: Bengals and Reds," Hemmer said.
He had achieved his career goal a few years after leaving Miami. The Delhi Township native admits he didn't aspire to do much more until he took a year-long, around-the-world backpacking trip in the early 1990s which he chronicled for the Cincinnati Post.
"That put my mind on a different course," he said. He started a new career track when he returned to WCPO-TV, switching from sports to news. By 1995, he was hired by CNN. He jumped to Fox News in 2005, and debuted Fox's America's Newsroom with co-host Megyn Kelly on Feb. 12, 2007. Fox replayed clips of Hemmer working with Kelly, Martha MacCallum and Shannon Bream on America's Newsroom during his last show today with current co-host Sandra Smith.
"On to another chapter, and it's just that," he told viewers Friday. "It's another chapter, so please come along for the ride. I'm one lucky guy."
Hemmer, 55, reminded me that he started at Fox by hosting at noon solo.
"At CNN, I think I hit for the cycle -- on every show on the schedule. At Fox, I was pretty content doing the current three hours with Sandra (9 a.m. to noon). So much news breaks during those hours. But this is a great opportunity and I'm jacked to get started especially given the year that is ahead in 2020," he said.
What are his plans for Bill Hemmer Reports? How will it differ from the other shows on Fox or other cable news channels?
"You need two things to succeed in cable -- breaking news to the minute and newsmakers who bring information you can't get elsewhere. That's my focus. That's what the audience expects," he said.
In his final hour on America's Newsroom Friday, he praised his colleagues for working together as a team, and said they were all friends. "I consider that a very important part of what we do. We're in it together," he said.
In addition to anchoring at 3 p.m., Hemmer "will lead all breaking news coverage" on the network, according to the December announcement by Jay Wallace, Fox News Media president and executive editor. How will that role impact hosting 3-4 p.m. as the Senate impeachment trial starts Tuesday, and the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses?
It means that Hemmer, the global traveler, will take his show on the road.
"The Senate trial starts Tuesday, and we will be in D.C. for that, so immediately we have a case where we will get outside the studio, " Hemmer said. "We will head to Miami for the Super Bowl; Iowa for the caucus; back to D.C. for the State of the Union; to New Hampshire for the primary; so the new year starts with a bang on the road."
Overall, he said, "breaking news decisions will be made on a story-by-story basis. We will be judicious about that outside the program."
Does he feel an additional weight of responsibility or pressure filling the time slot of highly respected Shep Smith?
"Shep is incredibly talented, a rare talent at breaking news. We will continue that tradition with enthusiasm and accuracy," Hemmer said. In a promo for Bill Hemmer Reports airing on Fox News, Hemmer says: "It's important to be first, but it's most important to be right."
It was nearly two months after Smith left abruptly Oct. 11 when Fox executives asked Hemmer to go solo at 3 p.m.
"They came to me about a month ago, I thought about it for 24 hours, and said, 'Let’s go.' A new year, a new decade, seems a natural time to start a challenging new chapter," Hemmer said.
He'll bring with him the training he received from Popo and Janson at WCPO-TV, and before that at WLWT-TV's sports department. As for lessons learned: "Ask a lot of questions, play well with others, and always be available."
And he'll bring his purple ties, which he wears on Friday during the fall to support his Elder Panthers football team.
Fox News analyst Juan Williams congratulated Hemmer at the end of their segment together Friday prompting this exchange:
HEMMER: "Don't go far, we're going to need you."
WILLIAMS: "Well, I've got a purple tie."