Jeff Henderson's retirement from WLW-AM news has nothing to do with iHeartMedia's decision in April to name him regional news director over dozens of stations in six states, all without news directors.
"This was planned over a year ago," says Henderson, 63.
"I've worked since I was 13. I had two Enquirer routes as a kid. That's 50 years. I worked really hard, and I'm ready to retire. It's time," he says.
Radio news has changed a lot since the Milford native started as a general assignment reporter at old YES95 in the early 1980s while studying at CCM.
Back then four AM stations – WKRC, WUBE, WCKY and WLW – had large radio news staffs, and most FMs had a new reporter or two (WEBN, WGUC, WARM98, Q102, 96ROCK, WGRR, WWEZ, YES95).
For YES95, he covered traffic news for morning host Jim Scott "by listening to WLW, writing it down, and running it in to Jim Scott" in the studio, he says.
Now Henderson oversees news coverage and staffs at dozens of stations in six states which no longer have news directors, including Columbus, Cleveland, Detroit, Dayton, Louisville, Indianapolis and Wheeling. Because iHeartMedia only has FMs in Dayton, Henderson's WLW staff was responsible for covering the recent Montgomery County tornadoes.
Henderson had a great ride on the radio airwaves.
He started at WLW-AM in August 1983 when news director John London left for WLWT-TV. He was hired by the legendary programmer Randy Michaels, as he took over the aging ninth-rated station and started the rejuvenation as "The Big One."
Henderson worked with Scott, Bob Trumpy, Gary Burbank, Bill Cunningham, Mike McConnell, Darryl Parks, Cris Collinsworth, Bill Wills, Andy Furman, Scott Sloan, Eddie Fingers, Tracy Jones, John Phillips, Pat Barry, Paul Keels, Dave "Yiddy" Armbruster, Bill "Seg" Dennison, Rich Walburg, Andy MacWilliams, Dale Sommers, Tim Bray, John Bogart, Marty Thompson and popular news personalities Don Webb, Brian Combs, Matt Reis, Bill Tonnis, Kathy Lehr, Bill Ridenour, Larry Davis, Rachael Murray, Bridget Doherty and Ali Miller.
Trumpy helped calm his nerves when Henderson, a former street reporter, debuted on WLW as an hourly news anchor. "I was scared to death. I wasn't an anchor. Trumpy told me I could record the newscast, but I decided to do it live," he says. Trumpy praised him after the news, giving him a needed confidence boost.
"This is just the best team in radio, working with Gary Burbank, Cris Collinsworth and Bob Trumpy. They're incredible talents," he says.
The 1974 Milford graduate has covered every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan, except for George W. Bush. He did one-on-one interviews with his favorite actor, James Stewart, and astronaut Neil Armstrong. He met comedians Tim Conway and Jonathan Winters when they visited the station. The same with Pete Rose and members of the Big Red Machine, and Bengals stars who came in for Sports Talk.
He also helped launch the careers of a generation of TV and radio journalists. He hired Lisa Smith (WCPO-TV), Andrew Setters, (WLWT-TV), Bill Rinehart (WVXU), Perry Schiable (WKRC-TV), Murray, Doherty, Miller, Jack Crumley and Lisa Cooney, who retired from WLWT-TV after 30 years in April.
"Lisa Cooney was my intern. When I saw Lisa retiring, I thought, 'Wow!' That sealed the deal," he says.
He plans to restart his annual Christmas staff party to keep in touch with former coworkers. The "WLW family" has been such a big part of his life. He went on double dates with Brian Combs. He met his wife, Janet, at a WLW-AM party. (She's a sales person for WLW-TV.) Newsman Don Webb spoke at his wedding.
Henderson talks about wanting "to try a new adventure." But first he has some older ventures to consume his time – One Main Gallery, the Milford art gallery he opened seven years ago; fixing up his 1812 farmhouse, barn and farm outside of Milford; and spending time with his 4-year-old granddaughter and 5-month-old grandson.
"I might do something else," he says. "I'm looking for a new adventure, something I can be passionate about."
Jack Crumley will take over as regional news director when Henderson retires Friday, June 7.