Bombs exploding at the Boston Marathon, the capture of Saddam Hussein, natural disasters like Sandy and Katrina and the shootings at Sandy Hook have all drawn Bill Hemmer from his New York home to report on stories for television audiences.
This weekend, Hemmer put those things aside for a brief time for what will be a far less hectic trip to Oxford, where he learned his journalism trade and got his start in broadcasting.
Hemmer, the co-anchor of the late morning news program America’s Newsroom on FOX News Channel, is a 1987 Miami graduate. He will be back Sunday to speak to the Miami University Farmer School of Business Divisional Recognition Ceremony at 2 p.m. in Millett Hall.
“I have great memories of Oxford. It’s a beautiful and bucolic place,” he said. “It is very much an honor.”
Hemmer earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the department of mass communications. While a student, he earned money at a variety of jobs to pay for his education but said he was lucky to find jobs in his field that gave him experience he tapped after graduation in landing a job.
“I worked overnight playing records for Mama Jazz on 88.5 for minimum wage,” he recalled. “I worked overnight at WOXY playing records. I needed money to get through Miami.”
He spent the week in Boston after the recent bombings at the marathon, trying to not only report the news headlines, which were fast and furious, but also tell the story of the people of Boston so that TV viewers could see the human dimension.
It was one of many times in his career he had to leave home in a rush to get to the scene of a news story.
“I had just gotten home from Italy, where I was hosting an adult stem cell research conference at the Vatican,” Hemmer said. “I got home Sunday and was unpacking (Monday) when I saw the breaking news. I checked with my boss and threw some clothes together and left for Boston.”
Hemmer said the intense search for the surviving suspect later in the week stretched throughout the day and seemed to have ended before the final flurry that led to the capture.
“It was a story that captivated the country. It was a story that changed headlines by the hour,” he said. “At the 6 o’clock press conference, they said there was nothing new. The air just went out of the balloon. You tend to think the guy escaped the net around Watertown. Then, a half-hour later, cameras were rolling and not on tripods. They were hand-held. The scene was choppy.”
Soon after, the second suspect was captured.
Hemmer praised the work of the police and FBI in the bombing case, saying the FBI was tight-lipped but efficient.
“The FBI kept their information tight. They worked their information and worked their sources,” he said. “Bostonians want to be winners and the only way to win was to capture the offenders.”
The huge crowd applauding police after the capture that night was a sign of that, Hemmer said.
Another quick exit to a news scene came faster and took him farther away from home, when Saddam Hussein was captured.
“I was packed in 50 minutes and caught a ride to the airport, to go to Iraq,” he said. “I think I set my land speed record.”
Hemmer grew up in Cincinnati, graduating from Elder High School in 1983. He researched colleges and found Miami to be the least expensive in Ohio, which he said was part of his reason for coming to Miami, although he was already somewhat familiar before that.
“My mother had five children playing piano and we had recitals in Oxford back to the fifth grade,” he said, admitting that he no longer plays piano because he felt he had reached his peak with the instrument. “For a while, I had some skill.”
Miami also gave him the opportunity to see another part of the world, taking advantage of the university’s study center in Luxembourg.
“Miami is great because of the ability it affords a young man or young woman to take a path in life, to choose a path or make a start. All of that is wrapped up in my Miami experience,” he said.
He had an internship at WLW-T his first summer of college after his freshman year and calls that a valuable experience.
“It got my foot in the door,” he said.
He started out in backroom production at WLW-T and later went to WCPO as the weekend sports anchor. He took a year-long hiatus from CBS to take a trip around the world and wrote dispatches, submitted tapes and photos for both the local newspaper and CBS’s local affiliate that were published under “Bill’s Excellent Adventure.”
On his return from hiatus, he returned for two years to anchor locally before accepting a position at CNN’s Atlanta office. He worked for CNN for 10 years, seven in Atlanta and then three in New York. He went to work for the Fox News Channel in 2005, staying in New York, where he lives today.
A recipient of several awards, Hemmer won three regional Emmy awards in 1993: Best Investigative Story, Best Entertainment Programming and Best Host. In 1996, he received a national Emmy award for his coverage of the 1996 Olympic Centennial Park bombing in Atlanta.
His trip back home has a dual purpose. On Monday, he will host the 10th annual George Knittle Memorial Bayley Place Golf Classic in honor of his grandfather, which benefits Bayley Place Assisted Living. The tournament will be held at Western Hills Country Club near where he grew up.