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Journalist - Bill Hemmer MAG
While studying journalism at Brown University this summer, I was fortunate to score an interview with Bill Hemmer of FOX News Channel.
What did you major in at Miami University?
I was a broadcast journalism major. I was able to take advantage of a fairly large media market, which was critical tome. As a sophomore, I had an internship at Channel 5 in Cincinnati and,as a junior, got hired primarily to work weekends. I took a producer’s job and worked there for almost three years. The lesson is that it’s very important to understand the value of an internship - whether it’s TV or anything else, people hire those they know. When it comes time to fill entry-level positions, if they’re familiar with you as a person, people will reach for you and you will be in a position to get the job.
How did you get to CNN?
I hired an agent to look around the country to seew here I could go. My agent got me an audition with CNN in Atlanta, and Igot the job. That was the summer of 1995.
Why did you decide to move to FOX?
CNN asked me to be White House correspondent and I wasn’t prepared to leave New York.Fortunately, I had a lot of options and was able to work it out with FOX.
What are some of your favorite events that you have covered?
Countless great events: the war in Kosovo; the election recount in Florida; a month in Jerusalem that I remember quite vividly;9/11 for six weeks; Kuwait; Afghanistan after that, and the second Gulf War.
In terms of interviews, how do you get people totalk to you who don’t want to?
Preparation is your best ally. If you’ve done your homework, you can get a lot of knowledge from your research. Figure out where a person’s coming from, know what they’ve said before about a certain topic or subject. Also,remember to be an understanding human being. Sometimes you’re involved in sensitive subjects for others and it’s important to be mindful that they have a heart, too, and you could show that on TV.
Do you get nervous or practice when you interview someone famous?
Practice, no. I think a touch of anxiety is a good thing. I think nerves are negative energy while anxiety can be a positive energy. A little bit of fire in the belly sometimes improves your performance.
How is it different interviewing politicians or public figures versus others?
The political strategists always come with what they’re going to say. Often politicians also come with what they’re going to say, and it’s your job to get an honest, different answer from what they’ve said in the past. That’s one of the tricky things oncable news: people are paid to be a certain way and be good at it.It’s tough to get other answers.
Name a few people you admire.
I’ve always admired Peter Jennings and Dan Rather.
I think they have an ability to speak into the camera with style and eloquence.
Any advice for aspiring journalists, particularly in terms of interview skills?
There is no substitute for experience. In order to perfect the craft, you have to do it. That means repetition and practice and learning how to write, whether it’s taking courses or getting that internship. It’s important for people to learn your work ethic and style.
Once you have a job, you want to push and push and take on more responsibility with a level of patience, too. There’s a common frustration level about getting as much as you want right away. I would urge patience and you really have to get into it for a good three years before you settle into a comfort zone and get the dream job. Sometimes it takes a lot of transition, hopping from city to city, but I think it’s an incredibly rewarding profession. I get to see history unfold before my eyes. I would encourage people to remember that.