Ron Hoon is one of the most prominent Valley media figures, having been on local airwaves on FOX 10 for the past 31 years. The 56-year-old Mesa resident is currently the morning show anchor, where you can watch him Monday through Friday from 4:30-10 a.m., telling Valley viewers about national and local news trends while interviewing world and local stand-outs — all while keeping his cool under the lights during the live show. Read on for where his passion comes from, and keep scrolling for a video of five of his favorite things about living in the Valley.
What brought you to Arizona?
When I was in about 6th grade living in Wenatchee, Washington, the apple capital of the work, my very first job was picking apples. I was listening to a broadcast of the Seattle Supersonics one cold, miserable day up there, and the announcer was talking about what a beautiful day it was in Phoenix, since the Supersonics were playing the (Phoenix) Suns. He was talking about being in shirtsleeves all day and how they went out golfing and how it was so beautiful. That planted the seed.
I was born in Washington, went to high school there, and then went to University of Washington to study broadcasting, journalism and business. I got a job at the ABC station in Spokane anchoring the news, and after a couple years, I decided to see what was out there. My wife and I loaded up our little Toyota station wagon with a bunch of videotapes and no air conditioner and drove around the West. We drove to Denver, L.A. and Phoenix, and we really had a connection with this city and this station. I was about 25 years old when I moved here.
What is your first memory of wanting to be a television broadcaster?
When I was in about 3rd grade, we took a field trip to the radio station in Omak, Washington, where I lived. This town was so small, it had one stop light and one radio station. We went on a tour of the radio station, and I remember so clearly sitting on the school bus after the radio station, thinking, “If I could have a job where I could play The Beatles music all day, it would be great.” That planted the seed for radio.
My parents took my sister and I to Spokane, and we went to a local television station where they had a kids show, KXLY, which, coincidentally, was the station I started my broadcast career years later. We went to this studio to try out to be on this kids’ show. I didn’t make it, but I remember being in the television station and thinking I really liked it.
A few months ago, I got a Facebook message from a guy who told me he loved our FOX 10 morning show and watched it all the time. He asked me if I had ever heard of an old kids’ show in Washington called “Wallabies and Jack,” that his father was the host. I told him the show had such an impact on me, he had no idea.
What is your first experience in broadcasting?
When I was around 16, I walked into a radio station in Wenatchee and introduced myself to the sportscaster and said, “This has already been a dream of mine for a long time. I really think I could do something in this business.” Something must have clicked with him, because a couple of weeks later he called me up and said, “We don’t really have any positions, but I was impressed when you came into the radio station.” He offered to pay me $2 a day out of his own pocket to help him broadcast the local high school and community college basketball games. I said yes, and the very first game I went out to, at halftime, he asked me to do the halftime show.
What do you think makes a great news anchor, and what makes you a great news anchor?
Well, I’m still striving to get into the great category. I think you have to have a real bond of trust with the viewer. Having been on the air for 31 years, there’s really no fooling the viewer. They’re going to know who you are and what you’re all about. I view it as a special trust they place in us, and I do not take it for granted they invite us into their home every morning. I try to be as genuine and real as possible.
I also think it’s really important for you to really empathize with the people you’re interviewing and the stories you’re covering. Sometimes we see people who are brand-new in the business, and it doesn’t seem like they genuinely care about the things they’re discussing. I think that’s really critical.
What is your typical week like?
I get up at 3 a.m., we have a quick meeting before we go on the air at 4:30, and the show goes through 10. There’s always so much going on. We do 2 and a half hours of news from 4:30-7 a.m. At 7, there are more interviews, as well as breaking news and updates. You have to be well-versed in a lot of different topics to get through five and a half hours.
At 10, I plug in my iPod, put on my tennis shoes, and go for a quick walk downtown and get exercise. I come back and get ready for our meeting, where we plan out, for about a half-hour to 45 minutes, the next day’s show. By 11, we start cutting all our promos that air at night. Around 11:30, I can start working on the next day’s show. There’s a segment we do every morning called the History Quiz, so I always prep for that and any other elements of the show I can help on. We do a lot of social media and try to interact with people as much as we can. I’m usually out of here by around 1. I get home and try to convince myself not to take a nap. I try to go to the gym every day, read, watch afternoon news, and believe it or not, I go to bed at 6:30.
I’ve been doing mornings since the early ’90s. People think I’m crazy getting up at 3 a.m., but I love my job. I love the people I get to work with, and if you’ve got those two things going for you, getting up at 3 a.m. is not that hard.
What’s the most memorable interview you’ve ever done?
I think I prepped as much for and was most excited to talk to Mikhail Gorbachev. He was in Phoenix about a year ago, and we were told he’d be doing press. I did as much research as I could, and when I got there, we each only got to ask one question. To talk to a world leader who had such an impact on the shape of the world, to me, was really a special moment. I had all these questions ready to go, and I only got one. He had a translator, so I asked my question. As soon as I asked it, the interpreter said to me, “That is a very long question…but, a very good question.”
What was your question?
It was related to a speech he had given at the U.N. after the Berlin Wall had fallen, talking about how these were times people really should be using the fall of communism as a time to promote more peace in the world. I asked him, “Looking around you today, here a generation later, are we closer to or farther from your goal?”
What was your most challenging interview you’ve ever done?
I really take the approach to challenge ourselves for every interview to make it unique and different so that it’s not just the same standard questions you’d expect everyone else to ask. I remember when Dick Clark was here, we played “Name That Tune” with him. When Henry Winkler was in town, we played “Happy Days” trivia with him and had him hop on a motorcycle. I feel it’s a challenge every week to interview Chris Wallace, who is the host of “Fox News Sunday.” I interview him every Friday morning, and he is as savvy a reporter as there is in this country. I want my interview with him to be insightful to the audience, and when you’re interviewing an expert interviewer, you really want your questions to be good.
Do you have any interview tips?
I would say to really listen and make it a conversation. Put yourself in the viewers’ shoes, and really try to ask the question you think would be most interesting to them. I’m really trying to listen to ask the question the viewer wants me to ask. I think it’s the best compliment when you’re interviewing someone, and they say, “That’s a really good question.”
Do you have any public speaking tips you’ve garnered from your career?
Do as much of it as you possibly can. Say yes to all the opportunities that are presented to you. I have spoken to thousands of school kids in Arizona, and I love being in the classroom, and I think part of it is that I’ve been doing it so long. I come from a background of teachers — my mom, dad and grandma — so I feel comfortable in the classroom, but part of it is doing it on such a regular basis. I have one teacher whose class I’ve been visiting every year for the past 26 years — Miss Flynn at Arrowhead Elementary School is now getting ready to retire. Be passionate about the things you’re going to discuss. If you really care about the message you want to deliver, you probably can’t help but be a pretty good speaker.
For people who might find themselves being interviewed on the news some day, do you have any tips?
Number one is, don’t stare into the camera — look at the interviewer. Number two is, don’t grab the microphone, because I will grab it right back from you. Number three is, don’t worry so much about the topic, and just be yourself. Be honest about your answers, and the interview will go just fine.
How would you say social media has affected the local news landscape?
Facebook becomes the vehicle for conversation for a story after we’ve covered it, and Twitter provides immediacy. People still want to get news from a trusted source, so we take that really seriously on social media. We post on social media as soon as we hear about something. We think we have the perfect marriage with our show that we can interact with people online and find clever comments and put them on television.
Do you worry at all about how citizen reporting will affect professional journalists?
I do think, even in the new digital world, people want to find out what’s happening from a source they trust, and that’s something I and My Fox Phoenix take seriously on Facebook and Twitter. We have a full organization with an assignment desk and feel it’s our duty to do as much fact-checking as we can.
How has the digital age affected the business side of My Fox Phoenix?
More people than ever are watching the news and using social media at the same time. In order to really feel connected and from a news source you really believe in, television is a great way to go. There’s something about a morning television show, where you cover so many different topics and can move it along pretty quickly, that you know there’s going to be something of interest for people at home watching, as opposed to getting lost in the weeds when you’re reading stories online. Social media gives us the ability to get instant feedback, and we monitor it. I read every Tweet that comes to me and every Facebook post. It has connected us to the viewers in ways we never could have even realized 5 years ago.
What are your professional goals?
I love living in Phoenix. Rarely in my 31 years on the air here have I found a situation where the chemistry was perfect, but the people I get to work with make it so fun, I want to stay where I am. My goals are to make each day’s show better than the last day’s show and for us to be number one in the ratings — and we’re doing pretty well with that. I would have to consider a network offer, but I love what I do and love living in Phoenix. I’ve been in the business long enough to know this chemistry thing is important. We have it, and I feel like we’re in the sweet spot.
Tell me about the charities you’re involved in.
I have a passion for talking to school kids about reading and history. I probably make it to close to a dozen classrooms a year.
The Volunteer Non-Profit Service Association does one of the largest used book sales in the world, at the Arizona State Fairgrounds, every February. I emcee the book sale for them every year and have done that for about 25 years.
The Heart Walk is something I’ve emceed for many years. My wife’s mom has had a number of heart issues, so it’s something that is close to home for me.
We have a lot of diabetes in my family. My mom, dad and I are all type 2, and we are very passionate about coming up with a cure for diabetes. For many years, I have helped the JDRF with what is one of the biggest diabetes walks in the country.
A couple years ago, I made a trip to Ireland with my wife, and the next year, we went back and took our three kids. I’ve gotten to know the people at the Irish Cultural Center and am lucky enough to emcee the Phoenix St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Anam Cara Awards Gala, which honors people committed to the Irish culture here in the Valley.
How does your diabetes affect you?
I don’t have to take insulin, but I do have to take oral medication and just be really good about eating on a fairly consistent basis. At about 3:45 a.m., I’ll have a piece of wheat toast and some turkey. I come into work, and my first break is at about 7:15. I try to eat an apple and maybe some turkey and spread my meals out throughout the rest of the day. I was diagnosed at age 50, six years ago. I was in for a check-up and wasn’t experiencing any symptoms, and I don’t usually. A third of the people who have diabetes don’t know they have it. Since then, I’ve been on a quest to live as healthy a lifestyle as I can, and exercise is really important. I’ve had to cut down on the carbs, sugar and candy bars.
Have you ever had something go terribly wrong on camera, and how do you recover from something like that?
When you’re on for five-and-a-half hours every day, something goes wrong pretty much every day. If we’re covering something that’s breaking, I jump in front of a camera 30 seconds before we’re supposed to go on the air. You have to be able to handle all unpredictable situations as smoothly as you can. There’s nothing that embarrasses me on the show. Part of my job is to be unflappable — I have to be able to handle things as professionally and as level-headed as I can.
Do you have any tips for staying calm under pressure?
I think it has to be part of your overall personality. In raising three kids and trying to be a good husband, I have a calm approach to life. I think I learned that from my dad, who taught me that you can pretty much handle anything that comes your way.