If there’s one thing Heather Childers knows, it’s how to make sure she doesn’t oversleep.
“I have two phones that go off. One has three alarms on it, and the other has two – so that’s five alarms,” says the Charlotte native, who spent nearly five years getting up at 2 a.m. to co-host “Fox & Friends First” for Fox News Channel. “Then I have a standard alarm clock that’s got two more on it. It’s crazy if you heard my alarms going off in the morning. But ... I’ve never missed a day yet.”
As of this week, though, she’s facing an even earlier wake-up call: On Monday, Childers launched the first 4-5 a.m. installment of “Fox & Friends First,” which she is hosting solo and which gives Fox’s viewing audience its earliest live-programming option ever. Previously, “First” aired from 5-6 a.m. to set up the network’s signature morning show, “Fox and Friends.” Now “First” covers two hours, with Childers leading off, then Jillian Mele and Childers’ former co-host Rob Schmitt at the helm starting at 5.
(Rival CNN has been airing its own hard-news morning show, “Early Start,” from 4 to 6 a.m. since 2012.)
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Here are six things we learned during a phone chat with the former News 14 Carolina anchor a few hours after she got off her 4 a.m. debut on Monday.
1. Though she says being in the studio during a major breaking-news event still gives her a jolt of adrenaline every time, two in-the-field experiences stand out in Childers’ memory as being the biggest rushes she’s gotten while with Fox News – and both involve airplanes. In 2013, she flew from Florida to Washington with a group of World War II veterans for an emotional Veterans Day tour of the war memorials in D.C. Earlier that same year, she went on a wild ride-along with the Air National Guard. “I flew upside down in an airplane. I think (the pilot) said we flew for not quite a minute, but when you’re flying upside down, that’s a good long time. ... And I didn’t throw up! So that was good.”
2. Her links to Charlotte remain strong. Her parents – Tobe and Barbara Childers – still live in Charlotte, and her sister Scarlett is moving back (from Atlanta) to teach elementary school in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district. A UNC-Chapel Hill alumna, Heather Childers got her start as a producer and reporter at WCNC in the early ’90s; then after stints in Albany, Ga., and Asheville, she returned to Charlotte in 2002 to help launch News 14 Carolina, where she anchored newscasts until leaving for New York City in 2010. Oh, another force that often pulls her back here: Her boyfriend, Tom Zban, a former Virginia Tech football player who works as a radiologist in Charlotte.
3. Her parents, by the way, are now waking up an hour earlier, too. “They’ve watched every single 5 a.m. show, and my dad always texts me during the show and says, ‘Great job!’ Actually, if I ever were not to hear from them during the show, I would probably be worried something was wrong.”
4. It’s less clear whether anyone from the presidential family is rising in time to watch Childers in the 4 a.m. hour, but the host does say Ivanka Trump once told her that she regularly watched “Fox & Friends First.” As for any thought of President Trump himself tuning in? “I don’t really think about it. But ... that emphasizes the importance on us of making sure that we get all of our facts right for all the viewers, because we don’t want anyone out there repeating something that we’ve said if it’s not factually correct. And I think of that with every story that we do. Every single story. I try to make sure everything is right before it comes out of my mouth – and not just because of President Trump, but for anyone that’s watching.”
5. In other words, don’t come to Childers at 4 a.m. looking for an opinion. “At 4 a.m., anyone watching, they want to see their news. So that’s primarily what we’ll focus on, and then we’ll have some interview segments that will go a little more in-depth. Whatever the big story is of the day. ... That is a big reason why I like this show – I want to do a lot of news, and not opinion. ... In terms of the media as a whole, I think it’s disappointing that some opinion-based shows are being presented as news shows. I think that it’s doing a disservice to viewers. The media needs to do a better job of offering more news programs.”
6. Finally: Wondering what time someone who wakes up at 1 a.m. goes to bed? Childers says it’ll probably typically be around 8:30 p.m. At the earliest. Yes, that works out to 4 1/2 hours of shut-eye a night, and no, she’s not a napper. “I don’t get enough sleep. ... I know it’s not good for me, but I’ve been going on about 4 1/2 hours of sleep a night for five years, and I’m still alive!”