Joe Bickett has run through five co-anchors, two meteorologists, four news directors and four general managers in 18 years on FOX 7’s morning news beat.
The turnover in the other positions is normal for the television news business. Bickett’s longevity in the anchor seat is not. It’s a testament to his authoritative delivery of the news combined with his easy going nature and bright good humor in the early morning hours; traits that have won him a loyal following of fans who are sorry to see his long run coming to an end this morning.
“I’ve worked with Joe for almost 14 years and I still can’t believe he’s leaving,” said FOX 7 News Director Pam Vaught. “This has been a really special week to see his co-workers, friends and viewers really show their love for Joe and how much they’ll miss him.”
Bickett, 63, is moving back to his hometown of Reno, Nevada (that’s Na-Vaa-Da, not Na-Vah-Da, Bickett will be quick to correct you). He will rejoin his wife, Mary Kay, who left Austin a year ago to accept a new job as Chief Executive Officer of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) on the campus of the University of Nevada.
“I’ve missed her over this past year, but I’ll miss FOX 7 and Austin, too,” Bickett said. “Austin has been half of my professional career. It was a tough decision for us, but once I pull the trigger I have no regrets.”
It was Mary Kay’s career that also brought the couple to Austin in 1994 when she was recruited to be chief executive officer of the Texas Center for the Judiciary.
“Mary Kay had said if the job had been in Houston or Dallas she would have turned it down,” Bickett said. “She made exploratory visits; I made one trip to make the round of the stations to drop off my tapes. Then KTBC-TV News Director Deborah York had me come in for an audition before I returned to Reno. The moving van was literally at my house when Deborah called to offer me the morning job.”
The morning news show now stretches five-and-a-half hours beginning at 4:30 a.m., but it was just a half hour when Bickett joined co-anchor Paige Gresset and meteorologist Gordon Smith in 1994. Gresset was followed by Lisa Lee, Brooke Wagner and Katherine Garcia before current co-anchor Katherine Kisiel moved up from weekend duty 12 years ago. Meterologist Zach Shields has been with the team for eight years.
“I’ve worked with Joe nearly 12 of the 17 years he’s been at FOX 7,” Kisiel said. “I feel honored and fortunate to have worked with someone whom I genuinely admire and respect both professionally and personally. I will miss his jokes and his ability to make me laugh, even at 5 in the morning! Joe has been my mentor, my co-anchor and most importantly my friend for the last 12 years and I will miss him.”
Bickett’s television career began when he was studying journalism at the University of Nevada with the aim of becoming a sportscaster. After his freshman year, he joined the Nevada Air National Guard where one of his colleagues, and coincidently one of his journalism professors, was Ed Pearce.
Pearce had been hired to do the news on KTVN-TV, the ABC affiliate in Reno. He asked Bickett to audition for sportscaster. Bickett was hired to become part of a four man news crew.
“I just knew the right guy at the right time,” Bickett said. “Ed Pearce is still in the business as senior reporter at KOLO-TV.”
Bickett went on to be named Nevada Sportscaster of the Year three times by the National Association of Sportwriters and Sportscasters.
When Bickett’s wife landed a job in North Carolina, he hooked on as a reporter for WFMY-TV in Greensboro and then WXII-TV in Winston-Salem, where he also did weekend sports. When they returned to Reno, Bickett got his old sports job back, before the couple moved to Austin eight years later.
The Bicketts have sold their house in northwest Austin and everything is on the way to Reno, including his beloved Harley, which he’s owned since 2001. He says he’s ridden bikes since 1968 and fallen off all of them.
“My wife has beaten breast cancer three times and she said life is a risk, so go ahead and get your Harley,” Bickett recalled.
Is Bickett ready to sign off the air for good?
“I’m going to take a month off and ponder my fate,” he said. “I have made contact with my old station in Reno and another station there has contacted me, so I’ll probably talk with them.”
The Bicketts have bought a condo in downtown Reno.
“We’re three blocks from the AAA ball park, close to the Truckee River for fly fishing and we’ve got a gorgeous view of Mount Rose,” Bickett reported. “I’m a happy camper.”