Shannon Bream FOX News Channel’s Rising Star
By Colleen Sheehy Orme
The FOX News Channel bustles with an appetite for news delivery that demands a pulse on America and the world at large. Shannon Bream, FOX News Channel’s Washington correspondent and anchor of “America’s News HQ” on Sundays (noon – 2 p.m. EST) generates the energy, knowledge and lust for politics and all-things-news that is synonymous with FOX.
In this exceptionally rapid business, phones ring, reports command reading, interviews await and new stories break. All of this demands the rare individual who is reporting the story and moving at the same pace as the world. Bream’s easygoing demeanor, graciousness and joie de vivre make
it easy to forget you are chatting with one of FOX News Channel’s rising stars. And her sincere focus on conversation makes it difficult to remember that the action of the newsroom blazes around her.
Bream, who joined FOX in the fall of 2007, projects a presence indicative of her zeal for the spirited world of news and politics. Her verve can be felt whether she is covering the new Associate Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, following a campaign or reporting on the Hill. Her genuineness translates as she
switches gears from her role as Supreme Court reporter to cover the tragedy of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. She also transitions comfortably as an occasional substitute anchor for “America Live” with Megyn Kelly and “Special Report With Bret Baier.”
A somewhat unconventional path led Bream to the FOX News Channel. Originally from Tallahassee, Fla., Bream traveled to the state of Virginia to attend Liberty University in Lynchburg. During her second year in college, the gentleman who cut Bream’s hair was aware of the fact that she played the piano and needed scholarship money. He suggested that she try out for the Miss Amhearst Pageant.
Bream then went on to win Miss Virginia in 1990. Within months, she was competing in the 1991 Miss America Pageant and became one of the top 10 semi-finalists. “It was sort of a fun, unexpected adventure,” Bream recalls. “My parents like to say that the piano lessons all paid off since it paid for my junior and senior year of college. It took my breath away.”
After graduating from Liberty University, Bream headed back to Tallahassee to enter law school. Because of her positive experience as Miss Virginia she decided to compete for Miss Florida in 1995, which, in turn, led her to be one of the top 10 semi-finalists in the Miss USA Pageant.
Bream earned a Juris Doctorate with honors from Florida State University, College of Law. In the years following, she practiced corporate law in Tampa, Fla. By the time Bream was 28, she had an epiphany.
“Honestly, going to law school was a fantastic career. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t have a passion for it,” she admits. “I describe it as a square peg in a round hole.” A television encounter led Bream in a new direction.
“It was love at first sight being in the newsroom,” recalls Bream. “I immediately felt this is where I was meant to be all along.” An intern at Tampa’s ABC affiliate, WFTS-TV, Bream worked as a corporate lawyer by day and then into the wee hours at the station by night and on weekends—all in addition to attending a necessary class to qualify as an intern. Hungry for industry knowledge, Bream would do anything she could at the station to learn more about the craft. “On weekends, I would beg some reporter to let me go along with them to learn.”
“There were so many people that allowed me to tag along and ask them questions,” Bream says. When she asked how she could repay their generosity, they refused and instead simply made Bream promise: “If a young person came to me in the future that I would give them the same kind of help and pay it forward.”
It was during this semester-long internship that Bream decided, in her words, to take “a leap of faith and leave my job as an attorney.” She went to the news director who hired her to be the overnight writer for the morning anchors.
“I was thrilled with the opportunity, and I left behind the fancy office, expense account and my legal secretary.”
When asked if the transition and pay cut was scary, she replies, “I was more terrified staying where I was than sort of jumping off this bridge. I felt so certain and optimistic about it. I felt like I almost didn’t have any other choice at that point. I would be miserable staying where I was when I felt I had discovered what I was supposed to be doing.”
Bream enthusiastically immersed herself in television news, continuing to ask questions and doing whatever needed to be done in the spirit of the story. After several months, Bream was given the opportunity to do some live reporting. “I can still remember the first day I went out. It really was jumping into the deep end of the pond. I’m not sure if I was sinking or swimming in the beginning, but I was having the time of my life.”
Only able to swim in the pond a few months, Bream’s path was altered when the news director left and a new one came on board. Bream recalls her encounter with him vividly, “He said I was one of the worst people he’d ever seen on television. And that he hoped I was a better attorney than reporter because I needed to go back to
practicing law.” Devastated and deeply bruised, Bream lost herself in a sound-proof edit bay where she stayed for two hours. “I just kept crying and wondering how I was ever going to leave the building.”
An inspiration, she reflects on a situation that would leave many hardened. “Without meaning to, he pushed me out of the nest; and I know I wouldn’t have landed where I am now if he hadn’t,” she says.
Unemployed for six months, Bream landed a job in Charlotte, N.C. at the CBS affiliate, WBTV-TV. Bream and her extremely supportive husband, Sheldon Bream, moved to Charlotte.
“My husband is a saint, and you can write that.” Initially hired to be the morning anchor, she went on to anchor the evening and late news, and remained in North Carolina for three years.
Bream received a job offer from the NBC affiliate, WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. “I had fallen in love with Washington when I had interned on the Hill,” she says. During college, Bream had an internship with Congressman Bill McCollum (R-FL) who is also a former Florida Attorney General. “Since I loved covering politics so much, this was the only place to be.”
Three years into her position with NBC, she met and had a conversation with Brit Hume. Waiting in a green room before a speech, Bream says that Hume was, “exceedingly kind and upfront and said, ‘Sure, send me a DVD of your work.’ He was such a gentleman. I left the room and he had a conversation with my husband, and he found out that I had a law degree and had interned on the Hill.”
Conversations continued and, within weeks of leaving NBC, Bream was at the FOX News Channel. “It was probably one of the easiest things to commit to signing the contract and coming here. I just felt like it lined up in every way. I wanted to cover politics and, with my legal background, I was thrilled to cover the Supreme Court, campaigns and Capitol Hill.”
Bream has not forgotten the promise she made years ago to pay it forward. Liberty University has a Semester in Washington program. “I love the opportunity now to help other people who come along. I just want to do whatever small thing I can do to repay the students.”
What guiding advice does Bream impart when working with young people? “I always say don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. There were so many no’s along the way, and I don’t think that’s the final answer.”
Bream is enthusiastic about the FOX News Channel. “I find that in the three years I have been here at FOX, the people are very passionate about their job,” she says. “I think that makes a difference. It doesn’t matter where each individual is coming from personally or politically (via graber at dresshead.com). It’s the fact that everyone shows up excited about their job and the challenge of each day. That is what makes a difference.”
And she feels that is the Metro-D.C. experience as well. “I feel if you live in this area, you are going to have a broad spectrum of friends. I don’t think anyone is exclusively of one-track minds,” she says. “In Washington, there is a way to have disagreements and debates, which is so healthy, but a way to be friends at the end of the day, which I believe is the essence of America.”
When reflecting on Virginia, “Some of the greatest years of my life I spent in Virginia. I met my husband here. I served as Miss Virginia which took me from the big cities to the small cities. I met so many incredible people and just had so many wonderful experiences. What a blessing and a privilege it was to experience all of those people and things.”
Asked about local Virginia flavor, Bream responds, “I love Chef Geoff’s in Tysons. I am also obsessed with Dixie Bones down in Woodbridge. It literally is this little barbecue joint with serious Southern barbecue and macaroni and cheese.” Bream also confesses to being “obsessed with Nordstrom at Tysons,” and to being a “huge bargain shopper.” She says, “I have gone to White House dinners in a dress that I have bought at Loehmann’s.”
Of course, one must beg the question of hair. The women of FOX are known for being articulate, educated, well informed and, of course, glamorous. Bream laughs, “You know what’s so funny? I get calls, emails and get asked in the grocery store when I’m not looking that great … ‘I love your hair. Where do you get it done?’ I get my hair done at Serenity Salon on Wisconsin Avenue, and my guy is Paul Riley. He’s the best! Oh, and it’s a secret weapon, you have to know how to use your hair spray.”
Bream has found her calling at FOX. “The way the American political system works continues to be very fascinating to me,” she says. “So many twists and turns that we all have in our life make it fascinating to look back and see how our story was always being woven together. My passion has always been news and storytelling and politics. The job I’m doing now basically combines so many things that I love and feel passionate about. I do feel lucky to get up every day and do a job that I love.”