Having mastered two careers television journalism and the law Megyn Kelly will embark on a third when she sits down at the Fox News anchor desk Tuesday evening: acting. Part of her job, at least until the polls have closed, will be to pretend she knows a lot less about what voters are up to than she really does.
One of the dirty little secrets of election night TV coverage is that when the anchors come on the air, they know more than they can say, Kelly says. Weve seen some data from exit polls, we have some clues about which way the voting might be going, but under an agreement by all the networks, we dont reveal it until the polls have closed. We all have to be very careful about disclosure.
Thats just one of the tricks of the trade Kelly and her colleague Bret Baier will have to ply as they steer the Fox News ship into uncharted waters: a presidential election night without Brit Hume at the anchor desk. Hume, one of the first big names in broadcast news to sign with Fox News, anchored every presidential election from the networks 1996 debut until his 2008 retirement. Hell be around Tuesday, working as an analyst, but hell no longer the be the face of Fox News coverage.
Kellys co-anchor role marks the apex of a dizzying ascent. It took Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric decades in television news to work their way up to anchor jobs. But less than 10 years ago, Kelly (whose 1 p.m. show America Live has more viewers than its CNN and MSNBC competition combined) wasnt even a journalist she was a corporate attorney whose closest brush with the news business had been her failure to get into Syracuse Universitys journalism school. She was making a lot of money, but spent a good deal of time thinking about blowing out her brains.
I grew up with no money, says Kelly, who turns 42 this month. We were very middle class, didnt have any dough at all. And at some point in college, I decided I would like to make some money. I had never known money. It sounded great. So I put myself through law school, took $100,000 in debt on my back, and went to work as a lawyer.
And I did very well. I paid off my debt, bought some clothes, got some furniture. But I realized, I have never been more unhappy. I loved making an argument, presenting a case to a judge or a jury. But what most people dont realize about the law is its a ton of paper-pushing. The vast majority of the job is arguing with the opposing counsel over minutiae. And you work very, very hard.
The hours in this job can get long too especially now, with the hurricane coverage and the election approaching. But on an ordinary day here, it would be extraordinary to be at the office 16 hours. I did that every day as a lawyer. I never had a holiday off. I never went anywhere without my laptop. On vacations, Id be sitting on a beach in the Caribbean trading nasty-grams with opposing counsel.
Quit the law
Choosing to believe in a high school career-aptitude test that said she should go into broadcast news over the Syracuse admissions office that said she should not, Kelly audited some college journalism classes in Chicago, then quit her law firm in 2003 for a one-day-a-week freelance gig at a Washington, D.C., TV station. It wasnt long before she was on the air every day, and barely a year later she sent an audition tape to Fox News and not, she says, because of its conservative reputation.