Mercury Confidential: "Mercury is more than just a workplace. It is a family"

by Meg Storm

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at Mercury Radio Arts? Just how do all of Glenn’s crazy ideas get done? Does anyone ever get a chance to sleep? Well, over the next few months we are going to take you inside MRA, giving you the inside scoop on everything from publishing to special events, 1791 to Markdown to GBTV. We will be interviewing members of our New York, Columbus, and Dallas staff, bringing you all the info, so you can know what it’s really like to work for Glenn. Part 1 (Kevin Balfe – Publishing)Part 2 (Liz Julis – GBTV/Special Events), Part 3 (Joel Cheatwood: CCO & President of TheBlaze), Part 4 (Eric Pearce: VP, TV Operation of TheBlaze)

You know you love your job when you call traveling to Israel and not sleeping for two weeks the best experience of your professional career. But that is exactly how Michele Vanderhoff, Network Operations Manager at TheBlaze, describes the event.

Vanderhoff, who studied newspaper journalism and political science at Syracuse University, first thought she wanted to be a foreign correspondent for a major newspaper, and then she thought she wanted to be a producer for a news program, and yet she has somehow found herself overseeing the ever-growing production staffs in two states for a major online streaming network.

“I thought I wanted to be a foreign correspondent and write these big long pieces about international politics from war zones,” Vanderhoff said about her initial ambitions. “One of my professors had worked for the Chicago Tribune in the 1960s, and he had all these great stories about journalism in the 60s. He basically embodied how I pictured a newsroom. I kind of romanticized journalism in my head.”

She might have been going to school to be a newspaper reporter, but, ironically, Vanderhoff never wrote or worked for a newspaper. Instead, she found internships at two highly regarded radio stations – WAER in Syracuse and 77 WABC in New York – where she gained the bulk of her production experience.

“So even though I was training to be a newspaper reporter, I actually interned as a producer for WAER, which is the NPR affiliate in Syracuse,” she explained. “I would go out and get the interview, come back and write the piece, voice the piece, and then work with an editor and get it done. That’s kind of when I really started to love the production aspect of things.”

It was during her internship with 77 WABC that Vanderhoff learned just how much she loved the industry. “I interned with 77 WABC in New York. It is where I learned how to write for broadcast. Their newsman – his name was George Weber – taught me how to write succinct, concise, get it out there type stories.”

Weber even used one of her stories on air. “I remember the first time he let me write one,” she recalled. “He was like, ‘This is going to be a test run. This isn’t going to go to air, don’t worry.’ I think like Michael Vick was very much in the news, Lindsay Lohan was very much in the news, and so I wrote something up. About 30 seconds before we went to air, he said something like, ‘Yours is better than mine. I am going to use yours.’ I remember just sitting there with my mouth open thinking I wrote that! I loved the newsroom after that.”

Despite these wonderful opportunities, her experience was still solely in radio. “I was completely foreign to TV, which is funny because television is my life now,” she said laughing.

Vanderhoff graduated college in 2008, a rough time for any business, but the media industry was particularly hard hit. She ended up taking a job in ad sales at CBS – a job she hated, but it paid the bills.

“I did ad sales for six to eight months. I hated every second of it. I was terrible at it. The only part I was good at was producing the commercials afterwards. So I was there, and I tried really hard, but it wasn’t working for me.”

With the economy not in her favor, Vanderhoff had to take matters into her own hands. Her alma mater, the Newhouse school at Syracuse University, has a large alumni network that she knew she had to take advantage of. “I wanted to start networking,” she said. “[Syracuse] put me in touch with a producer at CNN, Josh Belsky.”

It was a phone call with Belsky that ultimately got her in the door at CNN. She went in to meet with one of Belsky’s colleagues, Eric Pearce, a producer at CNN at the time and current Vice President of Television Operations at TheBlaze. “Eric Pearce called me, and he is like, ‘Come in. Let’s have a conversation.’ I go over there, and he at the time was on Issues with Jane Valez-Mitchell. I went in, and we talked for a while. He called me the next day and offered me a freelance position, which I so happily took.”

At CNN, Vanderhoff was a production assistant for Issues with Jane Valez-Mitchell. She worked closely with Pearce, a producer on the show, and her fellow production assistants – Adam Ford and Brett Zoeller, both of whom are now producers at TheBlaze.

“So while I was at CNN, I worked with Adam Ford, who is now down in our Dallas office, and Brett Zoeller, who is here in New York,” she said. “The three of us – that was my team. Eric was like the dad, and we were his kids. I made the move [to Mercury] first. I was here for a year or so, and [Adam and Brett] were bugging me constantly. They eventually came over too.”

At CNN, Zoeller, Ford, and Vanderhoff were known for their teamwork. “It was very high pressure with breaking news and stuff, but we knew we had each other’s backs,” she said. “We just worked really well together.”

There is a sign on Vanderhoff’s desk that reads ‘BAM’ – a catch phrase that served as a running joke for the production team at CNN. “That was the running joke for the three of us because seriously everybody told us that we were the best production assistant team that they had,” she explained.

“That was the order we came to Issues with Jane Valez-Mitchell: B was Brett, he came first; A was Adam, he came next; and M was Michele, I was last. Adam and I made that sign for Brett on his first day at Mercury.”

Vanderhoff made the move to Mercury in July 2010. “Eric brought me over as an associate producer. I sat by myself over in the corner on the other side of floor, before there was a Blaze newsroom,” she recalled.

“I remember Eric didn’t know what to do with me at first,” she continued. “I ended up like writing critiques of the radio show. And he had me looking for Benjamin Franklin quotes. But that was just the first week. After that, everything just hit hyper speed, and it hasn’t slowed down since.”

She assumed she would stay on the editorial side of things – producing packages for various projects and helping to create content – but as is customary at Mercury, things didn’t really go as planned.

“I kind of always thought I would stay on a more editorial track,” Vanderhoff explained. “But I had a knack for the operations stuff. I was good at just kind of organizing everybody. I was good at distributing jobs and assignments.”

“I actually remember the day that it happened,” she continued. “Eric and I used to sit next to each other when the production team was a lot smaller, and we used to send out an email everyday with assignments. He was in and out of meetings, and I was like, ‘Do you want me to send out the assignment email?’ He was like, ‘That would be great.’ And I have done it every day since. From there, I would just see the need for something to get done, and I would just do it, or I would see that he was just doing two different things, and I would be like give me this one.”

After a few months, Pearce and Vanderhoff sat down to revaluate. “We sat back down, and Eric was like, ‘You’re really not doing editorial anymore. You are doing operational stuff. Let’s make that official.’ That’s how I ended up here,” she said with a laugh.

Vanderhoff’s hard work paid off. She quickly worked her way up to Network Operations Manager, which comes with the responsibility of overseeing production in New York and Dallas. For someone like Vanderhoff, who likes to be “really hands on,” the sheer fact that she couldn’t be two places at the same time seemed daunting.

“I like to make sure anybody I am working with knows that they can rely on me – knows that they can come to me. And I have that rapport with New York because I am here. I am busting in on them all day asking how is this going, how is that going,” she explained. “I am really lucky that I have good conversations with everyone in our department. They can tell me exactly what they are thinking, and they know that if I can make it better, I will.”

“With Dallas, I can still talk to them, but it is not the same as being able to walk in and have a conversation,” she continued. “But we have all gotten a lot better with our communication, which has made it a lot easier. Checking in with each other a few times a day, and really seeing what the production needs are for Dallas, and seeing how I can help them balance their work load, help them manage their time.”

She keeps things operating through organization – lots and lots of organization. The staff is still relatively small considering Mercury’s productivity levels, but everyone is dedicated and wears many hats. It has become a bit of a joke around the office that Vanderhoff keeps it all running with the help of her trusty white boards that list the members of her team, where they are, and what they are doing (virtually at all time), but it’s the best way to keep all the moving parts straight.

“Since I now have my hands on both places, I can now hopefully make it as efficient as possible,” she said. “Everyone is so dedicated. And everyone loves what they do. I think that really shows in what we produce every day.”

Since Vanderhoff joined Mercury right before the Restoring Honor events in Washington D.C. in 2010, she wasn’t fully in the trenches, but by the time the 2011 Restoring Courage events came along, Vanderhoff would not only be in Israel, she would be forgoing sleep and her sanity for a week.

“It’s funny because I love talking about Israel with people because everyone has such a different vision of what it was,” she said. “Some people are like, ‘Oh my God it was so beautiful, and I saw the most amazing things.’ I saw a control room, and a hotel room, and that was it. But it is still – I will always say this – the best experience of my professional career. Hands down.”

For Vanderhoff, who had never left the United States and didn’t speak the language, figuring out how to manage her staff in a foreign country with limited resources was not an easy task. “The stuff that we did there just blows my mind because we were operating off road Macs, laptops, and we had hard drives linked to each other, and that’s what we edited off of. That’s what we used, and it didn’t blow up. As soon as I touched down until the moment we left, it was just go, go, go, go, go,” she said.

She became somewhat of a dispatcher over the course of the trip – sending crews X, Y, and Z to points A, B, and C to capture stories and then return to the hotel that was serving as the makeshift production studio.

“We did capture these really amazing stories. And then we would come back. And we called our home base the Frat House because that is what it became,” Vanderhoff said. “It was just all of us in this one beautiful room, but all on top of each other, ingesting media, breaking it down, putting it together, and there were just a lot of sleepless nights. A lot.”

The majority of the GBTV (now TheBlaze) staff flew back to New York on the day before Hurricane Irene was set to hit the east coast. It was a mad dash back to the city because GBTV was set to launch in just two weeks. “We got home from Israel that Friday and there was a hurricane coming. I was on the ground a few hours before my building got evacuated,” Vanderhoff recalled. “I still hadn’t slept.”

Her instinct was to drive to her mother’s home in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey. While the town floods often, her mother’s home hadn’t flooded in many years. Because she was concerned about not being able to get back to the city for work on Monday, Vanderhoff decided to go to safer ground.

“I called my Mom and said that I really didn’t want to come over in case the towns around her are flooding – we are launching a network, I am going to need to get to work. I went to my Aunt’s house in Clifton, New Jersey instead. For the first time in half a century, my Mom’s house actually flooded. It actually flooded very badly. It was a scary situation,” she explained.

“I remember after the storm passed, everyone was like ‘That was it. That was no big deal,’” she continued. “My hometown was devastated. My hometown is still devastated. There are still dozens of houses on each block for sale. There are three or four houses on each street that are completely abandoned. At the height of it, it was four to five feet of water in our house. My Mom had to get rescued by the National Guard.”

Vanderhoff and her fiancé went to pick her mother and brother up from the Red Cross drop off location. “I said to her, ‘Mom, I am coming to get you. You have to leave.’ My fiancé and I found these back roads and mountains and finally got to the Red Cross drop off point. She and my brother had to get onto a National Guard boat, which brought her to a Humvee, which brought her to the Red Cross center. At the Red Cross, my fiancé and I were setting up beds and cots and helping organize the kids because it was shear chaos. So it always bothered me when people said, ‘Oh nothing happened’ because my hometown is devastated. That was really hard.”

She brought her family back to her apartment and called several people at Mercury to let them know she wouldn’t be at work on Monday because she would be on the phone with insurance companies and the like.

“That actually brings me to my favorite Glenn story,” Vanderhoff said. “Glenn was the first person from Mercury to call me. I had finally gone to sleep, so of course I missed his first call. I was just passed out on my couch. When I woke up he called again, and I answered the phone, and it was Glenn asking if I was okay, if my family was okay. I very emotionally told him everything that happened, and the love that I felt from him was just - I can’t even explain it.”

“I have always said he is the best boss in the world, but he really showed that Mercury is more than just a workplace. It is a family,” she said emotionally. “He literally said anything that I need – if my family needs a place to stay, let him know, he will help set it up; if they need clothes; if they need food; if they need anything. And it was just the outpouring of kindness that Glenn and Tania showed us those first couple of days. It was just – I get emotional even thinking about it still. At that time I had only been at Mercury for a year, and I had gotten to know Glenn, but not really on a personal level, so the fact that he took the time out and did that just means everything.”

Glenn then asked Vanderhoff if he could speak with her mother. “He called my mom and sat on the phone for a while – 30 or 45 minutes. And we all know what Glenn’s schedule is like, so the fact that he was able to do that. He had never met my mother, and they actually prayed together on the phone, which I know was a very special moment for my Mom. To this day she adores Glenn, and not just because of what he does, but because of the person that he is.”

“It is a small story, and people could say that it doesn’t say much, but it meant so much,” Vanderhoff said. “I think it shows Glenn’s heart and what this company means to him and what his employees mean to him. To me that sums up Glenn Beck.”

Vanderhoff made it back to work not too long after that, just in time for the launch of GBTV. “It was so crazy leading up to the launch of GBTV. Since all of our efforts were focused on Israel for so long, we came back and we had never done any of the things we were trying to do,” she said.

What is often taken for granted at a major network was now the responsibility of Vanderhoff and her team. “That’s what was so interesting,” she said. “We were producing a better looking TV show than anything on the major networks with paper and glue. Like that is essentially what we had.”

The network has grown substantially since those first couple of days, and as it continues to grow so too does the staff and, therefore, the scope of Vanderhoff’s job. But if past performance is any indication, it looks like everything will be just fine.

“As crazy as it is, I love it,” Vanderhoff said smiling. “And that is one of my favorite things about Mercury in general – you constantly have this feeling of purpose and know that none of your efforts are being wasted. Everything you are doing is for a reason. You go crazy getting to that reason, but you know what the goal is. And seeing it come together is so satisfying.”

A Colorado mother of three, Erin Lee, said her 12-year-old daughter was recruited by teachers to attend an "art club" after school, only to find it was a GSA or Gay Straight Awareness/Alliance Club. Not only was the family misled about the purpose of the club, but a guest speaker — who told the middle school students that "if they're not fully comfortable in their bodies, that means they're transgender" — also encouraged the kids to keep secrets from their parents.

Lee told Glenn Beck on the radio program Monday that her "shy, vulnerable, barely 12-year-old daughter" had just moved to Wellington Middle School in Fort Collins, Colorado, when she was invited by her art and home room teachers to attend an "art club" after school.

"She texted us [and] we gave her permission for art club," Lee said of her daughter. "When she got there, it was actually GSA, or Gender and Sexuality Awareness or Alliance Club. The teacher had invited in a completely unqualified outside presenter who did unthinkable things with the children. I'll give you the CliffsNotes version. She told them, 'what you hear in here, keep in here.' She used flags to use defining words, telling them if they're not fully comfortable in their bodies, that means they're transgender. Then she would hand out the flags and stickers and bracelets and other swag. She told them that 'queer' is a label for when they're still figuring out their sexuality.

"She did the 'Genderbread person,' which explicitly asked kids who they're sexually attracted to, so 11, 12, 13-year-olds with peers and adults in the room, talking about their sexuality. She handed out her personal contact information and invited them to connect on teen chat platforms, like WhatsApp and Discord, where she knows that parents are not monitoring the conversation. She told them that families may not be safe, and it's okay to lie about where they are. And in fact, the art teacher, as my daughter was leaving the room that day, pulled her aside and said, 'remember, you don't have to tell your mom.'"

The outside presenter, Kimberly Chambers, is the director of SPLASH Youth of Northern Colorado, an organization that targets children as young as 5 years old, as indicated on its own website. Chambers is a paid employee of the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment with access to children’s information, according to a Parents Defending Education incident report.

Lee went on to say that, after learning from her daughter what happened, she and her husband contacted the school principal, who confirmed that the meeting was, in fact, held in secret and they are always held in secret because as a public school they have to offer children a "safe space." Lee then turned to the school board, but said she was ignored "for months." Finally, she was able to meet with board member Kristen Draper, who turned out to be a close friend and "strong ally" to Chambers. Draper also volunteers for an arm of SPLASH called SKITTLES.

"FOIA emails showed that [the school] immediately colluded when I objected to what happened," Lee told Glenn. "They immediately colluded with the school board to keep me quiet. They referenced parents who find out as 'barriers' that the school board has removed. They talked about sending social services into my home because I didn't like what they did with my child," she continued.

"My daughter had never expressed gender dysphoria before. She never expressed that she'd had any trouble at home. They never spoke to me. I never spoke to any of the people that did these things before they decided to talk about calling CPS ... In the state of Colorado, if my child had said to the CPS that I wasn't affirming her transgender identity, I firmly believe they would have removed her from the home. And the people knew this when they suggested that CPS come to our home to remove our child," Lee warned. "Colorado is off the rails in particular, but this is happening everywhere."

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The House approved a new aid package for Ukraine of nearly $40 billion, which will increase the total U.S. funding for Ukraine's war efforts to a whopping $58 BILLION since March, if the package passes in the Senate. Meanwhile, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testified before Congress that the Biden administration is considering diverting resources away from an already-struggling VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) to deal with the border crisis.

"I am not making this up -- this will [make] your head explode," Glenn Beck said in the radio program Thursday. "They are going to divert costs; the Biden administration is taking money from the VA. Now already, our veterans get seconds, and we are [considering] diverting VA funding, and doctors, and nurses, away from our vets and to the migrants at the border, so we can take money that we don't have, $58 billion, and send it to Ukraine. What the hell is wrong with us?"

"Now, some Republican lawmakers are attempting to fight this," he added. "But, most people haven't even heard of this. This is how the atrocities at the border go unchecked. Biden sweeps it all under a rug. The mainstream media covers it up. And, meanwhile, people suffer and die. And in this case, it's not only the people on the border, but it is also our veterans in VA hospitals."

Glenn went on to detail the unreported deadly consequences of Biden’s border policies which have led to enough fentanyl to kill millions of Americans pouring across the border and terrorists having found easy paths into our country.

Watch the video clip below to hear more from Glenn:

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Corruption, greed, and death. This is what the Left’s border policy is REALLY about, not the humanitarian effort they claim it is.

On tonight's episode of "Glenn TV," Glenn Beck exposes the groups benefitting from the border chaos under the Biden administration. A leftist money supply flows to NGOs on the border that are now taking the roles that the government should be filling with immigration and helping immigrants to flood into the U.S. Glenn asks: Why is the U.N. funding the flow of migrants to our border and subverting Congress? Why are former Biden staffers working for “non-profits” that are now getting exclusive, HIGHLY irregular multimillion-dollar border contracts? Worse than that, the consequences of Biden’s border policy have now turned deadly. National Guard members at the border are dying, fentanyl from China pours across the border, and terrorists have found an easy path to enter our country.

Finally, Glenn asks Texas Rep. Chip Roy if it’s time to impeach DHS Secretary Mayorkas for his negligence that is costing American lives.

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I can no longer relate to the modern pro-choice woman. I don’t want to shout my abortion. I want to pretend it never happened. Up until the SCOTUS leak, I had done a pretty good job of burying my 20-year secret. But the Roe v. Wade information earthquake triggered an eruption. I can no longer pretend to be ambivalent or leave it to blue-check pro-lifers to speak for me. My days of repeating the “safe, legal, and rare” mantra like a good, GenX libertarian feminist are over.

Some pro-abortion activists call their life-ending procedure “self-care,” like they just booked a hot stone massage or a facial at a spa. This is a polite euphemism many women tell themselves – not because we are cold-blooded killers, but because it’s how we survive. We HAVE to lie in order to justify what is actually taking place. Denial is a protective coating, a barrier from the truth. Remember, any woman born after Roe v. Wade has been programmed to believe that abortion is a natural-born right. “It’s legal; therefore it must not be evil. This is a medical procedure. Women do it every day.” Planned Parenthood has a nice way of describing abortion on its website: “A doctor uses a combination of medical tools and a suction device to gently take the pregnancy tissue out of your uterus.” “Gently take the tissue out.” Benign euphemisms that wrap our hearts and minds in a suffocating cocoon. Benign euphemisms to keep us in line.

I was raised in the Bible Belt and to believe that sex before marriage was the gravest of sins. You’d be better off robbing a store by pistol than to be caught fornicating with a boy. And yet I did fornicate with a boy. No boy I’d ever be proud to bring around to my parents. I never gave him the option to talk me out of it. I just demanded he pay half for the procedure and never speak of it again. I told myself it would be easier to survive the hidden shame of the abortion than wear the shame of my sin on my belly for the next nine months.

...the pill I took made an ugly, painful mess, and it didn’t finish the job.

I took the so-called “easy” way out at six weeks along and swallowed a pill I got from some abortionist who gave me the creeps. He was no medical saint like the one portrayed in “The Cider House Rules,” nobly saving women from coat-hanger abortions. The doctor in my story made a quick buck at the expense of terrified “good girls.” Years later I would learn he kept aborted fetuses in buckets and was under investigation for shady medical practices. I couldn’t leave his clinic fast enough, but at least I wouldn’t have to miss work or skip my college classes. I could finish my degree and still make my parents proud. How convenient. But the pill I took made an ugly, painful mess, and it didn’t finish the job. Now I had to see a real obstetrician, get an ultrasound, and deal with the aftermath.

This doctor’s office was nicer. It had bright lights and pink walls. Although my doctor was professional, I still felt the quiet judgment in her voice. I refused to look at the image of my tortured fetus on the screen. I knew what it would mean if I did – my feminist career ambitions would lose the battle to my soul if I looked at that baby. The doctor told me the fetus was still viable but likely mentally damaged. The “kinder” thing to do would be to finish the job at an in-clinic abortion. End the fetus’ suffering and end my own self-torture. I woke up from anesthesia to learn the abortion was complete. It’s over so quickly, but the internal conflict hangs. And hangs.

You find weird ways to cope. Not long after, I discovered an abandoned robin’s egg, still perfectly intact. I wrapped it in a sock and carried it with me for over a decade. If I couldn’t do right by my own child, maybe I could keep this unhatched egg safe. Eventually, I had to come to terms with the fact that the bird egg was dead, and I got therapy. He was a good New York psychologist. Secular, liberal, tolerant. He helped me to forgive myself, but I always knew who I really needed to ask for forgiveness …

It’s easy for a young woman with all those stockpiled eggs in her ovaries to be pro-choice. She can toss away the miracle of life like a rotten banana or a bruised apple because it is easily replaced. It wasn’t until I was forced to confront the mortality of my own fertility that I felt the full force of my regret.

But I do not write this letter to achieve redemption or to be the new face of the pro-life movement. You will not see me pleading with women outside an abortion clinic. You will not see me protesting with a cutesy, homemade sign at the March for Life. You will not see me sparring on Twitter, confronting baby-killers with cold, hard facts. For now, you will not even know my name. I suppose this is not very brave, but my story is not complete and God’s work in me is in an active state. Mine is a modest mission: Maybe if I’m honest about my own wounds, I can help other women like me to heal. Maybe I can love the terrified, knocked-up woman in the Bible Belt who believes the best worst lies our society has ever told, better than any conservative talk show host ever could.

The SCOTUS leak ripped a band-aid off a festering 50-year-old wound.

The SCOTUS leak ripped a band-aid off a festering 50-year-old wound. It’s naive to think we will fix this mess for the unborn overnight and deprogram men and women plugged into 50 years of slick, well-packaged lies. Slavery was legal in the U.S. for over 200 years before we fought a war to end it. And it was another 100 years before we ended state-sanctioned racism.

When it comes to the issue of defending innocent life, I know it’s hard to be patient. This is a clear battle of good vs. evil for many on the right, but you need allies like me – the former “safe, legal, and rare” pro-choicers who are afraid to come out of the shadows. Afraid to become a political prop in the culture wars, but willing to do the quiet missionary work in our back yards.

I hope for the day future progressives look back in horror at today’s progressives fighting to keep abortion on demand. I hope for the day the New York Times publishes the pro-life version of the 1619 Project. Maybe they’ll call it the “1973 Project,” “whose mission is to reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of abortion and the contribution of the pro-life movement at the very center of our national narrative.”

Until that day, I want to help these women to be braver than me. To see beyond their impossible tomorrow. If I had allowed someone the chance to help me be brave, I might not have had the same successful career, but I would have a 20-year-old son or daughter in whom to invest this unexplained overflow in my heart.