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 TheBlaze. 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.
Laurie Dhue is one of the most recognizable names in news. She is the only anchor to have hosted shows on the three primary cable news networks – CNN, MSNBC and FOX News – and her experiences span from running the teleprompter at CNN in the late 1980s to anchoring primetime news programs. She has met presidents, traveled the world, and been the voice of some of the most important news stories of the last two decades.
Laurie began working with TheBlaze in March as the host of For The Record, and she joined the team full time in July. Starting in September, you will see a lot more of Laurie as she anchors the ever-expanding primetime news updates on TheBlaze TV, in addition to hosting For The Record.
Born in North Carolina and raised in Atlanta, Laurie always knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up. “I was lucky,” Laurie said. “Unlike most of my college friends, I knew what I wanted to do by the age of 19. I had an internship at CNN in Atlanta the summer of 1988 – before some of TheBlaze.com folks were even born – which changed the course of my life.”
She attended the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she studied political science with a concentration in dramatic arts. Laurie was a member of the varsity swim team, an academic all-American, and a member of the Loreleis – a female a cappella group that toured the East Coast. “I still love to sing, and one of these days I’m going to do a cabaret performance for my friends,” she said smiling. “I’ve been saying this for years.”
It was the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta that ultimately jump-started her career. “The Democratic National Convention was held in Atlanta the summer of 1988, and I was smack in the middle of all the excitement,” Laurie explained. “As a booth runner for the anchors, including Larry King, I was responsible for everything from delivering scripts to making coffee, procuring sandwiches and straightening ties. The highlight was meeting Walter Cronkite.”
“I went back to UNC that fall knowing that I wanted get into news. At that point, I had not yet declared a major and the folks at CNN advised me to get a liberal arts degree and not limit myself to journalism,” she continued. “‘We’ll teach you more in a month than you’ll get in the next 2 years sitting in a classroom,’ one of my mentors told me. It was true. I learned an incredible amount in a very short period of time. I interned for CNN the next two summers – including an internship in London the summer of 1990 – then began working there full-time in the spring of 1991. The headquarters and main studios were in Atlanta at the time, though now most of CNN’s shows are based in NYC.”
When Laurie first started at CNN, her job was very much behind-the-scenes. “Between 1991 and 1997, I did just about every job at CNN you can imagine,” she said. Those jobs included running teleprompter, running scripts, checking show rundowns, pulling tapes, logging tapes (“one of the more tedious and humbling experiences”), running tapes, etc. You name it, she did it.
“Eventually, I became a guest booker and segment producer,” Laurie explained. “After a couple of years of researching and writing the anchors’ interviews – in the pre-Internet age – I knew I had to pursue my dream of being on-camera. I knew I had it in me and truly thought it was my destiny, I just needed a chance.”
Breaking into the media industry has never been easy, but in the early 1990s it was especially difficult to become an on-air talent without having previously spent some time in a small market. “In those days, it was much tougher. If you wanted to be an anchor or reporter, you had to start in a very small market,” she recalled. “I begged my boss to let me talk to the then-President of CNN, Tom Johnson, about doing something, anything, on camera. He saw how serious I was and agreed to let me do updates on the CNN Airport Network – yes, such a thing existed back in the day – but only in my spare time, nothing could interfere with my segment-producing job. So I taught myself how to use the teleprompter and practiced for hours and hours. My first Airport Channel hit lingers in the back of my mind somewhere. I don’t remember the moment, but I do remember thinking ‘Well, I’m on my way.’ It felt absolutely natural to me.”
Laurie’s big break came a few months later, in the summer of 1996, when she was offered the chance to anchor overnight news updates for CNN’s sister network Headline News (now HLN), but she would have to continue her producing job as well. As you can imagine, it was a pretty busy schedule.
“It was a hectic time,” Laurie explained. “By day, I was booking and pre-interviewing guests. By night, I was anchoring the news. I slept very little, but I didn’t care. Within six months, in January of 1997, I was offered a full-time anchor spot on CNN, becoming the youngest anchor in the network’s history. I anchored the midnight, 1AM and 5:30AM shows for a year – sleeping from 7AM till 3PM, which I really never got used to – then I moved to weekends.”
She anchored CNN Saturday and CNN Sunday for a year, before getting a call from her agent saying NBC was interested in meeting her. Laurie flew to New York and met with the NBC executives about hosting her own weekday show on MSNBC. Beginning in 1999, Laurie anchored several shows for MSNBC – covering breaking news and reporting long-form stories as well.
“My goal had always been to get to New York City, so I was thrilled to get the chance. Saying goodbye to my life, friends, and family in Atlanta was tough, but I knew it was the right decision and fell in love with the city the day I arrived,” Laurie said. “I had the privilege of reporting from Times Square on New Year’s Eve in 1999, which is one of the highlights of my career. Celebrating the turn of the millennium (remember how the world was supposed to end on Y2K?) with several million people was rather extraordinary!”
In mid-2000, Laurie made the move to Fox News. During that time she offered primetime news updates during Special Report with Britt Hume, The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, and On the Record.
“I also hosted weekend shows and got the opportunity to report from the Middle East for several months over a period of two years,” she explained. “I later joined Geraldo At Large as a news anchor/primary correspondent and had a weekly segment on The O’Reilly Factor called ‘The Dhue Point.’ During my eight years at FNC, I also anchored live hourly updates on Fox News Radio. I was the voice of the official launch!”
It was during her time at Fox News that Laurie made the decision that would ultimately save her life. After battling alcoholism for some 15 years, Laurie made the decision to get sober on March 14, 2007. She chose to go public with her recovery a few years later, and her admission surprised many in the industry who knew Laurie and the quality of her work. She recently opened up to Glenn about her struggle with addiction and her road to recovery:
“Glenn and I have a commonality: we are both in recovery from alcoholism and share the beautiful, challenging journey through recovery,” Laurie said. “He has been nothing but supportive about the work I do in the recovery community, encouraging me to continue my public advocacy, and acknowledging that my battle with addiction has made me a stronger person.”
Laurie left Fox News in 2008, and founded her own media training and communications consultancy, Laurie Dhue Media, which helps people prepare for media interviews of all kinds. She fronted several corporate broadcasts, in addition to co-hosting The PIX 11 Morning News in New York City for several months – an experience that provided its own set of unique challenges. “Local morning news is a completely different experience, very fun but a lot harder than it looks,” Laurie admitted. “I also had to get up before 2AM every day, which was rather horrible.”
At the end of last year, opportunity once again came knocking when Joel Cheatwood, President and Chief Content Officer at TheBlaze, reached out to Laurie. While she never crossed paths with Glenn at Fox News, Laurie was familiar with TheBlaze.
“I first heard about TheBlaze TV when it was still GBTV. After Glenn left Fox News Channel, I, like millions of other people, was curious about his next act. When I learned that he’d created his own online-only network, I thought: That’s smart. He sees the future and it’s not network news,” Laurie said. “In the back of my mind, I thought it would be interesting to meet him and perhaps even become an occasional contributor, if it was a good fit.”
In January, Laurie traveled to Dallas to meet with Glenn and Joel, an experience she described as “an instant meeting of the minds.”
“Glenn’s candor was both surprising and refreshing. There was no intimidation, no ‘trick’ questions, just an honest conversation. Glenn and I talked about many things that morning,” she explained. “We asked each other questions, swapped war stories about our experiences in cable news, and compared philosophies. It just felt like a natural fit for everyone. Then it was a matter of figuring out what opportunity would best fit my strengths.”
Fortunately, it didn't take long for a good fit to come along. “In mid-March, that first opportunity came in the form of hosting the inaugural episode of the new investigative series For the Record,” she said. “I'm honored to host this program and grateful to work with an experienced, knowledgeable and fearless group that's dedicated to bringing viewers the truth, even if it's not pretty.”
For The Record is unlike any other project Laurie has worked on mainly because it is unlike any other show on television.
“For the Record is a return to investigative journalism the way it used to be: probing, unforgiving and fair. The program is built around the simple but essential principle of truth. There's no political agenda; rather, we dedicate ourselves to telling stories with sincerity and integrity,” Laurie explained. “Network news organizations have been known to spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours in focus groups designing their shows with their primary considerations being: Who's the audience? What's the main theme? Who will be the key sponsors? For the Record was designed differently. The mandate was simple: find stories the mainstream media either refused to report or simply didn’t have an interest in reporting. We've never had a discussion about target markets or themes. Finding stories has actually been rather easy because so many of them are either disliked or ignored by others. And the truth of the matter is, other outlets are simply too scared to report them.”
The stories may be easy to find, but with topics ranging from sex trafficking to Christian persecution, government surveillance to fallen heroes, the material is both time sensitive and emotionally sensitive.
“For the Record isn't easy to deliver. We've got sources and contributors literally around the world, many of whom have faced grave consequences to provide information,” Laurie said. “When you watch an episode you’ll never notice the late night cross-country flights – and the delays that go along with them – with gear in tow, the cold winds that pierce your body when you’re doing an interview in the dead of winter, the 8AM Saturday script writing sessions that sometimes linger into Sunday mornings. And you're not supposed to.”
The one thing that keeps both Laurie and the For The Record team going is the desire to provide TheBlaze audience and the world with these important stories that simply aren’t available anyplace else.
“Glenn has given us the gift of time, a precious commodity in this business. We take the necessary time and resources to tell the stories that need to be told, the stories no one else is telling,” Laurie said. “Many of our sources and interview subjects won't talk to any other new outlets because they know their words will be twisted. Our stories – in particular, the shows about the NSA whistleblowers and Extortion 17 – are getting plenty of attention. While we're gratified that Washington is sitting up and taking notice, that's certainly not our raison d'etre.”
With Laurie now a member of TheBlaze team fulltime, audiences will soon see her return to her roots – providing news updates throughout TheBlaze TV’s primetime lineup, in addition to afternoon news updates on TheBlaze Radio. She will continue to host For The Record and offer original commentary on various programs. Apart from her work for TheBlaze, Laurie began hosting a weekly talk show on Veria Living TV called Over the Hump in June, which tackles issues of concern to women.
Laurie’s career has taken her all around the industry, and she quite familiar with the trappings and shortfalls that often plague media conglomerates. One of the reasons she was so excited to join TheBlaze was because of the freedom it offered.
“Why did I join TheBlaze? That’s easy: the opportunity to be on the ground floor of something truly groundbreaking doesn’t come along very often, if ever. TheBlaze is growing by leaps and bounds, expanding every day as other media outlets downsize. Oh, and saying no to Glenn Beck is impossible,” Laurie joked. “The slogan, 'The Truth Lives Here’, is bold, just like Glenn. Glenn once told me that there are no sacred cows at TheBlaze except for freedom and decency. He’s both sincere and fearless, a rare combination in news, and isn’t beholden to anyone but the viewers. There’s no parent company telling him what he can and cannot say. I think that’s real freedom of the press!”