By Sondra Barr
Before her stint as a news anchor, Megyn Kelly was a trial lawyer at a prestigious firm on her way to making partner. A rigid career path with a predetermined conclusion, she realized it left her woefully unfulfilled. Now the lawyer turned journalist is breaking free of legacy media. Setting a fresh course with unlimited potential and freedom from corporate agendas, she’s finally serving up the news––her way.
For 50-year-old Kelly, podcasting is the natural progression from years spent anchoring news shows across multiple networks. Last year she launched her own media company, Devil May Care Media, which produces her unfiltered podcast The Megyn Kelly Show.
Since launching her podcast, the show has consistently ranked in the top 10 in the news commentary category on Apple and Spotify. Billed as “your home for open, honest, and provocative conversations with the most interesting and important political, legal, and cultural figures today. No BS. No agenda. And no fear,” guests have included Alan Dershowitz, Mark Cuban, Candace Owens, and Glenn Greenwald.
“I wanted something that would tip the hat to where I am in the media spectrum. The whole saying is ‘The devil may care, but I do not.’ What I’m trying to telegraph is nobody’s going to tell me what to say anymore because I don’t care. If you don’t like it, I don’t really care. You don’t have to listen. Go find another podcast,” she explained to writer Nate Eaton last year.
The veteran journalist’s reason for entering the podcasting fray after departing NBC in 2019 is simple, “Legacy media is dying a very slow death,” she told the Daily Caller’s Shelby Talcott. “These are all money-making engines. They’re not there as a public service.”
“The media gets paid to get eyeballs, right? To get you viewing them. And the way you do that is to stoke outrage. That’s why whenever you turn off the television from cable news, you feel pissed off. You may not even know they’re doing it to you, but that’s what they’re doing to you. It’s one of the reasons I wound up leaving.”
It’s not the first time Kelly has turned her back on something that she didn’t perceive as fulfilling and transparent. After graduation from Albany Law School, where she was a member of the student senate and edited the law review, she embarked on a career in corporate law. By age 33, Kelly was representing high-profile clients including credit bureau Experian for the international law firm of Jones Day. On track to becoming partner, Kelly excelled in the field but wasn’t inspired.
“I had this little voice in me saying, ‘I am more interesting than this. I am more interested than this,’” Kelly told Vanity Fair’s Evgenia Peretz for a 2016 cover story.
Armed with gumption, charisma, and the doggedness that would come to define her as a journalist, the experienced trial attorney turned her sights on becoming a newscaster. While still practicing law, Kelly took a reporting class and completed an internship at a local Chicago station. She then put together a sample reel with a friend to present to television stations in the hopes of securing a newscaster spot.
As they say, one thing led to another and her tape landed in the hands of Fox News Washington-bureau chief Kim Hume, wife of Fox News anchor Brit Hume. From there, it eventually hit the desk of Fox News chairman Roger Ailes. He recognized her star power. Kelly’s career ascent was fast and furious.
“I could have kept doing [law], and I think I was in what my sister-in-law calls my ‘zone of excellence,’” Kelly explained to Peretz. “But I chose a different path, and I made a big financial sacrifice when I first started, and wound up getting into what she calls my ‘zone of genius.’”
Her years as a trial attorney served Kelly well as a news anchor. Quick on her feet, her verbal sparring skills are finely honed. Kelly regularly took guests to task on her popular live evening news show on Fox, The Kelly File, and elsewhere. She also wasn’t (and isn’t) afraid to ask tough questions, as well documented when she served as a moderator for the 2015 Republican presidential debate.
“She takes no prisoners and takes no BS,” veteran newswoman Katie Couric has said of Kelly. “And I’ve noticed that she’s a really good listener. Sometimes the tendency is to go down a laundry list of questions and to not say, ‘Wait a minute.’ It requires you to think on your feet and to take the conversation in a totally different direction.”
Campbell Brown, a former CNN prime-time host, said this about Kelly: “She doesn’t talk down to her audience. There is none of the sanctimonious, condescending attitude. And, frankly, none of the hate. I think people are sick of these prime-time chest thumpers characterizing the other side as evil.”
It’s the chest thumping that Kelly avoids in her podcast, The Megyn Kelly Show. “The No. 1 thing I wanted to do was control my own editorial,” Kelly told The Journal. “To not be doing anyone else’s bidding, not having the pressure of corporate overlords over me, that means one has to be entrepreneurial.”
Kelly’s careers, both as a lawyer and news anchor have created a strong desire to finally be able to control the discussion. Freely exploring a wide range of topics without the pressure of someone else’s editorial agenda is something that Kelly has long wanted to fully embrace.
“There’s no way, when people sort of understand what’s happening in the digital world and how forward-looking it is and how much more meaningful and substantive it is, and how much more honest you can be here, that they would choose the other model [cable news],” Kelly told the Daily Caller, adding “younger viewers are leaving” traditional media “in droves.”
As to why people should tune into her podcast, she said to Eaton, “I think I have a unique approach to delivering the news. I understand how to do it so that it’s informative but also entertaining. The listener is having fun, learning and walking away knowing what’s happening in the country but not having to work too hard for it. I also think what’s different with me now versus the past several years is I’m unbridled. I don’t have to answer to anyone other than myself, my conscience, and my audience. That’s enabled me to go places where I otherwise couldn’t go. I own the show.”