The FOX News Channel bureau in Washington, D.C., is filled with bursts of split-second, adrenaline-driven urgency. Reporters type quickly, keeping their tiny desktop news screens in their peripheral vision as they work. Personalities hurry in and out of a small make-up room and rush away for live shots in different studios or at remote locations — and in the midst of it all is Liberty University Class of 1993 alumna Shannon Bream. “Liberty Journal” staff traveled to D.C. recently to meet Bream and learn about her high-profile job as a FOX News Supreme Court reporter.
FOX News reporter Shannon Bream is poised and articulate on camera. Every hair is in place; her wardrobe is professional, and her voice is steady — but the moments leading up to her live shots aren’t always peaceful.
“We may get a ruling from the Supreme Court where I’m running out on the [court] steps and having to digest a 100-page opinion in five minutes and be on the air explaining it in a way that makes sense to the viewers,” she said.
The final day of the court term in 2008 was one of those moments. Bream knew justices were going to deliver a controversial opinion on Second Amendment rights, so she laced up her running shoes and started sprinting the moment the case holding the court opinion was unlatched.
“Every camera from every network and every local station was lined up outside the Supreme Court, and it was my goal that I wanted to be the first reporter on with that information,” she said.
Breathless, she glanced at the document and hurriedly absorbed its contents. Seeing the name of the justice who authored the opinion, she immediately knew what the court had decided — and she was the first person to deliver the information on-air.
“You just go on adrenaline so much,” she said.
Bream, who earned a law degree from Florida State University after graduating from LU, spent several years practicing law before transitioning into the broadcast world. Some colleagues called her crazy for leaving a prestigious, high-paying job for the uncertainty, long hours and shrinking paychecks of broadcast news — but she took a leap of faith.
She sent him a sample of her work — and since November 2007 she’s been in the FOX bureau.
“I came here and started what really is for me a dream job,” she said.
For Bream, no two days are ever the same at FOX News.
“I usually find out the day before or the night before what my assignment will be for the day,” she said.
When a significant case is before the court, she’s there observing the arguments of brilliant legal minds — but when court isn’t in session, she could be assigned to anything, and the hours tend to vary.
“Some days I’m at the White House. Some days I’m on Capitol Hill. It is literally so different every day that I can go days without ever being at this desk because I’m out on assignment somewhere,” she said, motioning toward her work area adorned only with a “Nacho Libre” poster. “It’s always a challenge, and you’re learning a new subject or a new topic every day.”
When the “Liberty Journal” visited Bream, she was working on several short studio reports that were nixed because a White House press conference took precedence — but Bream handled it in stride and used the extra moments to explain her job. “I really am a stickler about writing my own product. … I think you get a better understanding of the story, and you can communicate it better when you’ve done all of that investigation yourself,” she said.
Though she gathers the news herself, each minute of broadcast requires the cooperation of dozens of people, from producers to make-up artists and people in New York City. The team at FOX has strengthened her professionally, she said, and she’s more at ease in front of the camera than ever before.
“After you’ve been through years of the prompter going down or the script disappearing or the story changing at the last minute, I think you gain confidence … that you’re going to be able to handle it,” she said.
No matter what happens, faith gets her through the day.
“I think there are both bold and subtle ways of living out my faith in the world I work in. This job can be all-consuming, and finding balance is the toughest thing. It’s tough when you really want an assignment and it goes to someone else or you flub a live report. My mantra all day long is, ‘It’s part of His plan.’ It’s a fight to keep my mind focused on the big picture, on eternity — but that’s the only thing that really matters at the end of the day,” she said.
Bream started her freshman year at LU in 1988 at age 17.
“I remember being so excited when my mom dropped me off there. I couldn’t wait to experience college life and do my own thing, and I remember two weeks went by and I didn’t call home, and my mom was so upset,” she recalled.
LU automatically felt like home, Bream said, and she made many lifelong friends and strengthened her walk with Christ. “My time at Liberty gave me intensely deep roots in my faith. It was a solid place to be when I had questions about the faith I’d grown up in, as I was making it personal for myself. I learned what a treasure spiritually-strong friends and mentors are as you navigate the secular world,” she said.
Though she considered broadcasting back then, Bream pursued a business degree because she felt that it was a more stable job market. LU didn’t have a law school at the time, but her business degree eventually prepared her for the type of law she would practice — employment and labor law.
“So my business degree was a perfect fit for that. I still turn to it so much. I find that it really sticks with you, even after all of these years,” said Bream.
Yet, she said, the best part about LU is that she met her husband on campus. She describes him as an amazingly supportive man, helping her accomplish her goals, and also a person who has achieved great feats by surviving a brain tumor and rising in his own career at the Washington Speakers Bureau.
When she returned to Liberty for Alumni Weekend in October 2008, Bream said wonderful memories flooded back to her and Sheldon.
“Every time I go back there’s a new building, a new program, a new major, a new sports team. It’s an amazing thing to see. I really was so emotional about it, seeing how far the school has come and knowing all the big dreams that are still ahead,” she said.
|Read the web exclusive about Bream's experiences on Inauguration Day 2009|