Vol. 41 No. 2
ByLeslie A. Gordon
Leslie A. Gordon is a secret lawyer who has been working as a freelance legal affairs journalist for more than 10 years.
After earning her law degree from Florida State University in 1996, Shannon Bream spent four years practicing labor and employment law. But while serving as a source for a story about relationships and careers, she became smitten with television news.
“I’d always been a news junkie, but I’d never been inside,” says the onetime Miss Florida USA. “I saw how it came together. It was electric.”
So as she continued to practice law, Bream also worked as “the world’s oldest intern” for a local ABC affiliate. Eventually, she decided to quit law altogether and take the leap into TV journalism. “Some partners thought I was crazy,” she recalls. “Others said, ‘I had a dream that I didn’t follow––you should do this.’”
Bream was hired for the 2-to-11 a.m. shift, making coffee and working the teleprompters. Meanwhile, she followed reporters in the field on weekends and “pestered the news boss incessantly” about getting her own story assignments. Eventually, Bream began producing and doing reports on the station’s morning show.
But a change in management soon left Bream without a job. “The new boss told me, ‘I hope you’re a better lawyer than reporter,’” she says. Having trouble landing a new TV gig, Bream did, in fact, consider returning to law. “It made me examine how serious I was about this career change.”
Finally, Bream got a news job in North Carolina and was later hired by NBC in Washington, D.C., to anchor a weekend show. There, she studied news veteran Tim Russert whenever she “magically bumped into him in the makeup room,” Bream quips.
While at NBC, Bream attended an event where she met news veteran Brit Hume, who hired her for Fox News after learning that she’d worked in the Florida legislature during law school. She became the channel’s Supreme Court correspondent and political news anchor. “The days we have oral argument, I pinch myself,” Bream says. “I can’t believe this is my job, that I get to do this. I feel fortunate to have a front-row seat in history.”
The only woman to substitute anchor for Fox News Sunday, Bream insists that she never would have even gotten an interview at Fox News if she wasn’t a lawyer. And, as a reporter, she continues to draw on her legal background every day. “The number one thing I took from law school was knowing how to research. Because of law school, I also understand that there are multiple sides to a story. It’s never black and white. You must always question.”