Fox News announced Tuesday afternoon that Megyn Kelly, current anchor of America Live and current holder of her third child in her womb, will get her own primetime show once she returns from maternity leave. Coincidentally, Soledad O'Brien, formerly of CNN, announced yesterday that she's joining Al Jazeera America. What do these two seemingly startlingly different women have in common anyway?
While O'Brien has become the thinking man/woman's everything symbol, Kelly's history as a news source tolerated by liberals has been mixed, to say the least. While she's definitely one of the few endurable members of the Fox News crew, Kelly hasn't exactly consistently produced Fair and Balanced coverage in the true, non-Fox definition of that phrase. Recently, she had a rare moment of gumption when she schooled noted brilliant media minds Lou Dobbs and Eric Erickson for arguing that it "isn't healthy for society when we think that roles of gender completely can be interchangeable."
But besides her brief moments of sanity, Kelly might just be the lesser of many, many evils; as Jon Stewart points out, her news show doesn't look that much different than Fox News' other "opinion" shows. That makes it particularly funny that network president Roger Ailes said Kelly was getting this promotion due to "her ability to command the screen, delve into the facts and lead a debate.” Perhaps that's according to Fox's standards of "the facts," or just the endlessly unimpressive state of cable news today.
This move for Kelly isn't a surprising one; in 2010, Slate implied that her co-worker Greta Van Susteren should be worried about how "ready for prime time" Kelly was with her "sharp and jazzy" attitude. Van Susteren took to her blog Tuesday to assure fans that she wasn't going anywhere, despite rumors that she would be returning to CNN, where she used to work:
"I have a long term contract with Fox and it is for a show in 'prime time.'
Done, ok? (And by the way, don’t you love the courage of the anonymous sources? and those who then speculate from there? )"
You'll remember that CNN is where O'Brien formerly found a home, rocking people's socks off with her ability to slay idiots with a single round of citing her sources. O'Brien's move to Al Jazeera makes a lot of sense; she wasn't being utilized at CNN and while Al Jazeera America is nothing more than a lot of excitement right now, their plan to give her room to do both short and long projects and team her up with longtime producer/admitted BFF Kim Bondy is an exciting one.
CNN is also where Kelly was rumored to be moving as contract negotiations were still up in the air. In May, the New York Times noted that it was Kelly's work during the 2012 presidential campaign that "bolstered [her] personal brand as a part of Fox’s news side, not its opinion side," which may have made her a more desirable candidate for a generally liberal network to pick up.
While Kelly's rise through media has been relatively straightforward, O'Brien's hasn't. O'Brien is widely recognized as a Trusted Name in Journalism™ but she was moved around a few times while at CNN because the ratings for her shows never quite delivered. On the other hand, Kelly's success seems sometimes sadly tied to All-American good looks and her boss' tendency to create segments during which her legs can be appropriately ogled. O'Brien hasn't fallen into the "news babe" trap and it'd be pretty shocking if she did. She's figured out her brand of "seriousness" and hopefully it'll prove successful at Al Jazeera in a way that it didn't at CNN. Judging from CNN's willingness to hire former Fox correspondants, it's unclear if they know what kind of truthfulness they're interested in displaying. In any case, I suppose it's good that someone as slightly tolerable as Kelly is doing well at a network not known for making any rational decisions, just as it's fantastic that one of the few journalistic institutions actually hiring people en masse is nabbing O'Brien.
In other news, Bret Baier, Shepard Smith, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity have also renewed their contracts with Fox. Plus, don't forget about our close personal friend Sarah Palin, who has kissed and made up with the channel, just in time for nothing good at all to happen. Does a Palin hiring totally cancel out a Kelly promotion? Probably.