Megyn Kelly’s Pivot To Feel-Good Journalism

Megyn Kelly’s Pivot

To Feel-Good Journalism

Photo courtesy of PopSugar

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Since the late September debut of Megyn Kelly’s Today Show, we’ve seen her discuss Stephen Curry’s favorite dish with the basketball star’s wife (it’s chicken parm), rub elbows with the female cast of SNL, hang out with a police dog, and dish on whether or not it’s possible to pull off Mom Jeans. For anyone who’s paid attention to the mega-watt TV star’s career over the last decade, you could practically hear this screeching, 180-degree pivot from her not-so-distant biting journalism days.

Oh yes, Kelly’s sharp tongue has certainly been dulled, and according to a recent in-depth interview between her and Elle Magazine reporter, Mattie Kahn, Kelly is delighted to be sitting in the warm-and-fuzzy inducing Today show chair.   

“I’m not trying to orchestrate anything one way or another over here. I’m just trying to help people live better lives and talk about issues that I care about…in a way that’s smart and compelling and dynamic and, at times, provocative and surprising and, at times, just pure fun,” Kelly stated in the interview.

When asked about whether the “extra joy” Kelly had found in her new gig surprised her, and whether she was “itching to let this all out” while at Fox, she got real honest. Yes to all the above, she said, adding that she “hadn’t felt joy for a long time.”

“When you live in a world full of vitriol and combat, you get used to it,” Kelly told Kahn. “It just turns into a slow burn of unhappiness. It seemed like there was one crisis to the next for a while there, which burned up a lot of emotional real estate at work and at home… I’m really good at compartmentalizing. If something is going bad at the office, I don’t bring it home with me. I developed that skill as a lawyer. But it was starting to seep over. Compartmentalization wasn’t as effective as it had once been because it had just reached such a huge magnitude.”

For Kelly, removing herself from that figurative journalistic combat zone — and “the darkness of politics” — has been a blessing. She’s admittedly happier, and honestly, who wouldn’t be happier cuddling up to police dogs, hanging out with Morgan Freeman, and telling inspirational, feel-good stories? Especially when on the other side of the fence you’ve got a snarling president and fiery, palpable hate coming at you from every direction.

Sometimes, for some people — for at least a portion of their lives — the grass truly is greener elsewhere and it’s OK to break out the lawn chair.

Megyn Kelly. Photo courtesy of Business Insider

“If you didn’t know her before Donald Trump unleashed his Twitter account on her, you knew her after. I think that may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Megyn Kelly is a very smart woman. She knows journalism and was not going to be swayed into going down the Donald Trump rabbit hole,” said media expert Christina Nicholson, a former TV reporter and anchor who covered news in NYC, Miami, and Fort Myers, Fla. “People go nuts if you have a political disagreement — no matter how minor. On morning and daytime TV, things just aren’t that serious. I think she is looking for something a little easier, less stressful, and new.”

This transition will certainly be a challenge, and it will be interesting to see how Kelly fares in the apolitical spotlight. We’ve seen a little bit of clashing already.

For example, her questioning Jane Fonda about her plastic surgery, and Fonda’s immediate bristling; and her lack of excitement over the eclipse compared to the eagerness of co-stars Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer.

“Even though we knew her before her new role, she is a whole new brand now. She’s going from serious coverage to lifestyle; from an audience mostly made up of men to women,” said Nicholson. “It’s a challenge.

It’s a challenge because it’s almost like starting over again. There’s no doubt she is good at what she does, but she is in a new niche, with a new audience.

In that sense, the “get to know you, like you, and trust you game” is essentially starting all over again for Kelly, only she has a “past life,” if you will, that may make it more difficult to win people over.

Many people try to reinvent themselves, said Nicholson, but rebranding doesn’t always work out as seamlessly as you’d like.  

“For example, the Kardashians are a hit, but Kris Jenner’s talk show was not. It was a different demographic,” she said. “When you change your fan base, you’re taking a risk. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t.”

For Megyn Kelly, the fence hop may work. We’ll just have to wait and see whether the audience is willing to get to know this new, friendlier side of her, and, more importantly, whether they like it.

Wendy Rose Gould

Wendy Rose Gould is a reporter based in Phoenix, Arizona. She covers women’s lifestyle topics for numerous digital publications, including Refinery29, InStyle, xoVain, Headspace, PopSugar and ModCloth. You can learn more about her at WendyGould.com.

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