Woman Around Town: Shannon Bream—
Courting the Supremes

How did a former Miss Florida, Miss Virginia and top-ten finalist in both the Miss America and Miss USA pageants get to a highly visible reporting position at Fox News? The old fashioned way – she earned it, and a law degree to boot.

Shannon Bream covers the Supreme Court in Fox News’s Washington, D.C. bureau. “I pinch myself every day,” she notes, “and I feel blessed to do this for a living. It’s a privilege to be in a courtroom listening to oral arguments from the best lawyers in the country.”

All eyes and ears will be tuned in to Shannon’s beat beginning March 26, 27 and 28, as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the constitutionality of Obamacare, arguably the most hotly debated case in decades. There are many parts to the case, not the least of which is, does the government have the power to mandate coverage for individuals, and if those individuals refuse, to assess a financial penalty? An important component is the issue of severability – if parts of a law or contract are held to be illegal or unenforceable, can the remaining parts stand on their own, even though the mandate may be found unconstitutional?

The Court has allocated 5-1/2 hours to the arguments, spread over the three days, way beyond the normal three hours the Court generally sustains. The final decision may take months before an opinion is rendered.

What is fascinating about this Woman Around Town is her combination of intellect and beauty. And, perhaps in reverse order, since winning local and state beauty contests proffered prize money that permitted her to pay for college and law school. It all came about through that age-old phenomenon of networking, and occurred between her sophomore and junior years at Liberty University.

Why Liberty? A private Christian college in Lynchburg, Virginia, it is the largest evangelical university in the world. “Faith was at the center of everything my family did,” she notes, and “I viewed the chance to attend Liberty as an opportunity to go away to school but still remain grounded as a Christian. Although my parents would have preferred I attend Florida State University, in my hometown of Tallahassee, because I got a full scholarship (and where they are both alums), they totally understood and supported my decision to go to Liberty.”

Although Shannon’s parents were divorced, and each remarried and had children, the extended family remains extremely close. She credits her father’s experience in law enforcement and politics with her ultimate career choices. Her mother was a teacher who was committed to her students 24-7, and from whom she drew the virtues of strength and commitment.

Back to the beauty pageants. One of her friends was a stylist who was involved with a local pageant. Because there was a scholarship attached to winning, Shannon went for it and won, then went on to win the Miss Virginia crown. She left school to travel for a year as part of the responsibilities of winning the pageant. Then, it was on to try for Miss America in Atlantic City. While she did not win, she placed in the top 10. The Miss Virginia scholarship money paid for her last two years in college.

By this time, her father was a lobbyist and as she grew accustomed to political debates on the issues around the family dinner table, politics became her passion. She interned on capitol hill during college, and was fascinated by the legislative process. Law school was a logical choice, so she enrolled at FSU and soon was eligible to compete in the Miss Florida pageant, which she also won. That prize money paid for law school, from which she graduated with honors, supplemented by working part-time in the Florida legislature.

Upon graduation, Shannon was off to Tampa to join a law firm where she practiced corporate law, but she had been bitten by the political bug. She jokes that “I became the world’s eldest intern” by working evenings at a local ABC television station doing political coverage. She learned the “inside baseball” of news coverage – how it gets done, from production to reportage. It was hardly glam – she made coffee, answered phones – but she loved every bit of it. Within four months of joining the station, she resigned from the law firm, and promptly signed on full-time with the station for the 2 a.m. to 11 a.m. shift – working the teleprompter and answering phones. “It was a good immersion into the business,” she recalls.

Her career advice: “If you find something you’re really passionate about, it’s worth every bit of risk. For me, to stay at the law firm was more frightening than to jump into a new business where I had a lot to learn. I took a huge salary cut, but I was excited to be there.” She never looked back, although her father was somewhat chagrined at what he perceived was a waste of her expensive legal education.

Her move to Washington’s local NBC television affiliate, by way of a station stop in CBS’s Charlotte, North Carolina affiliate, redeemed her in his eyes. Perhaps even more so when Fox News’ Washington, D.C. bureau sought her out, where she has been for four years. In addition to reporting for the Supreme Court, Shannon hosts a news show on Sunday afternoons from noon to 2 p.m.

Her most memorable career experience? Two years ago, the Court heard District of Columbia vs. Heller. It was a landmark case in which the Supreme Court upheld the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, protecting an individual’s right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes in federal enclaves, including self-defense in the home. Being first to break a major story is every newsperson’s dream. Shannon donned running shoes for the occasion, so when the Scalia opinion was handed down, she literally ran outside to the camera and got the scoop.

She and her husband, Sheldon Bream (above), reside in Washington with their 12-year old chocolate lab, Miss Mocha. The couple met in college during their senior year. Although both were dating other people at the time, Shannon’s friend, who insisted she and Sheldon were a perfect match, introduced them at a homecoming game. (Their first date was February 13, so they celebrate it, rather than Valentine’s Day). Sheldon works for the Washington Speaker’s Bureau and frequently teases her that all his life he was Sid Bream’s brother (retired Major League Baseball player) and now he’s Shannon Bream’s husband. Although he seems not to mind.

Woman Around Town’s Six Questions:
Favorite Place to Eat: Chef Geoff in Wesley Heights
Favorite Place to Shop: I love bargains – the Nordstrom Rack and Loehmann’s are the best.
Favorite Washington Sight: National Cathedral – It’s in my neighborhood, so I jog by there each morning.  Some of the finest stone masons and carpenters left their personal mark, like a gargoyle with the artisan’s face on it.  Also the WWII Veterans Memorial. Whenever I go, I  always meet a veteran, and they are a dying breed.
Favorite Washington Memory: Covering Obama’s inauguration. I started at 5 a.m. and went to 3 a.m. the following day, including the St. John’s Church service and all the Inaugural Balls. It was the full Washington experience in 22 hours.
What You Love About Washington: All of the history and the free museums; it is dedicated to men and women who gave their lives for founding and defending our country.
What You Hate About Washington: The traffic.

About Merry Sheils (62 Articles)
Merry Sheils won the New York Press Club’s Journalism Award for best business writing in 2011 and 2012. As a portfolio manager for private clients, she writes a financial column for WomenAroundTown.com as well as features and profiles. She frequently writes economic and capital markets commentary, including white papers, thought leadership pieces and investment reports, for companies and investment managers. Prior to becoming a writer, Merry worked as a senior portfolio manager and investment analyst at BNYMellon and Wilmington Trust Company (now M&T Bank). A SUNY graduate with a degree in finance, she is the author of “Debt-Based Securities” and has been published in The Financial Times, Forbes and Chief Executive Magazine, and has appeared as a guest on CNBC. She founded First New York Equity, Incorporated, an investment advisory firm, and sold it to Price Waterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers). She divides her time between New York City and her 18th century house in Columbia County, NY, where she is active in the North Chatham Free Library, the Old Chatham Hunt Club and the Columbia County Historical Society.