Eye on the Prize: Alumnus' dedication to excellence leads him to Fox News
Todd Kelly ’94 continues to follow a simple mantra that has been drilled into him since he arrived at Fox News Channel in late 1996.
Kelly learned from many producers and senior producers who encouraged him to have the attitude the channel has to be successful not just today, but the next day… and the next day… and the next day…and to never settle for being complacent.
Kelly’s desire to always reach for the next level is what has propelled his career from editing animal books to what he enjoys today—being a producer for Fox News’ late-night program Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld, which was launched in 2007 to draw in a younger demographic to the news channel. This summer, the show will mark its 1,000th episode.
“I arrived after they launched (Fox News),” Kelly says. “There were only a couple million homes with the channel; now every cable system has it and it’s the No. 1 cable news channel. I’ve been there during the struggles—and (I’ve) seen it grow and be successful. It’s absolutely amazing to be a part of.”
Always knowing that he wanted to work in the media industry, Kelly acknowledges that Marietta College wasn’t his first pick.
“I actually wanted to attend Syracuse because I viewed them as the Harvard of media schools, but they rejected me,” he says. Though his parents Larry ’68 and Donna Barrie Kelly ’69 had strong ties to Marietta College, they wanted their son to find his own way. “They never forced an agenda on me,” he says. “They encouraged me to be my own person.”
By chance, he happened upon an old Navy Blue & White that highlighted the College’s launch of the McKinney Media Center. “This was considered a state-of-the-art facility back then. It had two radio stations, a TV station—I was impressed.”
At Marietta, Kelly worked in sports information and was one of the public address announcers for the legendary baseball coach Don Schaly ’59 and was involved with Residence Life before earning degrees in Radio & Television and Speech Communication. But shortly after Commencement, he learned just how difficult it was to break into the industry.
“Two years out, I was struggling,” Kelly says. “I was living paycheck to paycheck. I had no idea it’d be as difficult as it was. My first job was as editor for a publisher (of) animal books. I worked there my junior and senior years, too, working on layouts and editing manuscripts.”
From there, Kelly took a part-time freelancing job at a Top 40 radio station in New York City, hopping a train from Fair Haven, N.J., every day. By 1996, the station—WPLJ—paired him with a radio personality, Sue O’Neal, who also worked for HBO, A&E and The History Channel writing and producing on-air promos. The two were at a promotional event for PLJ in October that year and grabbed dinner beforehand. “I was 24 at the time, and I remember saying to her, ‘I’m hoping by the time I’m 30, I cross into television,’ ” Kelly says.
Little did he realize Sue’s husband was Dennis Murray who, at the time, was a senior producer at Fox News Channel, which had gone on the air that week. She advised Kelly to submit his résumé to her husband—which led to a call from Fox.
“This is still vivid in my mind,” he says. “It was a Friday afternoon when I got the call and they said, ‘We think you’ve got some potential to grow.’ Someone took a chance on me. It was the best decision I ever made in my life.”
Despite his success, Kelly doesn’t take any of it for granted. His train-ride into the city every morning is spent reading numerous papers for newsworthy content. At the office, he scans the Associated Press wires for its main stories, selects six to 12 of those to pitch for the one-hour show, checks viewer mail for input, builds a rundown of the show, and attends a staff meeting. During that meeting, he and his fellow staff members select the top five to seven stories, figure out how to place them, write information in question format, and design graphics and other segment essentials. Afterward, Kelly edits copy and takes one last look at the content for the scheduled show. After proofing the tapes and graphics, the actual filming takes place.
“Todd may be one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met,” says Greg Gutfeld. “He’s the circulatory system of the show. Without him, we’d fall to pieces. Also, he makes a mean banana bread.”
Kelly remains humble about his positive career track but offers sound advice on how to crack into the media industry—and make it last.
“Always remember where you came from and what brought you here,” he says. “I feel very fortunate; not a day goes by where I don’t remember that. I had no prior TV experience other than what I learned at Marietta College…You have to be 100-percent committed. There were definitely times where I thought it wasn’t worth it, but I stayed with it. Even after all this time, I still have a drive and passion; as long as you have that, it will never go away.”