HLN morning host Robin Meade is encouraged to express her opinions on news stories – but she won’t wade into touchy issues such as the Ground Zero mosque or Muslims on airplanes that have gotten others in trouble lately.
“When it comes to politics,” Meade said, “that’s not something I take a side on. We try to be right down the middle. If there’s a 20-second clip from a Republican, then there’ll be a 20-second clip from a Democrat. We will time it down to the second to be fair.”
In other words, the Atlanta-based host whose catchphrase is “Good Morning Sunshine” is unlikely to repeat a Rick Sanchez, recently let go from CNN after making impolitic comments in a radio interview about Jon Stewart and his soon-to-be-former bosses.
At the same time, she said, “we can be ourselves and make no apologies for it.”
Meade’s big on punctuating her reactions in short verbal bursts. For instance, on Friday morning, she played a video of a dog “saying” grace. “Adorable!” The sequel to “Paranormal Activity”? “Freaky!” Nuclear codes gone missing in 2000? “I had it with my frequent shopper card!” she joked, with a laugh, adding, “I can only giggle because it’s over.”
Meade has been one of the longest running personalities at HLN. The Ohio native arrived in 2001 when the network was still CNN Headline News.
Her ratings – an average of 314,000 viewers per day this year – are a far cry from those of the broadcast networks or “Fox and Friends.” But Meade’s program is up 11 percent year to date, while most rivals have seen declines. She now regularly beats MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Maggie Jessup, author of “Fame 101,” said Meade shares a basic quality Jodie Foster and John Travolta possess: “She is quite simply nice.”
Dane Short, a Las Vegas design company owner, calls her “cute and kind of dorky. Even if the teleprompter messes up, she tends to get through it and laugh it off.”
Miami marketing executive John Sternal dubs her “great comfort food.”
“She delivers the same news everyone else does,” Sternal said, “but she does it in a way that makes you feel like she’s speaking directly to you.”
Meade’s program, originally “Robin & Company,” was revamped three years ago as “Morning Express.” It’s speedy without feeling rushed, unadorned with live interviews, food demonstrations or fashion runway shows. Stories seldom run longer than 20 seconds.
As a result, her program tends to draw younger fans than her competitors. “Something about the very fast format has resonated with viewers,” Meade said.
Meade, married for 17 years, has also begun pursuing an early love: singing. She recently crooned a song “Welcome Home” with pianist Jim Brickman, which ended up on his latest album. The song is a salute to the troops, a regular feature on her morning show as well.
“It tickles me,” she said. “I can call myself an official recording artist!”
She is also working on her own record with Victoria Shaw, who co-produced Lady Antebellum’s first release.
“Growing up,” she said, “it was more natural for me to sing than speak publicly. This enables me to express my musical side.”
On November 6, she’s set to perform at the Grand Ol’ Opry in Nashville featuring Brickman and Montgomery Gentry, according to the Grand Ol’ Opry website.