Robin Meade’s first day on the air at HLN was Sept. 11, 2001.
By the time the second plane hit the World Trade Center on that traumatic, chaotic day, Meade noticed that every face in the newsroom changed.
“It was clear that this was no accident. This could not be explained away,” she said.
Almost 17 years later, Meade, the host of HLN’s “Morning Express,” said her work anniversary still reminds her of the families who lost loved ones.
Every weekday, Meade’s post at the CNN offshoot requires the deft balancing act of covering breaking news, trending lifestyle topics and entertainment, while still sharing space with sports, weather and business experts.
Her 6 a.m. wake-up call — “Morning, sunshine!” — coupled with her doe-eyed beauty, self-deprecating humor and chameleonic anchoring ability has earned her a daily viewing audience of 300,000-plus.
It’s also notched Meade, 48, an impressive stat: She’s the longest-running morning anchor on a national news show, in it an accomplishment she credits to many, beginning with her viewers.
“They’ve allowed me to be their morning habit year after year,” she said. “Without them, I get fired.”
Meade is also complimentary toward her bosses throughout the years who were “brave enough to let me be my authentic self on the air,” as well as the behind-the-scenes crew at HLN.
“My longevity is due in large part to the folks who come in at zero-dark-thirty to make the mornings go smoothly … the show wouldn’t happen without them,” she said.
Meade, a native of New London, Ohio, found a public audience early as Miss Ohio in 1992 (“I like to joke that some of my prior titles were ‘Miss Represented,’ ‘Miss Spoken,’ ‘Miss Understood,’ but not ‘Miss Demeanor,’” she said with a laugh) and nabbed her first broadcast job as a part-time evening reporter in Mansfield, Ohio.
She escalated to anchoring and reporting jobs in Cleveland, Columbus, Ohio, Miami and Chicago before landing at Atlanta’s CNN Center.
While many of CNN’s top names have departed Atlanta for the blazing spotlight of New York, Meade is comfortable in her Southern outpost.
She and husband Tim Yeager will celebrate their 25th anniversary in November (Her tip for longevity? Don’t choose a mate for looks, title or money — go for humor), and Meade has utilized her local connections to assist with her musical aspirations.
Last holiday season, she released “Ghost of My Christmas Past,” a single she wrote “on an 80-degree day in the late summer-early fall up on Lake Lanier”; it was produced by fellow Atlantan Kristian Bush of Sugarland.
The intersection of Meade’s role at HLN and her interest in music took a fun detour last summer when a “Morning Express” story about genealogy website Ancestry.com uncovered that she is fourth cousins with country superstar Blake Shelton.
“He fits right in with the Meade men I know,” she said of her long-lost relative. “Tall, handsome, self-deprecating creative creatures.”
Just another discovery for TV’s longest-running national morning anchor.
Go to myajc.com/womens-history for the whole Women’s History Month series and for more subscriber exclusives and videos.
Melissa Ruggieri has covered music and entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2010 and created the Atlanta Music Scene blog. She's kept vampire hours for more than two decades and remembers when MTV was awesome.