It's Brian Tully's job to stay on top of everything that's happening in the world, 24/7.
It could be the “fiscal cliff” and fighting in Gaza, or the NHL lockout and what's trending on Twitter. Tully, who grew up in Long Grove, is part of the Fox News team that puts it all on television.
Tully, 28, is the head writer and producer — a guy who hustles behind-the-scenes, writes the anchors' copy and talks into their earpieces during segments — for “Fox & Friends,” the morning news show on Fox News Channel hosted by Gretchen Carlson, Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade.
Constantly monitoring the news, always multi-tasking and rarely putting down his cellphone, Tully starts his work day each morning at 3 a.m. in Fox's New York studios.
It's a high-pressure, life-consuming job, but one he loves.
“One day, I'm going to need a vacation,” he said.
Tully describes his job as “half news, half politics,” and says, laughing, that he got a “D” in government at Stevenson High School.
“I never grew up saying, 'I want to work in news,'” he said. “Now, I'm sick in the head. I watch this stuff even though I'm not at work.”
Fox News has a reputation for its conservative political skew, but Tully doesn't fully agree with that assessment.
“It depends on who you ask. Fox covers stories ... that other networks ignore. I'd like to think that's what 'fair and balanced' means,” he said. “Once you do this, you start to see the games that all politicians play. Neither side gets off scot-free.”
Tully's first brush with the media took place in Arlington Heights, before he even had a driver's license. The former pop music station 92.7-FM was holding an on-air promotion, and Tully begged his dad to drive him to the station's tiny studio on Arlington Heights Road.
“I remember them bringing me in, and (the studio) was gross. The board was all made of wood. The guy was in a sweatshirt and shorts. The place was a mess ... but (the DJ) let me say two words on the radio, and I thought, 'I made it!'” he said. “Two months later, they shut the place down, and I was devastated.”
At Stevenson, Tully worked on the morning video announcements. He says his claim to fame was a series of video skits about senior prom topics like “How to Buy Tickets” that everyone was forced to watch.
“They were terrible,” he said, “but we thought we were so cool.”
Always good at writing and technology, Tully was drawn to the TV station in college at Western Illinois University — an experience he remembers fondly. Not only did he learn the ropes quickly in a strict, yelled-at-for-your-mistakes environment, but he also was exposed to people from different backgrounds, including many military families.
“It helped me see there are two sides to everything,” he said. “I realized there's a world outside my backyard, and it's cool to know a little bit of everything and experience everything. I don't want to live in the same place my whole life. I want to go out and do something.”
First, though, he had to pay his dues as a TV news producer in small markets.
Tully's first job out of college was in Wisconsin, at Green Bay's NBC affiliate. He can still remember the silence in the control room when Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre announced his retirement, or the tears in the newsroom while they watched a broadcast of a video diary made by murder victim Teresa Halbach before her death, talking about “If I die.”
And then, there were the slow news days.
Tully said they sometimes had to over-cover small accidents or make a big deal out of minor news stories, such as one person reporting an emerald ash borer in his backyard firewood pile.
“And puppies. Always go with puppies,” he said, laughing.
From there, Tully moved to Cleveland's CBS station, but he had his sights set on the national networks.
After some impressive networking — at one point, he Googled the names of each national news show's executive producer and sent them all his resume — he landed interviews with MSNBC and Fox News in New York. Fox hired him in June 2010.
While at “Fox & Friends,” Tully has assisted in coverage of the world's biggest news stories, including Osama bin Laden's death, the shooting massacres in Colorado and Arizona, and the contentious presidential election.
“It is so much harder than it sounds. I got my (butt) kicked when I got here. You have to know everything and pay attention, and you're under such scrutiny. Here, if you make a mistake, it's a headline on every website,” he said.
But the intensity of the job is what makes him so passionate about it.
When Tully was a teenager, he worked as a bagger at Dominick's and would count the minutes until his shift was over.
“I've never had that feeling since I started in TV,” he said. “People that work outside the business don't see it ... but in cable, everything is written 10 minutes before it airs, if that. You can't get more of a rush than that, I tell ya.”
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