Dagen McDowell

Fox anchor Dagen McDowell

Y’ALL, Winter 2010, Volume 7, Number 3, page 12

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When Fox Business Network anchor Dagen McDowell was growing up in the small Southern town of Brookneal, Va., she developed a personality that would one day lead to the top of the financial news world.

As a child, McDowell was always curious and asked questions. She craved knowledge and never settled for just one answer to those questions. She wanted both sides of the story, more details, and an in-depth understanding to those curiosities that shaped her young life. Mix all of that with a breakfast table-style of Southern storytelling and you have the makings of a great journalist.

Even though that career was a natural fit, it wasn’t her first choice; in fact, her journey into the cable news world was rather unconventional, yet inspiring.

Dagen McDowall

Brookneal is actually smaller today than it was during McDowell’s youth. With a town of just over 1,000 people it was easy for her mother to notice early on that the Central Virginia hamlet would likely not trap her daughter. “I was always exploring, and wanted to see more,” says McDowell, from the Fox Business Network studios in Midtown Manhattan.

She spent three years of her high school life away at boarding school. When it came time to choose a college, her ACC basketball loyalty, the desire for a smaller, yet comprehensive university, and the fact that Wake Forest owns a study-abroad house in Venice, Italy, helped lead McDowell to the Winston-Salem, N.C., university.

After graduating in 1991 with a degree in art history, McDowell spent a few years in Colorado before deciding that she needed to do something with her life, and moved to New York City in an effort to find a career that would interest her. It was at that time when she actually “fell-in” to her first job. “A friend told me about it,” she recalls. “It was a job as a business and financial writer. I had no experience at either, but I interviewed for it and got the job. Immediately it was sink or swim.”

Swim it was.

McDowell’s self-taught expertise into the broad and complicated field caught the attention of Fox News Channel producers who invited the writer on various programs to explain (and sometimes argue) business and financial-related news items. After a year as an occasional guest she became a regular contributor. Two years later, the Fox News Channel senior vice president of business news, Neil Cavuto, invited McDowell to join the full-time news team.

“It was unbelievable,” McDowell says. “The chances that Cavuto and [Fox News president] Roger Ailes take on people are amazing. Not just me, but a whole host of people. They are willing to use different people, people that were not trained to be on TV. They give you a shot. If you do a good job, you’re in. If you don’t, you’re out. I was thankful that I was given the opportunity.”

“Roger and Neil encourage individuality and never asked me to lose the accent. Oh, and I do say �y’all,’” she says, proudly.

The transition to spoken news was natural for McDowell, who credits a Southern upbringing with the self-expression and story-telling ability that is part of the fabric of Southern live. Her first duties at Fox were that of a reporter on Your World with Neil Cavuto. Four years later, when Ailes launched a business-driven television news network to compete with CNBC and Bloomberg, the Virginian was asked to become an anchor of the daily show, Fox Business, which airs 10 a.m. –12 p.m. ET.

No longer spending her time bouncing from one story to another, McDowell now spends most of her time in the studio. Following the economic struggles of the last year, she has been forced to cover politics at a higher level than before. Now that the daily news mix features more political spokespeople and elected leaders, she spends her off-air time researching topics, becoming familiar with political talking points and preparing questions for the guests, “I try to anticipate the canned responses and force them to answer the questions,” she says. “Sometimes I have to push them and force them to give me straight answers, but I try to be nice about it. That’s part of being a Southern girl. Tough and nice, people don’t mind tough questions as long as you are fair.

“I also anchor a four-hour call-in show on the weekend, Your Questions, Your Money. Viewers can call in and ask questions. Those seem to catch the politicians more off-guard.”

Even in the economic slowdown, McDowell sees positive signs ahead. Almost half the questions received on her weekend show are from viewers asking about starting and growing their own business. “We have seen an incredible desire for answers, whether it is what the government is doing with their money, what individuals should do with their own investments, business owners wanting direction and guidance from other business owners. They want business television to give them more straight-talk, no jargon, tell it like it is and have balance. They want more answers and that is why the Fox Business Network exists.”

As for the future, McDowell believes a phrase she learned from her father is appropriate to describe the American economic mood, “stick-to-it-ness,” noting that Americans have a great tradition of hunkering down and getting through a tough situation. She says it may be awhile, but it will happen.

McDowell’s personal life mixes well into her chosen profession, as she met her husband (MAXfunds.com co-founder Jonas Max Ferris) during a television segment of the Fox News financial show Cashin’ In. “They put us together to argue about mutual funds, the relationship blossomed from there,” she says. “We talk about investments, home prices, borrowing, spending and economics all the time. In fact, that’s all we talk about, other than our mutt dog, �Ramone.’”

She makes it back to Brookneal about three times each year. Her fame and financial opinions are not lost on the locals. “Years ago when I was still a part-time guest at Fox News I was back home for my grandmother’s funeral and somebody came up to me and told me he didn’t agree with a mutual fund that I picked on TV,” she laughs. “We were at the cemetery! I asked if we could discuss my pick at a later time.” When asked if the mutual fund pick in question performed well over time, McDowell shares, “It was a long time ago, but I think I was right.”

Southern Voice: Tim McGraw

Y’ALL, Winter 2010, Volume 7, Number 3, page 34

This dedication to honesty and integrity has helped make McGraw not just a country music superstar, but one of the biggest names in all of music today. In his record-shattering career, McGraw, 42, has sold over 40 million albums, and dominated the charts with 30 Number One singles. All while simultaneously maintaining a parallel career as a successful actor.

To read more click here

Also in this issue:

Southern Banks • Kinetic Chess • North Carolina • Corinth, Mississippi • Disney World • Hot Springs

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