Beauty and the Beat
Off camera with FOX News correspondent and Audubon native Courtney Friel
by Bill Donahue

It’s not a stretch to say Courtney Friel has thick skin … however perfect it may be. Few people other than Friel—if anyone—can say they have sparred on air with FOX News icon Bill O’Reilly and braved a close encounter with country singer/songwriter Hank Williams Jr.’s saliva without flinching.


Friel, a native of Audubon now based in Manhattan, has been working as a correspondent for the FOX News Channel since 2007. She devotes most of her airtime to the entertainment and technology beats, though she’s been known to sometimes go head to head with O’Reilly, host of “The O’Reilly Factor.” She also fills in on the highly rated morning show “Fox & Friends,” among other screen appearances.  


She has spent most of her career along the East Coast but also worked in places such as Jackson, Tenn., where she cut her teeth as a tornado-dodging, multitasking primetime anchor for an ABC affiliate. Other résumé highlights include hosting the Travel Channel’s “World Poker Tour” and serving as West Coast correspondent for FOX’s “America’s Most Wanted.” 


Yet another notable accomplishment: She and her husband, CNN reporter Carter Evans, welcomed their first child—a son, Cash—in January. Suburban Life caught up with Friel off air to talk about growing up here, the hazards of live television and what she misses most about living in the Philly suburbs.


Suburban Life: You’re one of the few who realized their childhood dream of being a reporter or news anchor. What’s your secret to making it happen?

Courtney Friel: It does seem like a lot of people want to be on TV to see their face and think you just read a teleprompter. In reality, it’s a lot of work and a cutthroat business so you’ve got to love what you do and always aim for improvement. I’m lucky I had a passion for the news biz at a young age and was willing and able to learn all sorts of jobs in TV production. For example, my first local news gig was in a very small TV market—Jackson, Tenn.—and I was the camerawoman, editor, writer, news van driver, reporter, main anchor and teleprompter roller … all for about $7 an hour!


SL: I read that in 2003, on your first day on live TV in Jackson, you came face to face with a tornado that pretty much destroyed your car. Is it fair to say every day thereafter has been easy in comparison?

CF: That was a first day on the job I’ll never forget, but I wouldn’t call reporting at forest fires in 118-degree weather “easy” either. Now that I cover entertainment, it’s mentally an easier topic than murders, but you still have the deadlines. Obviously having a cameraman on every shoot is way easier than doing it yourself; I sprained my back twice carrying all that equipment in Tennessee.


SL: You’ve gone head to head on air with FOX icon Bill O’Reilly. How would you describe Bill as a sparring partner and contemporary?

CF: I’m usually very nervous when I enter the “No Spin Zone.” There have been several times before starting my segments with Bill that I literally thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest! But it’s a great opportunity to be on “The O’Reilly Factor.” I like watching the show, just not my performances on it.


SL: What are some of your most memorable on-air moments—whether good or bad, embarrassing or redeeming?

CF: Good: The three times I’ve covered the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve—very exhilarating! Bad: While interviewing a group of kids at a glee club on live TV, one passed out and fell right off the riser in front of me; Jimmy Kimmel then had a little fun with that clip. Embarrassing: One time during a live report in Palm Springs, my mind completely went blank and I couldn’t remember my name, where I was or the story details; I had to bend down and pick up my notes in the shot. (That’s why you make your mistakes in a small market.) Redeeming: I was doing a live interview with Hank Williams Jr. and he spit … off to the side that landed on my purse! I couldn’t believe he did that but I kept on going, until he got distracted and walked away mid-answer.  


SL: You grew up in the Philly suburbs, and went to high school at Methacton in Norristown. How would your classmates remember you?

CF: They’d remember me trying to interview them—either at school for a piece I was working on or at a party! I’m sure they got sick of seeing me on our homeroom TV. I did the morning announcements, so many reports or shows, and Channel One’s Student Produced Week, where I anchored from Los Angeles for a few weeks.


SL: What do you remember most about growing up in the Philadelphia area?

CF: My fondest memories are watching the Fourth of July fireworks at Penn’s Landing with the family, walking through Valley Forge Park, bonfires in the suburbs with Methacton kids, Dave Matthews concerts at the E-Center (now Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, N.J.) and going down the shore.


SL: You’re in Manhattan now, but what are a few things you absolutely have to do or places you must visit when you “come home” to the Philadelphia area?

CL: I’ve been coming home more often since my son was born on January 1, 2011. [When I do] I always try to hit up the King of Prussia Mall—best mall in the country, in my opinion—and, of course, I must get a Wawa hoagie.