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Six years ago, Jessica Yellin was doing CNN stand-ups in front of the White House. Today, she’s broadcasting stories from her West Hollywood apartment for 130,000 Instagram followers. “There is an audience for the outrage shout-fest and then there’s another audience that wants calm, clear information,” she reasons. It’s why she walked away from a 15-year TV career — which began in 1998 in Orlando and culminated at CNN, where she was chief White House correspondent when she left in 2013. And it’s why last summer, she began delivering her own Instagram updates — #NewsNotNoise — designed for users who hunger for information minus overheated rhetoric.
Along the way, Yellin, 46, also penned a fictionalized take on her career — to show “what it’s like to be a woman [in TV news],” she says, “and how in the end it’s all about your hair.” Savage News, which comes out April 9 from Mira Books, ($27), is about a young female White House correspondent navigating internal rivalries, sexist assumptions and a corporate culture that values profits over public interest. It serves as a fictionalized account of her own career.
“The amount of attention to your hair cannot be exaggerated,” she says. The main character, Natalie Savage, is told at one point by the head of her network that her coif is “an eighth of an inch longer on one side than the other.” Yes, this actually happened to Yellin — as did the peer backstabbing her protagonist experiences. “Yep. All day, every day.”
The novel also takes flicks at #MeToo via the quintessential inappropriate male executive character: Hal Thomas, given the sobriquet “Handsy Hal” by the women at the network. “It’s the subtle, insidious comments and weird behavior by not most men, almost no men, but that one guy in the office who is always doing it,” Yellin says. “It’s an undertow that as a woman you have to deal with.”
Yellin works with a small team of freelancers on NewsNotNoise. But she has a lot of famous fans proselytizing for her. Her March 28 story covered the Mueller report, the Supreme Court’s ruling on bump stocks and Trump’s reversal on gutting funding for Special Olympics. It has close to 20,000 views and comments including one from Alex Rodriguez: “Love this Jessica.” (A-Rod is among the hosts of her NYC book party tonight.)
But it is arguably Amy Schumer (“my fairy god-sister,” says Yellin) who put NewsNotNoise on the map by announcing her pregnancy on Yellin’s feed — doubling her following, which also includes Kristen Bell, Debra Messing and Chelsea Handler. Yellin’s reports and analysis feel like “getting the news from your most reliable friend,” says Jessica Seinfeld.
Whether there’s a broader audience for Yellin’s brand of no-hysteria news remains an open question — especially as conflict-addicted cable outlets have enjoyed record ratings since the 2016 election. “In an era where everybody is already at a six or a seven on the 10 scale of anxiety, blasting people with more anxiety is turning some people away,” Yellin insists. “There is a need for news in a different voice.”
A version of this story also appears in the April 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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