Before you launch your own media kingdom, Dan Abrams ’88 has some advice.
“Sleep, exercise and aggressive dental care are the three things I think you’ve gotta have to succeed,” says Abrams, a television news star and founder of his own news empire, Abrams Media.
Abrams is on top of all three – seven hours a night, 20-50 minutes a day with, yes, some sparkling pearly whites – and perhaps correspondingly, he is in great demand.
In addition to running his company, his commitments include a weeknight news show on upstart cable network NewsNation, serving as chief legal affairs correspondent at ABC News, hosting cop show On Patrol Live on Friday and Saturday nights on digital television channel Reelz and delivering The Dan Abrams Show: Where Politics Meets the Law on SiriusXM's P.O.T.U.S. channel.
But his crowning glory is the passel of websites owned by Abrams Media, including the media/politics mélange at Mediaite.com and several sites dedicated to fine alcoholic spirits. He is also head of the cable channel Law & Crime Network.
“It’s by far the most significant thing I do,” Abrams says. “I’m definitely most proud of having built something from scratch.”
Abrams comes from courtroom acumen: His attorney father, Floyd Abrams, successfully represented The New York Times in a First Amendment case over the publication of the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s. Dan was 5 years old at the time, but the political fervor around the case helped create a curious youngster.
When it came time for college, “I wanted to get out of the northeast and I liked the idea of going to what I viewed as a southern school,” Abrams says.
Duke’s political science department fed Abrams’ love of the governmental process.
“I had a professor, James David Barber, and he was a big deal when I was there,” Abrams recalls. “I liked the fact that he was successful, and he had shown that his words and his thoughts and his ideas influenced others.”
After Duke, Abrams earned his law degree from Columbia University Law School, but the broadcast bug bit him hard.
“When I was in my first year of law school, I bumped into a Duke classmate who was a local reporter or anchor in Oklahoma City, and I was so jealous,” Abrams says. “She was telling me about the sorts of stories she covered and what she did, and I was thinking, ‘Maybe I’m in the wrong place.’”
He got the law degree, and viewers of the O.J. Simpson trial met Abrams and his animated enthusiasm as a legal correspondent for Court TV. He took it from there, leading MSNBC as general manager for a spell, then to ABC as a legal analyst while taking time to form Abrams Media in 2009.
To establish a news website – and media ownership is not for the timid, Abrams says – “You have to be willing to give something up and not do the safe thing. You either have it or you don’t, and you can’t force entrepreneurship.”
His next project at press time is a vacation to Anguilla with his family, which include partner Florinka Pesenti, son Everett and daughter Emilia.
Getting time off is as much a chore as producing a television show, with so many moving parts in his life. So what do you do on those two weeks off?
Two weeks? Unheard of.
“A week is the max,” he says. “I can’t be out of commission for two weeks at a time. But it’s OK. These commitments are not going to be there forever.”
And when they go away?
“That’s the beauty of owning your own business,” he says. “I will always have something very fun and exciting to do.”