Leslie (Fletcher) Marshall, AS’85, became a radio talk-show host by accident. “Someone got sick,” she recalls. “I stepped in, and, as soon as I did, I knew I wanted to do this forever.”
Forever is more than 20 years so far, during which Marshall has been both host and political pundit, debating the likes of Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and other conservatives. In 1992, Marshall became the youngest person ever syndicated on talk radio when she replaced Tom Snyder on the ABC Satellite Radio Network/Daynet. She was also the first woman to host a national issues-related program. And, to hear Marshall tell it, Northeastern helped tune her for a trailblazing career.
Admitted to numerous schools, including Boston College, Boston University, and Emerson College, Marshall selected Northeastern—in large part for its co-op program. Her co-op at WGBH, for instance, included exceptional exposure to public radio. The communications studies major did everything from cataloging radio shows to writing press releases, gaining experience that helped shape both her and her stellar career.
The Somerset, Mass., native is passionate about the university and experiential learning. “Much of what I learned back then is still applicable,” she says. “Co-op teaches life lessons you don’t get in the classroom. My Northeastern experience has been invaluable at every job I’ve had.”
She is also grateful to Northeastern for support during a challenging time for her family. When she was a first-year student, Marshall’s father suffered a heart attack. This crisis could have jeopardized her college education, but the university’s financial-aid office worked with her to ensure she could stay in school. Marshall’s co-ops and work-study program not only helped with her tuition but also provided the career experience she sought.
After attending a master’s program at Emerson College, Marshall planned to become a TV news anchor. She started in radio—where many TV hosts got their start—landing a reporting job at WBSM in New Bedford, Mass. After Marshall moved to Miami, a program director from a competing radio station heard her on a music program and convinced her that she belonged on the talk side of the business. She switched stations and started her talk-radio career.
From there, Marshall worked in Buffalo, N.Y., and Houston, hosting shows that frequently bested competitors like Rush Limbaugh in the ratings. In 1992, she was offered national syndication; for more than three years, her show aired on 200 stations nationwide. When the station disbanded, talk radio took her to Chicago, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Los Angeles.
In 2007, she started her second syndicated talk radio show, The Leslie Marshall Show, currently broadcast on more than 100 stations across the country. By then, she’d settled in Los Angeles, where she now lives with her husband and their two children, ages four and five.
This time, Marshall owns her show: “So I’m the decider,” she laughs. She’s also one of a handful of liberal contributors on the Fox News network—she appears on the network’s top three shows, The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, and America Live with Megyn Kelly—and a weekly blogger for U.S. News & World Report.
The challenges, she says, are sometimes akin to “a circus performer who’s spinning many plates on sticks.” Talk radio, however, is worth the sacrifices, she says. “It’s a great deal of hard work and stress, but I love what I do.”