Harlow, who has been with CNN since 2008, will be pursuing Yale Law School’s one-year Master of Studies in Law, a program aimed at people who are not attorneys but want to become more familiar with legal studies and apply knowledge of the law to the work they do. The degree is open to journalists. Linda Greenhouse, the longtime New York Times reporter who covered the Supreme Court for many years, attended the program. Harlow’s last regular day on air for now will be August 20.
“I’m here to stay for good as a journalist, but I wanted to learn more about the law,” Harlow explains in a recent interview. “I really felt that over the last year and a half. This is a dream that has been delayed but it doesn’t have to disappear.” Her father, now deceased, was an attorney, she says, and engrossing herself in the subject has the added benefit of making her feel closer to him.
The move has the blessing of Jeff Zucker, chairman of WarnerMedia’s news and sports operations. “This is such a terrific opportunity for Poppy and I am so proud of her for committing to it. She will have a ton on her plate — but I know she will manage it flawlessly and come back enriched and so much better for it,” says Zucker. “We could not be more supportive and we all wish her the best of luck, and not too many all-nighters. I can’t wait to have her back full time in the anchor chair.”
Harlow is among a crowd of TV-news mainstays who have started to explore new ventures and sidelines after an intense five years of coverage of the Trump administration and the coronavirus pandemic. A number of prominent anchors have stepped away from their on-screen roles to focus on other interests. Dan B. Harris, a longtime co-anchor at ABC News’ “Good Morning America,” is leaving that show to delve into a meditation business he has created. Even Rachel Maddow, the linchpin of the MSNBC lineup, is mulling work-life balance in current negotiations with the network. Her current contract lapses in 2022.
CNN aficionados will continue to see Harlow on air, just not as frequently or as regularly, and not necessarily alongside Jim Sciutto, her co-anchor on ”CNN Newsroom” between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. weekdays. But they will spot her at other moments. “Basically, I will never have a holiday. I will anchor every single holiday. You will see me when I don’t have class. You will see me filling in wherever they need me,” she says. Harlow intends to return to the mid-morning program next spring, and also has a new show in development for CNN Plus, the streaming outlet the company expects to launch in 2022. She declined to discuss specific details about the new series.
People who know Harlow say she has a reputation for preparing intensely for interviews, and for not being afraid to ask tough questions of people who might not appreciate them. She once had to lob questions at Randall Stephenson, the former chairman and CEO of AT&T, in the early days of the company’s ownership of WarnerMedia. “Nothing like interrogating your boss,” says Harlow. She has also interviewed Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon, Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett and former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Her time with that last subject gave her something to remember. “I remember her saying, ‘You can’t have it all at once, but you can at different times,’” she recalls, noting that her husband has volunteered to step up while she commutes to school in New Haven, CT, from her home in New York City (She intends to be home after classes are over).
Harlow intends to transfer what she learns at Yale — she hopes to focus particularly on constitutional law — to her on-air job. Supreme Court decisions often come down while she is on the air at 10 a.m., which means “It’s been a really rich part of our coverage,” she says. “I’m not looking to prove anything. I’m looking to dive a little bit deeper into something.” She hopes the law course “can be additive to everything I do on a daily basis here, making a little bit of difference and that’s not a bad thing.”