Former CNN anchor and journalist Brooke Baldwin joins Zibby to talk about how essential it is for women to cultivate their communities —or huddles— wherever they may exist. From workout classes to work friends, Brooke shares stories from successful women as well as from her own life to encourage and inspire readers to focus on lifting one another up.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Brooke. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Brooke Baldwin: Thanks, Zibby. This is so great. Thank you for having me.

Zibby: Of course. Your book is Huddle: How Women Unlock Their Collective Power, which is amazing and exciting and inspiring. In the book, you not only interview so many women across so many industries and races and backgrounds and everything, but you share so much of your own self with us, which I really, really appreciated. Tell me a little bit more, and I know you talk in the book about it, but tell listeners how you came up with the idea to do this book, including your little text exchange with your girlfriends and your own huddle and all of that.

Brooke: It’s a funny thing. As a journalist, I am happiest and best trying to let someone else shine. I’m the one asking the questions, and so I don’t always open up. I felt like for the reader, if I’m interviewing all these various women and telling people to huddle, how to activate and nurture your own huddles, damn, I need to tell everyone a little bit about myself and why I feel like I have some knowledge on the subject. Born and raised in Atlanta. Always loved girls, women, led a bunch of huddles. Probably ran for girls’ class president more times than should’ve happened. I was always part of, girls are leading girls. Then I dove into journalism. I graduated college, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. What? Go Heels. I dove into journalism, which has been the most spectacular thing for me in my life for the last twenty years. As a result of that, I put career first. I was living in small-town America and was working all the worst hours you can ever imagine, weekends, holidays, overnights, the whole thing, and so I never had a huddle. I was huddle-less in my twenties and in my thirties. I came to CNN thirteen years ago. Around the 2016 president election, I was zigzagging the country. I just had noticed women showing up in ways I’d never noticed in my twenty-year journalism career.

Then there I was in Washington. I don’t know where you were on the Women’s March, Trump inauguration weekend. On the Saturday, I was embedded in the Trump motorcade. That’s where CNN put me. I’m literally balancing on the back of this flatbed truck as we’re meandering down Constitution as this newly elected president, Donald Trump, is heading to the White House for the first time. I’m not going to lie, Zibby. As a woman, as a journalist, I was a little troubled about what the next four years would look like, but tried to maintain my objectivity as I was reporting live that day. Then the very next day, I’m back on the clock for CNN. I’m in the middle of the Women’s March in Washington. I have never in my life been around so many women ever, ever. That was half a million women showing up. It was my aha moment where I had filed away that women were showing up in ways I’d never seen before. Here I am in the middle of, as I describe in my book, the mother of all huddles. Bam, that’s when I knew I needed to dedicate the next chapter of my career to spotlighting, whether it’s well-known women or ordinary, extraordinary women. Thus that was the unofficial beginning of my huddle journey.

Zibby: Wow. The journey took you from buses at the march to Reese Witherspoon at Hello Sunshine Production to The Class to horrific, traumatic situations. You were all over the place. I feel like toward the end when you talked about the power of huddles with the nurse — I can’t remember her name.

Brooke: Emily Fawcett, Lenox Hill.

Zibby: That was the most moving. That was so moving. Tell everybody about that.

Brooke: Listen, obviously, I’m writing this book in the middle of a pandemic, in the wake of the George Floyd death. I talk a lot about Black Lives Matter and those three women founders. Then of course, I wanted to dive in with a nurse. Thank goodness for our frontline health employees, our frontline workers. Emily Fawcett is a woman right around our age who, a little bit younger, works at Lenox Hill as a nurse. She was just telling me her story. I had had her on my show. She actually started this whole thing called Hope Huddles at Lenox Hill in Manhattan among folks who worked on her floor at the hospital when it was the worst of the worst in Manhattan. She told me about how it was her personal friend huddle who really sustained her, how she was able to survive. We thought we had it bad just living in Manhattan or being in America and dealing with this pandemic, but can you imagine? She was telling me this story of this one day she had to watch five different people die. It was her girlfriends who held space for her, who dropped lunch for not only Emily, but every nurse in her unit or provided donuts or who did the grocery shopping for her and left it at her apartment door. It was this one particular girlfriend that, after she had had that horrible day when five people had died, she just let her sit on the phone and weep. That is what huddling is all about.

Zibby: It literally makes me want to cry. I get the chills just hearing about it. What can you do? What can you do as a friend when someone’s grieving or going through something so awful?

Brooke: You hold space and you listen. You listen.

Zibby: All the time I’ve spent thinking about the pandemic, which has been a huge chunk of mental real estate this past year for those people, I had never really thought about what girlfriends were doing to prop up their friends who were nurses. Nurses and doctors in general, yes, of course. I just didn’t imagine people showing up like that and giving spa baskets and helping get through the day-to-day. I’m so happy that was in place for some people. That was such a gift. There are so many different kinds of huddles. One you talk about in the context of how many really atrocious things you’ve witnessed.

Brooke: As a journalist at CNN, you mean?

Zibby: As a journalist. I’m sorry, as a journalist from Parkland and just all the nationwide traumas. You’re there on the front lines. You wrote about, and I want to hear more, people ask you all the time, you said, how you get through it. I hate to ask anything people ask you all the time. You’re so close to all of that so often, or you were at least. You said that The Class is one way to get through it. Tell me about that as a coping mechanism and also just in general what else you have found to be really helpful.

Brooke: Have you done The Class?

Zibby: I have not. I’ve heard a lot about it.

Brooke: For everyone listening, The Class is — how do I describe it? It’s this workout. I have my wellness huddle. A lot of people do The Class with me, and now obviously virtually. The Class is this funky combination between your workout, you’re at the gym, but it’s also church and it’s also therapy all together. In normal times, we’re all packed into this Tribeca studio sweating, moaning, grunting, yelling, crying, and listening to amazing music. If that sounds weird, it kind of is. I think that I’ve done so many workouts, and I love sweating, but there’s something about being in a room moving with predominately women all in there who not just want a good workout, but who really want to drop into themselves. That’s a phrase that a lot of the instructors use. It’s amazing music. Taryn Toomey, who founded the whole thing, Jaycee Gossett, Natalie Kuhn, who are these founding teachers, they talk about neuroplasticity. I’m going to do my best to try to explain. Basically, when you’re moving your body doing the same repetitive motion for an entire length of a song, you don’t have to worry about funky choreography or running on the bike and getting back down and moving to the left and moving to the right. You’re doing the same thing the whole time. In that space, you’re rewriting the grooves in your brain. You’re able to think more deeply.

As a result, I have just found myself feeling myself more, thinking more deeply, owning my own body, not feeling competitive, not looking at the person next to me, feeling more comfortable in my own skin. I’d always been into The Class and FORWARD_Space and and a couple other things. For me, through the pandemic, these women have just really been my lifeblood. I started doing The Class almost every day. I write about The Class because of how it is really one giant huddle. It’s a company founded by women. It’s run by mostly women. It’s mostly women in these classes. Actually, one of my favorite people who I used to move next to was this man, is a man. That is a perfect example of a wellness huddle and also how that can translate in the pandemic and how you can move virtually with people. I still feel connected. Even though I’m by myself in a room, I’m still connecting with the instructors. I’m still texting with various people who I move with. To have gotten to be back in the studio — we did this cool Class-Huddle collaboration. I was moving next to one of the instructors. You feel the community. Even though they’re not physically there, you feel them.

Zibby: I have so many people who have said that they love it. When I was reading your description, I don’t know if I could do the whole yelling.

Brooke: I didn’t at first. I thought it was totally weird. It’s all your comfort level. Some people feel very comfortable being very vocal. Part of it, I’m sure there is some science between literally using your voice as you’re moving. By the way, the first time I did the class, I hated it. It took me six months before I went back, but then I was hooked. You just have to try it, Zibby, one time.

Zibby: All right. Maybe in the privacy of my home if they still offer it virtually with the camera off or something.

Brooke: Yes, Digital Studio.

Zibby: I’ve tried everything at this point. Tell me also about this great moment you had with Alisyn Camerota, who by the way I met through a good friend of mine, Cristina Alesci who was at CNN. I don’t know if you know her or not.

Brooke: Yes, yes.

Zibby: She introduced me to Alisyn a while back. She’s been amazing. I was so not surprised that she’s the one who was helping you through that moment, totally, of course. Tell me about that.

Brooke: This is a perfect example. There are various huddles I highlight in this book, everything from women’s sports to politics to Hollywood to the space where women are trying to change some of these gun laws. This is part of the section in the book where I’m talking about myself and my own huddles and certainly my own huddles at CNN. I had this career highlight at CNN. It would not have happened had it not been for my huddle. What had happened, in the last couple of years, there was a giant hurricane that was brewing off the coast of one of the Carolinas. I posted this two-hour show for a decade in the afternoon. I am always in the studio, but any good journalist wants to be in the field for the big story. The hurricane was the big story. I knew that day that I would not be on my show. I was literally sitting at work knowing I wouldn’t be on TV. I’d be booted because they had decided to put the three primetime anchors — they wanted to elevate the moment and put the primetime anchors in during the afternoon. That’s when the hurricane was supposed to be making landfall. They were hoping to, obviously, up the viewership. It just so happens that all of the primetime anchors are male. Now, I’m irked. Number one, I’m irked. Number two, total coincidence, this whole thing coincides with this week at CNN. They do this once a week. It’s a lovely thing. It’s called Make You Matter Week.

Lo and behold, who do they ask to be interviewed and made to matter? Me. I’m sitting the day that I know I’m booted off my own show over this breakfast with mostly young women at CNN who all want to sit there and hear Alisyn Camerota, this wonderful, brilliant CNN colleague and anchor, ask me all kinds of questions about, how did you get to be where you are at CNN? What’s it like to be a woman in journalism? All these things. I was sitting there silently stewing. I didn’t want to let all these young women fully on to how I was feeling. We finish this whole interview. I invite myself into Alisyn’s office where I fling myself onto her sofa and basically am like, “I’m so pissed. Please tell me how to handle this. I wish I was covering the hurricane. What should I do?” Alisyn has a few years on me. She is cool, man. She is just like, “Girlfriend, I have covered my share of hurricanes. You do you. You get out there. Let me give you some pointers.” She says, “You need to go talk to the boss. You need to say, hey, why am I not there? Put me in, coach. I’d love to be there for the next one.”

So, take her advice. Walk the fifteen paces across the newsroom, go find my boss. I’ll never forget. I was like, “Why did you send all the boys?” He said, “You know, they were being a pain in my ass.” I, without missing a beat, was like, “Well, I can be a pain in your ass too.” He said, “Next time, Brooke. Next time.” True to his word, a couple weeks later, comes back in my office. He’s like, “Are your bags packed?” I was like, “Why?” He goes, “You’re getting on a plane tonight from LaGuardia going to Florida to cover this hurricane that’s brewing in the Atlantic or in the Gulf.” So I do, and I go. Not only do I go, but I also have two other women who end up being instrumental as part of my CNN huddle, one of whom is really high up in logistics down in Atlanta. Another is my producer who’s by my side. We end up talking our way into a helicopter. It’s such a long, other, amazing story, but basically talking our way into a helicopter to get the first aerial footage of this town, Mexico Beach, for literally the entire world to see the aftermath. This ends up being the worst hurricane that Florida’s seen in a long time. I end up getting nominated for a bunch of awards for my coverage of this hurricane disaster. That never would have happened had I not had my huddle at CNN.

Zibby: Wow. Sometimes you just have to ask, right?

Brooke: Sometimes you just have to ask. You have to be vulnerable with your huddle to say, what should I do? I’m not feeling great about this. I feel talented. Why was I not — by doing that, then you ask, and true to his word.

Zibby: It’s so funny because as a viewer, I always am like, I feel so bad for the people who got this hurricane assignment. They have the wind whipping and they’re flying up.

Brooke: Oh, no. They want to be there.

Zibby: I’m like, what? What short stick did that guy draw? He’s being pelted.

Brooke: You want to be in the middle of the big story whatever the big story is.

Zibby: What about when you’re in a story where your own emotions are completely swept up in it? How do you handle that?

Brooke: You mentioned Parkland a second ago. I remember being live in Parkland the day after the shooting had happened. I had Congressman Ted Deutch standing to my left. A correspondent was tossing back to me. We had just played this clip of this mother. I’ll never ever forget the sound of her shrieking as she had found out her fifteen-year-old daughter had been killed. They toss it back to me fresh out of this sound bite. I couldn’t say anything. There were no words for that moment. I quickly try to bring the congressman in so we can share the moment together. We both wept on television. It’s taken me years of doing what I do to feel like it’s okay to just show myself because this is a very real, very tragic human moment. You just allow yourself to feel the things and try to be the best you can be as a journalist who interviewed then the congressman about, how the hell does this happen at a high school in America?

Those are the moments that you can’t not feel it. You don’t always physically emote. I remember being in Newton and seeing tiny white caskets being wheeled out of a funeral home. I had kept my distance, but I remember going back — I was living in Atlanta at the time and had finished that entire assignment and went back home and just didn’t bother flipping the lights on in my high-rise apartment. I watched the sunset that day. I had this one song playing on repeat and just wept thinking of those families and those children who would never see the sunset again. You have to be human as a journalist. We’re all human. This is a horrible, horrible thing that keeps happening in this country. I wrote about that in my book. I wrote about, as a result of covering these tragedies over and over, organizations like Every Town for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action and how that’s a huddle. Shannon Watts and Congresswoman Lucy McBath, that’s a huddle, six million women and men now the largest grassroots huddle in America, Moms Demand Action. That was really important to include them in my book too.

Zibby: Have you ever thought about going into politics?

Brooke: It’s so weird. No one has ever asked me that until the literally the last week. I always say no. I think I’m way more comfortable interviewing politicians than being one myself.

Zibby: You’re obviously such a leader. The way you talk about different social issues, I could just — I don’t know.

Brooke: What a giant compliment.

Zibby: You seem like a leader, maybe from your student council days. It’s a carryover or something.

Brooke: A few times in high school, humble brag.

Zibby: Was writing a book always on your list, like, one day, I’ll do that? Did this come out of nowhere? Was it, I hope someday I do that?

Brooke: It was like, I hope someday I’ll do that. It wasn’t always like, I have to be an author. It was like, I hope someday there will be a thing that I will care about so much that I’ll want to write about it. I’ll want to dive into the deep end. Then that thing came. Then I spent my two years working on this book.

Zibby: I should’ve worn my T-shirt. I meant to wear my T-shirt to this interview. Oh, my gosh, I just remembered right now.

Brooke: Huddle tee! Mine’s dirty.

Zibby: In my head as you were talking, I was like, I want to make the huddle expression even more mainstream like the way that you called a huddle with your friends.

Brooke: Yes. Honestly, Zibby, that’s my goal. I want to add this word to our vocabulary. I want it to be part of our lexicon as women. I was joking with somebody the other day. I will feel like my job is done when I’m sitting at a sidewalk café in the city and I hear a table of women next to me being like, so are we going to huddle this weekend? It’s a noun. It’s a verb. It’s where women come together or are energized by the mere fact of their coexistence. To think that it could be, I’m hoping, some sort of movement among women where women can know we don’t all have to have sharp elbows and compete for few positions at a table like so many of us have had to do for so long. Having crisscrossed this country and talked to so many successful women, the through line is that someone else’s success is their success. Lean on one another, abundance mentality. As Megan Rapinoe says, throw down your ladders if you have access to success. That’s what I’m trying to put out there.

Zibby: I love that. Do you have any advice to aspiring authors?

Brooke: This is a no duh. Because it’s such hard work — I did this whole thing — obviously, the news cycle has been super slow. No. I really wanted to do it. When I was booking all these planes tickets in the before times and traveling all these weekends in the middle of all these crazy weeks of covering the Trump administration and impeachment and everything else, I wanted to do it. I was almost, Zibby — I was possessed, not to mention self-serving. I, sitting around with these women from Chef Dominique Crenn to Megan Rapinoe to Stacey Abrams, no skin off my back. I’ll do that. You have to want to do it. You have to want to go deep. Also, I would say stay true to yourself. Your literary agent or someone else might say, this is really hot right now in this genre, so you need to kind of curtail — I love my literary agent, but there were times where I’d be like, I’m a journalist. I’m not a social scientist. I’m not a researcher. I’m a journalist. Just staying true to yourself as you are going deep in the thing. I still look at this and I’m like, holy shit. It’s pretty cool.

Zibby: It’s awesome. It’s great.

Brooke: You know.

Zibby: It’s really awesome. Then last question, on the journalism front, what is coming next now?

Brooke: Honestly, what is next is a three-week vacation in the British Virgin Islands. That is number one. I left CNN five seconds ago. I was there for an incredible run, thirteen years. I need a break. I just need some meditating. I need to read some novels and to take some me time. After that, I do not know yet. I’ve started to get some interesting phone calls. What I do know is that I want to dive into the deep end of storytelling. I was so spoiled getting to talk to these women. When you do live TV, it’s five minutes. Boom, move onto the next. Five minutes. Boom, move onto the next. With this book, sitting with these women for an hour or hours — then we’d finish. I’d turn the tape recorder off. They’d be like, whoa, whoa, whoa, Brooke, we need to about you and who’s in your huddle. Why are you writing this book? What’s it like being a woman in journalism? It changed my life. Those conversations changed my life. What I do know is that I want to dive in deep like I did with this book spotlighting famous or ordinary, extraordinary Americans. I don’t totally know yet beyond that, what it will look like, but stay tuned.

Zibby: I will. I’ll be following along. Awesome. Thank you. This was so much fun. I loved it. If you ever need a British Virgin Island-going —

Brooke: You’re welcome to fit in my suitcase.

Zibby: Chuck my life. That sounds amazing. I’m kidding. Have fun. It’ll be great.

Brooke: Thank you. Thank you for highlighting my book. It means the world, Zibby, truly.

Zibby: No problem. Everybody, pick up Huddle. Thank you. Bye.

Brooke: Bye.

Brooke Baldwin, HUDDLE


Purchase your copy on Amazon or Bookshop!

You can also listen to this episode on:

Apple Podcasts