Daily Blast Live Hosts: Making Waves and Breaking Barriers
Daily Blast Live is a groundbreaking daytime news and entertainment show that has captured the hearts and attention of viewers around the country with an innovative approach to social engagement and a spirited panel of hosts who deliver trending news as it happens. The nationally syndicated show, filmed at KUSA-Channel 9’s studios, is the first of its kind, giving viewers a unique opportunity to share reactions and opinions in real time, and revolutionizing the use of multimedia in a changing social landscape.
With round-the-clock streaming on digital and social networking channels, the Tegna broadcast television program is widely recognized as one of the hottest shows on TV. After a hugely successful first season with stellar ratings prompted by several segments going viral, the show’s syndication was expanded to 15 additional markets ahead of the second season premiere in September 2018. Peak viewership can be attributed to audiences’ ability to instantaneously interact with a charismatic cast who delivers the news, culture, sports, and entertainment stories that matter most.
Daily Blast Live is changing the way we watch, but one of the most remarkable aspects of the show is the intentional representationofdiversity, and the distinctive perspectives and opinions that make our society great. With a panel comprised of inspirational leaders from various backgrounds, the creators of Daily Blast Live made the landmark casting decision to break the trend of racially homogenous hiring practices. Along with hosts Beau Davidson, Jeff Schroeder, Sam Schacher, Stefanie Jones, and Tory Shulman, the sensational panel features Al Jackson, Erica Cobb, and Brandon London, three African American hosts whose enthusiasm and expertise are making waves in the media community.
The monumental impact of Daily Blast Live’s inclusive hiring practices is a testament to the significance of African American representation in journalism and communications. With a long history of discriminatory work and educational conditions that can be traced to slavery and racial oppression, underrepresentation in mass media indicates a need for increased opportunities for people of color in fields that showcase the importance of storytelling, journalistic reporting, and media exposure.
During slavery, the intellectual development of the Black community was suppressed with anti-literacy laws prohibiting slaves from learning to read and write, with restrictions that existed throughout the Jim Crow era. These restrictions resulted in colossal disparities in media representation despite growing interest and educational pursuits that could level the playing field. In a study published by the Columbia Journalism Review, University of Pennsylvania Ph.D. student, Alex T. Williams, reveals the continuation of these disparities inmodernmedia, and suggests discriminatory hiring practices as a leading cause for underrepresentation. Williams notes that between 2004 and 2014, people of color made up 21.4 percent of graduates with degrees in journalism or communication, but less than half of these graduates found full-time jobs in their field, while two-thirds of white students were immediately hired by media outlets upon graduation.
Within the last 28 years, the United States has seen an increase of only seven percent in the representation of people of color in media; a figure that leaves Denver Urban Spectrum Publisher Rosalind Harris, dissatisfied and dedicated to improving outcomes for African Americans interested in the field of journalism. As the Black-owned publication celebrates 32 years of “spreading the news about people of color,” Harris is proud to announce the launch of an internship partnership with historically black colleges and universities that will provide hands-on experiences for students studying journalism and communications.
As they continue to break viewing records and make strides in news and entertainment television, Jackson, Cobb, and London are providing an exclusive look at their inspirational journeys in journalism, and helping to celebrate Denver Urban Spectrum’s 32nd anniversary with the details of their delightful experiences as panelists on the wildly successful Daily Blast Live.
In a time of increased social and political unrest, there’s a thin line between humor and hysteria, but comedian Al Jackson has no problem finding the funny. Adding a spark of amusement to the daily trending topics, Jackson wins audiences over with his unique ability to tackle sensitive issues from entertainment to politics with cultured grace and playful charm, all while wearing his signature mega-watt smile.
Jackson joined the cast of Daily Blast Live after a 13-year stand-up comedy career that has taken him around the world and allowed him to share the stage with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. He has an impressive list of acting, writing, and production credits, to include Last Comic Standing, BBC’s Officially Amazing, Upload with Shaquille O’Neal, several Comedy Central series, and he is anticipating the release of his first children’s book, adding the title of author to his extensive achievements.
The handsome host has become a master at juggling the demands of his busy entertainment career; in addition to hosting the nationally syndicated Bob & Tom radio show on Thursday mornings, he co-hosts the podcast, Al & Frank Try to Be Serious, with famous impressionist, Frank Caliendo, and is preparing to add to his list of streaming credits a hilarious one-hour comedy special. When he’s not on-air, Jackson can be found on stage, encouraging audiences to lighten up and laugh about the hotbed issues that contribute to an increasing social divide.
Jackson is a communication expert who soared to the top of his career after an unlikely start in entertainment. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he traveled to the Deep South to attend Tougaloo College, a private, historically black institution just outside of Jackson, Mississippi. He studied biology for two years before transferring to the Ivy League Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, but attributes his initial experience at the HBCU for giving him the confidence to chase his dreams. “Tougaloo is the reason I’m here now,” he says. “That was the first time I met guys my age who were already talking about becoming doctors; that gave me the confidence to apply to transfer to Brown. I would say that without the experience of going to an HBCU, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to go to Brown and know that I could compete.”
After obtaining a master’s degree in biomedical sciences from Barry University, Jackson started his professional career as a7th grade science teacher, a job that prepared him for the challenging role of warming up comedy crowds with a commanding presence, and gave him the ability to entertain all ages. His first experience with stand-up occurred when he attended an open-mic night; he was an instant success, returning to the club with gut-busting material and eventually earning more than his teaching salary.
A phone call from Comedy Central promptedJackson’s relocation to New York, where he filmed his first half-hour special and started on the path to stardom. “From science, to science teaching, to comedy, and now communications,” he laughs. “It seems like vastly different things, but they’re not. When I’m talking to students about the construction of a cell, or talking to audiences about why relationships fall apart, or I’m sitting on a panel with Erica and Brandon discussing whether the president’s remarks are harmful, it’s all a form of communication.”
In his earliest experiences in the entertainment industry, Jackson became aware of the startling lack of African American representation behind the camera. “I was the only Black writer in the room,” he recalls. “Black writers were nowhere to be found in Hollywood. I found that there’s a pipeline set up from Ivy League schools where people are basically guaranteed jobs coming out of school. People who went to those colleges are already staffed on shows, so when graduates arrive in town, they have an in. You’re not going to find that same type of foundation already present for you when you’re coming from an HBCU or other schools.”
Jackson attributes the limited number of African Americans in journalism to students feeling intimidated by their preexisting knowledge of the industry’s inequity. He remains hopeful that as power dynamics begin to shift, production companies will increase efforts to hire people of color, increasing representation and minimizing the competitiveness that is all too common among African Americans in communications. He encourages young people to work hard and learn to sacrifice luxury for any dream that’s worthwhile, a valuable lesson that he teaches his own three children. “The biggest gift you can give to your kids, rather than taking them to a fancy restaurant, is letting them see an adult who is active in their life and passionate about what they do.”
By using humor to communicate and drawing on his vast cross-disciplined knowledge, Jackson is showing audiences that conversations about serious issues don’t have to turn into heated arguments. He is blazing the trail for Black men and women to follow in his footsteps, and tackling tough topics with love and laughter along the way.
The gorgeous Daily Blast Live host who stunned the world with an exciting on-air reveal of her natural hair is inspiring women and girls to break down barriers in a bold and beautiful way. Erica Cobb radiates warmth and wisdom on screen and off, with confidence, charisma, and a keen sense of purpose that has won the hearts of viewers from coast to coast.
Cobb, a seasoned professional with 15 years of experience working in Chicago, Sacramento, and Denver, constructed her plan for a career in radio at the young age of 12. The Chicago native earned a degree in Communications from DePaul Universityin2004, and has maintained a strict focus and tunnel vision while achieving goal after goal on her way to the top. Cobb has refused to compromise her values or integrity, shattering glass ceilings along her journey in the restrictive communications industry. She attributes her unwavering confidence to the support of her loving family, who taught her that she could do anything. “I’ve been very fortunate to have Big Mama and my parents who, although they weren’t told that this was possible, absolutely told me that it was possible,” she says.
As a Black woman in a white male-dominated industry, Cobb is no stranger to competition, but she leads with professionalism and the expectation that she will succeed, regardless of discriminatory hiring practices that often prevent women who look like her from getting highly sought-after media jobs. “I’ve walked into a room of 50 people, five of whom were Black, and instantly knew that only one of us would get the job,” she concedes. In all of her years in media and communications, Cobb cannot recall working in a professional setting with more than one Black person, especially multiple Black women, until being cast as one of two Black women in the first season of Daily Blast Live.
Understanding how important and empowering it is for people of color to see her on the nationally syndicated show, Cobb takes her role seriously and puts forth great effort to set an example of excellence.
“I go to work with an agenda, every day,” she explains. “I pray that God gives me the strength to help me help myself so that I can be an instrument to others.” Taking personal responsibility for the elevation of viewers who identify with her, Cobb approaches communications with a high level of journalistic integrity. She says, “I believe that I have a responsibility to the truth, but I also have a responsibility to articulate my perspective from the way I see the world.”
Cobb feels at home in her seat at Daily Blast Live, as opposed to jobs in the past where she’s been told that she’s “going a little afro-centric,” or “doing a little bit too much,” by production teams who were intimidated by her Black Girl Magic. She uses her platform to bring awareness to underrepresented communities, covering stories that spread messages of hope and positivity. “Interest stories are interests for our audience,” she says, “But I have such a personal investment in them, and they’ve had a very real impact on my life.” Cobb shines a spotlight on important guests such as Lola Ogunyemi, who starred in the racist ad for Dove body wash, the creators of Curlpop World, and founders of theBonnti mobile app for natural hair, Maude Okrah and Simone Tetteh. She appreciates the ongoing support she receives from the Daily Blast Live production team for her community outreach work with organizations such as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), and A Long Walk Home, which provides services to young, sexually abused and neglected Black girls.
Having experienced many pitfalls and setbacks throughout her life, Cobb is turning the recovery from some of her worst moments into an inspirational comeback story with Comeback TV, her personal brand dedicated to helping people overcome hardship. Comeback TV started as a YouTube web series, but is steadily evolving and will soon incorporate a podcast focused on helping others to recognize their innate gifts and maximize their potential. After moving to Denver in 2009, Cobb experienced several challenges as she moved frommorningradio, to a position with the Denver Nuggets as an in-arena host, to 9 News; at one point she felt like her life was falling apart. “I realized I was building a life to look like what I wanted it to be, as opposed to building a life to actually be what I wanted it to be,” she recalls. “So I had to tear the whole house down and start from the beginning to decide what kind of foundation was going to make it most solid.” Comeback TV is a testament to Cobb’s resilience and renewal, allowing her to reach back and uplift others with motivational content like her natural hair reveal that highlighted her authenticity and inspired other women and girls to see their natural beauty.
Loved and respected by her co-hosts, Cobb provides reassurance and guidance while holding the role of “big sister” within the trio, and adding brilliance and beauty to the panel of the Daily Blast Live. She is breaking down barriers and creating a legacy of leadership that will be admired for years to come.
After a successful debut, Daily Blast Live kicked off its second season with the addition of retired football player, Brandon London, whose eloquence and youthful enthusiasm instantly charmed audiences and added a healthy dose of competition to the panel. London, known as the “Cultured Athlete,” has taken the world of entertainment by storm, devoting the same energy to the screen as he did on the football field and proving that a brilliant brain and magnetic brawn is a winning combination in any arena.
London grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and took an interest in athletics from an early age, despite his mother’s prediction that he would someday be on television. His father, who worked as the first Black head football coach of the University of Virginia’s Cavaliers, fostered London’s love for the game from an early age, and taught him the skills that would help him earn a scholarship to the University of Massachusetts, where he ranked third on the school’s all-time list in receiving yards and became the seventh player in UMass history with more than 100 career catches. London graduated with a degree in sociology in 2007, and immediately entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent, earning a Super Bowl ring during his rookie year with the New York Giants. He later signed with the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers before joining the Canadian Football League and playing for the Montreal Alouettes.
Wanting to step out from under his father’s football legacy, London worked hard to make a name for himself in the league. “I’ve played around so many athletes growing up that were so much better than me, but would never outwork me,” he says. “They always had an excuse as to why they didn’t make it, saying that I had more opportunities because my dad was a coach; but I wasn’t highly recruited. I just outworked everybody – that’s still my mentality, to try to outwork everybody.”
While in Canada, London tore his meniscus and when he had to sit out of the games, he asked his coach, Mark Tressman, if he could enroll at the Montreal School of Performing Arts, following the path his mother had foretold many years ago. In the off-season, he traveled to Los Angeles for on-camera training, and eventually split his time between Montreal, New Yorkand Los Angeles, trying to find gigs and gain on-camera experience. London retired from the Canadian Football League in 2015, leaving a guaranteed six-figure salary to pursue his acting goals full-time. He struggled to find jobs and wasn’t getting any callbacks, but when everyone asked, “Why did you do it?” he just pressed forward, refusing to give up. “You’ve got to be willing to be laughed at for your passion,” London says, “Don’t limit yourself to what your surroundings or friends try to limit you to. You’ve got to feel comfortable breaking out of that box!”
The humble, hard-working heartthrob turned his attention to modeling during his rookie
year, signing a contract with Boss Models and participating in well-known fashion events like BET’s Rip the Runway. But when the renowned media coach, Marki Costello, caught wind of London’s on-camera presence, her advice inspired him to work even harder. “She told me, ‘you’re nice to stare at, but when you talk, everybody’s going to turn off the TV because you’re not bringing any substance,’” he remembers. “That was my first time being challenged when it came to providing substance, and I realized that I have a platform.” London began the quest of strengthening his vocabulary by reading more and learning to enunciate, extending the range that prepared him to discuss topics from health and fitness to politics on the Daily Blast Live panel. “I sit at my computer and research everything before I go on camera and openmymouth, because I want to be well-informed and give an educated perspective,” he says. No longer wanting to be complimented for his appearance, despite being adorned in the finest Grover and Grover menswear at all times, London prefers to earn compliments on his personality. He admits, “This gig has been a rebirth. I tell my mom all the time, I’m not the same person.”
London uses his platform to inspire young people, sharing the wisdom that was passed down to him from his football mentor, Michael Strahan, who often provided encouragement in his early days in the NFL. “I told him that I was approached to model and sign with an agency, and he told me, ‘Do it, but always make sure you take care of football first.’ That’s one thing that stuck with me. I take care of business first before anything else.”
Acknowledging the importance of Black representation in media, London has grown more confident in his abilitieson-camera, and takes every opportunity to give back to the community as a role model for young people, participating in the NFL’s Play 60 program, and pursuing mentorship and assistant coaching opportunities that allow him to inspire others. When he looks back at his unconventional journey to journalism, London says, “That wasn’t me, that was God.”
Recognizing the special opportunity to coexist on such a major platform, Jackson, Cobb, and London exercise a superb level of camaraderie, inspiring each other and holding one another accountable for the continuation of excellence that has gotten them this far. They relate like siblings, putting each other in check and boosting each other up when needed. This display of authentic unity and on-camera chemistry helps to elevate the Black community, allowing audiences to feel the love radiating from their being. The beautiful display of friendship sets an example for people of all ages, who must work together to climb the ladder of success, in spite of disparities and obstacles in their path.
The entire cast of Daily Blast Live panelists offers insightful contributions that make the show a stunning success, and the relationship between Jackson, Cobb, and London represents solidarity within the workplaceanda collective responsibility for success within communities of color. Instead of inequitable hiring practices forcing us to be more competitive, we must take advantage of opportunities to reach back and help each other up; there is more than enough room for everyone.
Daily Blast Live is a wonderful program that has been instrumental in supporting the individual interests and initiatives of each host, as well as raising awareness about important issues that are often unrepresented. Collaborative advancement through media representation allows audiences to see that their voice matters, that the topics that relate to them are valuable, and that there is no limit to the possibilities for young people who are interested in careers in journalism and communications.
With the introduction of its journalism internship program, Denver Urban Spectrum hopes to open doors for thousands of students to explore the impact of media and offer thoughtful contributions with content that is relevant and important to a younger generation. By creating pathways to successful careers, Harris hopes to increase national media representation on a large scale, with the hosts of Daily Blast Live setting an example for professional excellence in journalism, and personal achievement.