In the moments leading up to this evening's newscast, 3News anchor Christi Paul seems at ease. Sure, the 20-year veteran of CNN and HLN has done the news more than a time or two. But in August, the Bellevue native returned to Ohio to join WKYC’s hour long “What’s Now” broadcast.
Though the downtown Cleveland studio is still new to her, she already fits right in. Ahead of air time, she reassures her co-anchor Carmen Blackwell on her outfit choice: a purple top and a pink skirt. After a spot from meteorologist Betsy Kling, a WKYC legend, Paul lays on the table and flaps cardboard wings imitating a bird, a reference in jest to the day’s forecast. In her show’s second half-hour, when Blackwell and Paul are joined by Kling and Jay Crawford, she even tosses a jab at the former ESPN host’s physique that leaves the desk laughing.
“I’ve seen situations where people are one way on camera and one way off, and I never wanted to be like that,” she says. “What are we doing if we’re not transparently who we are?”
Paul, despite looking as stunning today as she did in 1993, when she was third runner-up to Miss Ohio, didn’t always feel so confident in her skin. A year before that, Paul was a student at University of Toledo when her friend Melissa Herstrum was murdered by a campus police officer. “It just shook me up,” she says. “I didn’t want to leave home. I didn’t want to leave my family. I was searching for security. I spent a lot of years just lost.”
So, she got a slow start on adulthood, working in Cleveland, sticking close to Bellevue.
Out of the blue, she got a break after singing the national anthem at a Cavaliers game. A sports radio host asked her to sing the anthem on his show and that turned into a job opportunity as an anchor in Clarksburg, West Virginia. For $12,500 per year, she worked as a bootstrapping journalist: editing, writing, shooting and starring in all her own pieces.
“Wherever I went from there, jobs just came up immediately for me,” she says. “I really felt like God had my back.”
But God also tested Paul’s faith.
She followed a coworker from West Virginia to Boise, Idaho, and then Phoenix. They got married, and she worked the news beside him. It seemed like a picture-perfect story. But behind the scenes, he was physically and verbally abusive. Couples counseling didn’t help. Promises weren’t kept. Paul had crafted an escape plan with a therapist but didn’t have the courage to follow through — until finally she did. One day, she boarded a plane. When she landed in Ohio, thousands of miles away, she called her abuser to tell him the marriage was over.
Paul detailed how faith and therapy helped her overcome the years of abuse in her 2012 book Love Isn’t Supposed to Hurt.
Just before she left her first husband, Paul met Peter Wurm at a party in Chicago, where she’d been visiting a friend. They hit it off. She kept thinking about him. Once in Ohio, Paul’s friend reconnected the two. Despite what she’d endured, Paul felt comfortable jumping into a new love.
In 2003, Paul moved to Atlanta, where she was a weekend anchor for New Day Weekend on CNN’s sister network HLN. Over the next decade, Paul and Wurm built a family together with three daughters, while Paul made a name for herself on CNN.
But in July 2020, her faith was tested again. Wurm entered a three-week battle with COVID-19. He was hospitalized, fighting for his life. “There were three or four days I thought I was going to be a single mom,” Paul remembers.
All the trials of illness and political tension in the country made the call to come home louder.
After Wurm recovered, the couple decided to move home, either to Ohio or Wurm’s native Chicago, where they’d be closer to their aging parents. As they’d done with Crawford and Russ Mitchell before her, WKYC welcomed the big network star with open arms.
Today, Paul still lives with the trauma of her first marriage and even, still, of Herstrum’s death. Her college pal has been in Paul’s mind again lately, especially when she sent her oldest daughter off to The Ohio State University.
“You don’t recognize how that lingers,” she says. “I still fight that. God, please just get her home every night.”
But thankfully, Paul has the tools to cope now. “My innate needs are approval and acceptance, respect and harmony,” she says.
All things you find when you finally get home.