Fox News journalist Harris Faulkner is no stranger to breaking down barriers in the cable news business. The six-time Emmy winner anchors Fox News Channel’s daily afternoon news/talk program Outnumbered Overtime, launched last October as a spinoff of Outnumbered, of which she is a co-host.
Faulkner, who joined Fox News in 2005, is one of six women hosting shows on FNC — double the number of female anchors the network had five years ago. Faulkner recently talked to B&C about her role in the Outnumbered franchise, and spoke candidly about the climate at the network in the aftermath of the sexual harassment allegations that rocked it over the past two years. An edited transcript follows.
What do you feel you bring to Outnumbered?
My chops are in breaking news and hard news, and my learning curve, if you will, was not about weighing in on topics as a journalist but finding cultural aspects of the topics — whether it’s from the perspective of a woman, a mom, a person of color or a former military brat; I would bring that relevancy to the conversation. I’m not going to weigh in on the politics of things, but I will ask questions that I feel are not being asked in the conversation. Just because [a panelist] is not used to being asked a certain question does not mean I’m taking a side; it means I’m taking the side of the viewers, and they want to know everything.
How did the opportunity to host Outnumbered Overtime come about?
We eventually started to do Outnumbered Overtime online after [Outnumbered], and that audience started to explode. Our executives here offered me the opportunity to have my own show and it was going to follow Outnumbered, so I said we could take that element that we already know works, which is Overtime, and burst out with longer and more in-depth conversations about things with individuals. And now, we’re only a few months in and I can’t believe where we are … I’m so blessed. I look across the spectrum and I know people have their doubts; there aren’t a lot of people who look like us in daytime television with their own shows. People will ask what is the best thing about your job, and I’ll say legacy; I’m now in rarefied air. Take out your clicker and try to find a brown face between daytime hours, and not on the weekend.
Do you feel you bring a different perspective?
I don’t think that I need to necessarily bring so much a different perspective as I just need to show that there is nothing you assume about me by looking at me. It is so cliché — you can’t judge a book by its cover; well, you can’t even judge a page or a chapter with me. I’m a journalist; I don’t talk about how I vote. I think our audience is saying that we trust you on breaking news, Harris Faulkner, so go do your thing.
Fox News has been the No. 1-rated network on cable for the past two years, but it's also had its struggles internally. Where is Fox News now, from your perspective?
I’m in a really special place because we’ve had some challenges here and some of them were around sexual harassment, which is something we’re seeing everywhere now, unfortunately. Given the challenges that we’ve had over the last couple of years, our next chapter that we’re living through is based on a whole lot of lessons. It’s not that the public wasn’t aware of what we were dealing with in terms of sexual harassment and racial discrimination allegations and lawsuits, so when I say Fox News is a special place, it’s because we’re comeback artists. It got difficult; there were some realities and truths that we had to face inside the halls of Fox News Channel about some of the very people who were leading and working among us. But I’m happy to report that as a group of talent, producers and leadership here we faced it all, and I can talk for at least some of my colleagues that I’ve spoken to that we take the job of making sure it doesn’t happen again very seriously as a family. I think when our audience looks at us — again, it isn’t that they don’t know our journey — they know we can serve them in spite of it. I loved working at a place where we’re considered scrappy.
So what's next for Harris Faulkner?
Oh, gosh, I don’t know. I think I have a primetime special in me … I’ve got some ideas I’ve been working on to do that. I did one during the RNC and DNC conventions, and even that was breaking through barriers. But honestly I want to have these [inclusion] conversations all the time, not just in February. One day we’ll have conversations about opportunity that really are based purely on the differences that we can bring to the table. When I meet young journalists of color — Hispanic, Asian, LGBT whomever; it doesn’t have to be my mirror image — anybody who needs that extra layer of voice, I use my voice to lift them to that place of rarefied air. I remind them of what I know to be true: jump and the net shall appear.
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.