Q&A: Fox News' Glenn Beck
Former CNN host talks about why Fox News Channel is more balanced and why he'd "die for" an interview with George Clooney
By Marisa Guthrie -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/18/2009 7:00:00 PM
Like jumping from the Red Sox to the Yankees, Glenn Beck will be leaping from one bitter rival to another when the former CNN talent starts his new self-titled Fox News Channel show on Jan. 19 at 5 p.m. ET. Prior to launch, he spoke with B&C's Marisa Guthrie about his new show, why FNC is more balanced than CNN and why he'd “die for” an interview with George Clooney.
How will Glenn Beck differ from your CNN Headline News show?
I think it's going to be an interesting dichotomy in a way. It's freer because I have the resources and the support staff around me that I need and have wanted. But I think it's also more self-restrained. I've had a lot of time to reflect over the last couple of years, and I think our country is in a time of great change, and with all great change come great hazards. And I think if we don't try to find the things that we have in common, we're going to be in serious trouble.
Do you think it's a better fit for you to be on Fox News?
Maybe, because quite honestly Fox News is more balanced in its audience mix than CNN was. If you look at Fox, I believe the ideology breakouts are almost split evenly whereas CNN leaned a little more left. Part of me liked the fact that it leaned a little more left because I liked being the contrarian. I think I'm going to be a surprise for anyone who just sees me as: oh, a conservative talk-show host, I know what that is.
So at Fox you feel that you have more support?
Yeah. Look, CNN treated me well. So I don't want to say anything negative about them. But there were some ideologues that would not cut me an ounce of slack. So we had to spend so much time documenting absolutely every single period in every sentence, which made it very difficult. Here Fox has given me a team, and I have researchers and everything else. But we also don't start the day with someone looking around the corner as if I'm there to destroy the world.
Well, that must be a relief.
It is. I want to make it very clear that the facts are still going to have to be documented. But I think the best way to describe it is, I'm not going to miss the long, very silent elevator rides.
On the new show, will you have guests from the left and right?
We're talking about doing a segment, “These are the stories that everybody is covering today. There's absolutely no long-term meaning in your life for that one. This one makes no difference. This one does, but not in the way it's being reported.”
Maybe this is a sign of insanity. But I tend to see things connected to each other. I think the media is so, “What's on tomorrow?” It moves at such a pace that sometimes you don't see the little dot that's in front of you. I want the show to step back and see that that dot is not a dot. It's part of a picnic basket in a painting of a picnic in France by an artist named Seurat.
Who would you really like to have on the show?
I'd die for George Clooney.
You and about 3 million women.
For different reasons. I spent a few minutes in a hallway with George Clooney discussing Darfur. He is so right on Darfur. I thought he was so wrong until I had a few minutes to discuss it. If I could have a half-hour with George Clooney, I think America would realize, “Here are two people who are radically different and yet can find so much to hold them together.” Two sides meet and you solve problems.
Have you reached out to him?
Yeah; he's busy with his projects. I would expect that. I don't think he wasn't interested, but he's actually a busy guy.
The newspaper industry is circling the drain. And yet they are supposed to be the government watchdog. Wouldn't we be worse off without newspapers?
This argument is in such a vacuum. It's the same as the Fairness Doctrine. Now there are hundreds of stations on Sirius XM and hundreds of cable networks, and Internet radio and everything else; your voice can still get out there. It's the same with newspapers. We're trying to save the horse and buggy. I say this as a radio guy. Will terrestrial radio remain as the leader, or will it be satellite or will it be Internet or will it be cellphone-based? I don't know. But is the information still available? The answer will be yes unless government interferes.
The same will be true with newspapers. Newspaper people are not going away. It's not like they're all going to be kicking rocks out on the street and saying, "Gee, I wish I could report on a story." You have to adapt to the times. While I may not read the newspaper and have my hands covered in black ink every Sunday, I still will be able to read The New York Times at NYTimes.com.
But they're not making money online to pay the reporters' salaries. That's the problem.
It's really funny. This is the only business that I've ever heard of that can't reinvent itself. News is news. News is essential to the freedom of this country, that we have free people unencumbered by any connection to the government or special interests to be able to come in and say, "Wait a minute, what does that mean?" and report on it. It's just going to change. The delivery system is going to change. Will there be the big New York Times building? I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not. But that information is going to be available. You can't shut down inquiring minds and investigative people. And you also can't shut down the dissemination of that information in one way or another unless you're not in a free society.
The newspaper industry has been writing its own obituary. So do you think these people should just get back to work and stop whining?
I think this country has spent too much time talking about things that are too big to fail. If they're failing, the system is broken and they should fail. We have signed our own death warrant because too many are standing around saying, "It's too big to fail." And they want to keep it the same. Nothing in life is constant but change. There's a reason why I'm on the Internet, on television, on radio, on satellite, in magazines and in books. I do all of those things. I've covered every medium out there. I haven't done it because I'm some sort of never-sleeping vampire. It's because I can't tell you what medium is going to remain, which medium is the strongest. So I'm going to make sure I'm in all of them. And try new ways to do each of them to give that medium the best way for it and me to survive. You can't hold on to the past.
Don't you think everyone is really scared? We're up to over 7% unemployment, and people are looking to the government for answers--and help.
I know they're saying now that we're going to have a $1.2 trillion deficit. But I think that number is going to end up being closer to $2 trillion. We are looking at the unsustainable things, and it's both the Democrats and the Republicans; not all of the Democrats and not all of the Republicans, but a great number of them. And when you inject fear into a decision, you never make the right one.
What medium are you most comfortable in?
Sometime television can make a point unlike radio, because it adds the picture and sometimes pictures are really important to be able to see what's in somebody's eyes. To be able to see exactly what happened will leave you with a completely different impression. But the time restraints of television are frustrating at times. Radio is such a one-on-one medium that it's like I'm having a conversation with one individual. And more importantly, I can hear the listener. I can talk to somebody in Omaha or Seattle or Minneapolis and hear what they're saying.
I like writing books because it's the only time that I can spend six months on something and look at it time and time again and say, "No, that's not right. It's not quite what I need. I still don't get it right." I still walk away going, shit, I wish I had more time. But you can take the message and get it as close to right as possible.
Do you think you can be more provocative on radio than you can on television?
No, I've never held back on either. I think the question might be better phrased, can you be more honest on one or the other? And the answer to that, I believe, is no. However, give me time and I'll answer that question as a blanket question because I think that question is going to be more important in all media. Can you really tell the truth as you understand it? Can you really truly express your opinion in this country and have it be heard-not be heard, but carried?
Many people were saying this on the left in the last eight years. This is not a left/right issue. It's not about, can you be successful and have your voice be heard? It is someone trying to shut you down? I think the time may come in this country when anyone who disagrees with the government-no matter who's running it, Republican or Democrat-may find their voice silenced.
RE: Eric Post, final comments regarding TV stations: To some extent, it's a case of not wanting to miss the story the other guy got. To take an extreme example, no one wants to be the station that missed the Obama inauguration. In that same vein, a lot of people just want to go after the largest possible audience, although with five stations you'd think at least one of them would go after a smaller niche looking for new and different things from their news.
That said, TV is a lot more about the telegenic presentation. A lot more time and effort is spent on the surface aspects than in print, and the surface aspects are more standardized and have less to do with the substance.
I like to think Google's trying to cut down on duplicates... though I don't know for certain how well Google's "similar results" filter works. But the beauty of capitalism, especially in a market (unlike TV stations) where the number of competitors is basically unlimited, is that there is probably someone out there that's at least in the process of cutting down instances where you get, say, several reposts of the exact same story, say reports by CNN, Fox, and a bunch of local newspapers and TV stations. (Perhaps you can lead me to one.) Maybe they just don't give you that story at all, not so much because they get rid of all the iterations as because their algorithms just aren't robust enough to pull it up where it should be. But in that instance maybe you use several different search engines, and maybe by using this new system and building a community around it you put pressure on Google...
The problem with getting new ideas out there isn't just showing up on Internet searches, it's the question of whether people are searching for what you have at all. With all of that, the best way to get your message out there, as sad as it sounds, is to self-promote, hook up with communities and social networks and spread the word as best YOU can. (Incidentially, visit morganwick.blogspot.com!)
Does that mean the death of newspapers will have to mean the death of journalism? Not necessarily. There are already sites like Politico that are very high profile already that do at least some reporting. (For another thing, I've seen someone argue that classified ads were always a bigger avenue for revenue for newspapers than newspaper sales, and newspapers didn't focus enough on building their classified presence and reputation online and were left vulnerable to the rise of Craigslist.)
Morgan Wick - 1/20/2009 9:29:43 PM EST
This is the problem with media, they don't have a grasp on reality. Saying there are thousands of ways to get your opinion out there is correct. But there is virtually no hope of ever getting it read by anyone.
Google controls more than half the Internet searches, fine you can have a website that no one will be able to find much less read. Google despite claims to the contrary is full of duplicate websites (look at how many scrape Wikipedia for info) which only pushes other sites down.
So in reality there are only one or two newspaper choices in most cites. Even on TV I have looked at news coverage in Chicago and the big five stations simply duplicate top story coverage
Eric Post - 1/20/2009 2:34:14 PM EST
It's a scary thought that someday Big Brother will have total control of free speech. The question is, will the media maintain there independent body without fear to protect the rights of freedom of apeach, for so many are falling into the clutches of government.
Al Rice - 1/19/2009 1:40:30 PM EST
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