Margaret Brennan feels like her worlds are colliding.
The CBS News correspondent got her start in TV news covering financial markets and the people who made them move for outlets like CNBC and Bloomberg Television. And even though she’s moved on to focus on Washington and foreign affairs, she has noticed people from her old beats treading on her new ones.
“With the Trump White House, there are so many faces from my old business,” she said in an interview Thursday, noting the presence of former bankers and investors Gary Cohn and Wilbur Ross in government.
Brennan has plenty of new business on which to focus. CBS News on Thursday named her the new moderator of its flagship public-affairs program, “Face the Nation,” making the anchor a more prominent part of the national news cycle and the only woman among the current rotation of Sunday hosts to lead one of the programs on her own. She succeeds John Dickerson as the anchor of CBS’ Sunday morning mainstay, which first launched in 1954.
And colliding worlds might be a good thing, she suggested. “It’s a false assumption to keep things silo-ed as ‘just a Beltway story’ or ‘just a business story,'” she said. She has long enjoyed helping people see the bigger picture, she said, “being able to connect the dots on what is actually going to matter.” Her focus at “Nation” will be to figure out “what do people actually need to know and what is going to continue to be or should be part of the national conversation.”
Brennan will start in her new role this Sunday, but will also continue in her position as CBS News’ senior foreign affairs correspondent based in Washington, D.C. She joins a select coterie of TV journalists. “Face the Nation” will under her aegis vie each week for attention with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” anchored by Chuck Todd; “This Week” on ABC, led by George Stephanopoulos and often co-anchored by Martha Raddatz; CNN’s “State of the Union,” anchored by Jake Tapper; and “Fox News Sunday,” moderated by Chris Wallace.
The decision places a woman in a format that has often been led by men – despite the recent four-year tenure of Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union. Lesley Stahl, now on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” anchored “Face The Nation” between 1983 and 1991. Martha Rountree founded “Meet the Press” in 1947, but the program has been anchored by men since her departure. Christiane Amanpour had a brief stint on “This Week” between 2010 and 2011.
Brennan joined CBS News in 2012 and has been White House and senior foreign affairs correspondent since 2017, working with Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief Christopher Isham. Prior to joining CBS News, anchored and reported for Bloomberg Television, and was a correspondent at CNBC.. She also contributed to various NBC News programs. Brennan began her career as a producer for CNBC’s “Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser.”
“Margaret’s ability to ask newsmakers tough but fair questions in a deft and respectful manner, her sharp news instincts, and her tremendous ability to make complicated subjects understandable make her the perfect person to lead us into the next chapter of the broadcast,” said Mary Hager, executive producer of ‘Face the Nation'” in a statement. “The entire ‘Face the Nation’ team is thrilled she’s taking over the anchor spot.” Hager is expected to continue in her role with the program.
Since 2012, Brennan has been based in Washington and has reported on the Trump administration, and previously President Obama’s administration, for all CBS News programs. She covered the State Department for four years, where she reported on major national security stories including nuclear negotiations with Iran; restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba; the standoff with North Korea; the conflict in Ukraine; and the accord to transfer control of Syria’s chemical weapons. Brennan was spotted this weekend interviewing U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for a segment on “60 Minutes.”
Talks about her taking the “Nation” role started recently, Brennan said, and grew more serious as she took part in a rotation on the show to fill in for Dickerson after he moved to “CBS This Morning.” But she never imagined herself in the show’s seat when she was just starting. “I had no mapped out trajectory,” she recalled.
She will have a plan come Sunday. “I’m excited to be able to come in and moderate, to really try to educate an audience and not overwhelm them,” she said. Viewers “want to hear what it’s really like. Did that really happen? And what really matters here?” The Sunday shows, Brennan said, represent “a unique platform. We can focus on what’s important, not just on what’s interesting in the moment.”