Bill O’Reilly or Megyn Kelly reach more viewers in a single hour than nearly anyone else on Fox News Channel, but are they as busy as Harris Faulkner?
Faulkner, 49, has quietly become an almost ubiquitous presence at the 21st Century Fox-owned network, hosting an hour of “Fox Report Weekend” on Sunday evenings as well as serving as a co-anchor on “Outnumbered,” the noontime program that has “one lucky guy” spar with four female panelists Monday through Friday.
Faulkner may not be what viewers typically expect on their TV screen. “I challenge you to go and turn on the other cable networks to find a face like mine in primetime,” says the correspondent of female African-Americans hosting evening programs. Yet her presence at the network is very deliberate. “I chose Harris for these roles because she’s an excellent journalist with a distinct ability to handle breaking news on the ‘Fox Report’ and seamlessly transition to an issue-driven talk show like ‘Outnumbered,’” said Roger Ailes, Fox News’ chairman and chief executive, via email. “Her dedication to the news product and dynamic presence have become a key part of the network.”
Faulkner may be getting more exposure as Fox News ponders new ideas. “The more we expand into digital properties, she’s probably a natural for that,” said Jay Wallace, senior VP of news and politics at Fox News, in an interview. “I can see her getting into podcasting, radio, digital properties – really as much time as she can give.” Already, she spearheads an extra segment of “Outnumbered” that appears via streaming video, monitoring queries from the audience while the show is in the midst of its traditional broadcast.
Faulkner credits her intense interest in current events as the factor behind her success at the network, where she has held forth for little more than a decade. While living in Minnesota, she even had a vanity license plate: “BRKNOOZ.”
“When you see me up on a breaking-news story, it is not good news,” she said during a recent interview on the set of “Outnumbered” after the conclusion of a broadcast. “I’m not about to give you the secret to my mom’s sweet potato pie.” Viewers appreciate someone who can distill a lot of information and deliver it succinctly, she said: “I am tasked with being that voice of calm and reason and disseminating the facts as we understand and know them.”
Throughout her week, Faulkner performs a balancing act, of sorts. On Sunday’s “Fox Report,” she hews closer to TV-anchor tradition, drilling down on the latest breaking information. But on “Outnumbered,” she takes part in a show where talk can veer into analysis, humor and the personal lives of the panelists. She said she relies on that breaking-news “main muscle” to power her through both programs.
During a recent broadcast of “Outnumbered,” Faulkner’s stick-to-the-facts attitude was on full display. The program is an experiment of sorts, an effort by Fox News to nod to the news of the day for viewers on both coasts but also open discussion and debate. In the show’s final moments, the panel was talking about an Indonesian shirt company that had adorned its apparel with labels offering eyebrow-raising washing instructions: Let a woman do it.
While other members of the panel provided honest reaction, Faulkner took things a step further, offering details to illustrate her feelings on the matter. In her family life, she explained, she does do the laundry most of the time, while her husband takes care of the exterior of the house.”In my household, it actually is my job,” she said. ”But I don’t want him wearing a T-shirt that says that.” On Wednesday, she led a segment into a discussion of the recent win by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the ramifications of that election.
The formula seems to be working. In February, “Outnumbered” lured an average of 1,278,000 viewers, its highest-rated month since it launched in April 2014. The show is up 22% in overall viewers and 24% in adults 25-54, according to data from Nielsen, compared with February 2014.
Faulkner has had an interesting journey. Prior to arriving at Fox News, she was a substitute host for Nancy Grace on Time Warner’s HLN and a correspondent for longtime syndicated newsmagazine “A Current Affair.” Her time on the latter taught her a lesson about waiting for the right moment to cover a story.
In 2005, Faulkner was on assignment for “Affair” on the island of Aruba, where teenager Natalie Holloway had just disappeared. One day in the lobby of the Holiday Inn, she met Holloway’s mother, who was staying at the hotel and was frantically trying to get more answers about her daughter’s whereabouts. “It was into the third day of her missing,” Faulkner recalled. “The scrum of media had not arrived yet. The planes were still being booked.”
Faulkner said she deliberately did not press to get the mother on her show. “She wanted to get answers from medical authorities and didn’t know whom to trust. There were other kids on the island who had been with her daughter. There were so many loose ends and people to talk to.” The correspondent felt the time was wrong to push for an interview, and believes she was rewarded for her caution. “Our professional relationship grew from that,” Faulkner recounted.
“There are just times when all you have to do is be human, and if it’s meant to be, you’ll get whatever it’s going to be, in terms of the information,” she said. Holloway’s mother would later take part in a half-hour special that examined her daughter’s disappearance a year after it took place. Taking that stance “means that sometimes you aren’t going to get what everyone else has at the moment, but when you get it, you can make your mark on it,” she said.
Faulkner seems content with her current role at the network, though she suggested at another time she would have loved to been a sportscaster. Now, she remains open to doing more at the outlet: “I want for Mr. Ailes to look at me at some point and say, ‘Here’s my next idea,’ and I’m so good with that.” Could Faulkner’s already busy schedule become even more so?