‘Face the Nation’ Got a New Host. Now It’s Getting Another Update

Face the Nation Margaret Brennan
Courtesy of CBS News

Face the Nation” is in the midst of a facelift. After getting a new moderator, Margaret Brennan, in February, the venerable CBS Sunday public-affairs program is getting a new studio, new music and new graphics.

“I guess I’m the biggest change,” joked Brennan in an interview during a jam-packed day. “The rest of it will sort of become apparent this Sunday.”

“Face the Nation” gets the update as the result of CBS News moving to a new bureau in Washington, D.C. Jack Morton Worldwide, an Interpublic Group firm known for organizing experiences and events, was hired to design the show’s new studio, which encompasses more than 1,700 feet in space, and gives Brennan the option to sit across from someone in a separate space rather than always having the show’s table between her and interviewees. “We will obviously have the graphics and music and movement on set, and I think we will continue to evolve over the next few weeks and months as we get used to these new toys,” says Brennan.

A new studio doesn’t sound like much, but for “Face the Nation,” it’s seismic: This is the first time in 54 years that the show will broadcast from a new venue. CBS’ goal was to design a set that kept some of the classic feel of the show but added modern elements. There are hints of marble and sandstone mixed in with big displays and high-resolution LED video walls.

Brennan discussed the show’s new look as she was zooming from one major event to another. At 4 a.m. Thursday, she interviews U.S. Vice President Mike Pence after three U.S. citizens were released from being held in North Korea. Yesterday evening, she was on her way to Williamsburg, Va., to interview former Defense Secretary Bob Gates for this Sunday’s program. She said she managed to get a little sleep between the two assignments.

Brennan hasn’t had much time for reflection since being named to her new role, particularly because she also kept her old one, serving as CBS News’ senior foreign affairs correspondent. That has meant a flurry of activity in recent weeks, ranging from one of the last big interviews with former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his time in office, to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley unveiling new Russia sanctions on “Nation” only to be undercut as “confused” by the White House the next day.

“I’ve always known it‘s such an important beat, but wow, it really has forced itself into the front pages in the past two months,” she says, nodding to the recent Iran agreement withdrawal and ongoing U.S. brinkmanship with North Korea.

In 2018, it’s hard to relegate the Sunday-show host to Sundays. Brennan’s counterparts, George Stephanopoulos on ABC; Chuck Todd on NBC; and Jake Tapper on CNN all have jobs that call for them to work Monday through Friday.

Even so, “Face the Nation” is meant to serve as a respite from the news cycle, says Brennan. “We still view it as a refuge from the news deluge,” she says. “When we get to Sunday, we still try to be picky and choosy about what rises to the level of asking Americans on their Sunday morning to sit down and chew on something.”

Viewers can get their first glimpse of the updated show this Sunday, when Brennan’s guests will be Gates; Sen. Lindsey Graham; Dan Balz of The Washington Post; Selena Zito of Washington Examiner and author of “The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics”; Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post; and Jeffrey Goldberg, editor of the Atlantic.

(Above, pictured: “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan on the program’s new set)