Originally posted Tuesday, January 15, 2019 by RODNEY HOemail@example.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
For decades, the standard decree for journalists has been to be a conduit for news, not to be the news.
In this day of social media and “brand management,” that isn’t necessarily the case anymore.
But former Dunwoody resident Bret Baier is more Walter Cronkite than Don Lemon. He has anchored the 6 p.m. newscast for Fox News for a decade and is celebrating 20-plus years at the cable network. (He opened the Atlanta news bureau in his Buckhead condo with a fax machine and a new-fangled cellular phone in 1998.)
“I think people know the difference between news and opinion shows,” Baier said in an interview last week. “There has never been a time Fox News hasn’t been under attack. We’ve dealt with it for a long time. I think the news side has shined on its own. We’ve broken a lot of stories. As great as the opinion folks are, we are also a great news organization.”
Shepard Smith, his afternoon anchor brethren, gets a lot more attention than Baier by sometimes pointing out factual errors emanating from the opinion side. (Smith even got under Sean Hannity’s skin last year for telling Time magazine the opinion folks “don’t really have rules” and “can say whatever they want.”)
“He has a different style than I do,” Baier said. But he said “the folks who don’t watch Fox paint him with a broad brush.”
Baier, a 1988 Marist School graduate, said his 6 p.m. newscast has become faster paced under the Trump administration.
“I’m always one Tweet away from changing the entire rundown of the show,” he said. “There are like six news cycles a day.”
In other words, much of what “Fox & Friends” was talking about that morning is ancient history by the time it’s dark outside.
He said he makes a major change on the show on the fly about twice a week now. And once a month, the entire hour just gets thrown out and they go straight into non-stop breaking news.
The job, he said, “has always been like drinking water from a fire hose. The hose has just gotten bigger!”
Baier said social media has hastened the speed issue. “They expect you to be as fast as Twitter, as good as Facebook. Expectations have changed.”
Yet no matter how crazy the news is, Baier describes himself as “the calm train conductor.” His hair - arguably the best in the business - is never victimized by flop sweat. Ruffled? That word is not in Baier’s vocabulary. And he works hard to take the emotion out of his anchoring.
His fans are legion and devoted and many sang his praises when I asked my Facebook followers:
William Meinert: “Love him and the show - watch every night. He makes it about the news, not his opinion on it.”
Ralph A. Pressley: “He is a great news anchor! Very fair and unbiased in his reporting. And he seems like such a nice guy!!!”
Ruth Phillips Grove: “Excellent journalist...fair, truthful and unbiased. Professional.”
Baier, not coincidentally, also received a contract extension last week. He had the sixth most popular cable news program last year with an average of 2,272,000 viewers, behind only Hannity, Rachel Maddow, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and “The Five.”
“The Murdochs have been fantastic,” Baier said. “I’ve had a tremendous run here. It’s a great place to work.”
And he is psyched for 2019 in terms of news, with the 2020 presidential election already in sight. “We could end up with more Democratic candidates in 2020 than we had Republicans in 2016,” when there were 17, he said.
Trump remains the star of the news world, Baier said. “It’s an emotional time in the country,” he said. “Obviously, people are split. The voters will have a chance in 2020 to make another choice if they don’t like how things are going now. We just want to be the place where people come and say the president got a fair shake.”
Baier’s biggest story away from the anchor desk has been his son Paul’s heart condition. Paul has had multiple surgeries, his issues leading to Baier’s 2014 best-selling book “Special Heart: A Journey of Faith, Hope, Courage and Love.” Paul is now 11 and is the tallest kid in his class, Baier said.
Fortunately, Paul won’t need to worry about another surgery until his teen years. “He’s really healthy,” Baier said. “We are truly blessed. We have challenges ahead but we’ll deal with them when they come.”
Baier received a congratulatory note from House speaker Nancy Pelosi:
Jimmy Kimmel sent him a video congrats: