In An Age Where ‘Everything Has a Filter,’ FOX News’ Harris Faulkner Shares ‘What is Fun and What is Necessary’ to Help Keep Not Just Consumers Accurately Informed During COVID-19, But Her Children Also.
“I make a big bright line between what is fun and what is necessary”.
Powerful words from FOX New’s Harris Faulkner to me in a recent interview we had about the power of education in today’s digital age when continuing to watch our world suffer from the biggest challenge we’ve encountered since World War II.
My writing portfolio includes interviews with extraordinary women who have consistently showed the world they are more than just journalists. From Rachel Campos-Duffy and Lara Logan to Tomi Lahren, these three women serve as prime examples of what it means to have mental strength so that an individual can think freely and be true to themselves, especially when it comes to raising and educating your children.
But at the end of the day, these women are more than someone you just watch report the news on your television. These are women who lead by example. To date, COVID-19 has claimed over 153,000 lives and remains at large.
For this reason, I wanted to speak to someone who has worked immensely to educate the general public on the power of mental health and strength, while still fulfilling her oath as a journalist to share “real news,” rather than “entertainment.”
Next in my lineup of inspiring conversation is Harris Faulkner, a six-time Emmy Award-winning journalist and television host. You may recognize Faulkner from Fox News Channel, where she anchors her daytime show Outnumbered Overtime with Harris Faulkner and co-hosts Outnumbered.
With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to spread, Faulkner incorporated a special during her 1PM hour called Coronavirus Pandemic: Questions Answered, featuring Q&As with doctors and medical experts.
But what I took away from what was an extremely interactive, fulfilling, and open two-hour conversation, Faulkner wants the world to know her as more than just a journalist—but as a mother and caregiver to two girls, ages 10 and 13.
That “Big Bright Line”
“I make a big bright line between what is fun and what is necessary,” she began to explain. “I tell my children, that some things live in the fun lane and are entertainment, but I have taught them the difference between “just believing something just because a bunch of people say it” and checking the facts. And I teach them how to do that. I teach them how to be good interviewers; good interrogators.”
This reminded me of how my parents raised both my sister and I over the years. Part of “intellectual maturity” is knowing when to take someone at their word and when to question the world around you, allowing yourself to investigate those links in the chain.
But in Faulkner’s capacity as both a journalist and mother, I was most curious on where she drew that “big, bright line.”
“I have taught them to question even the most powerful people in their lives,” she replied, adding that she would even “get a couple of notes from a couple of teachers, a couple times a year. I have taught them that when they do not understand something, or they doubt something, that it’s okay to ask. And I love the fact that they are still young, and they tend to ask me and my husband those questions. From there, we can go drilling down to the answers together.”
I recall my father telling me every time we spoke (and still to this day)— “if you can stand up to me, you can stand up to the world.” And right he was…to this day. And Faulkner has raised her children to embrace the same.
“Relevant” In the Moment Does Not Mean Comprising Mental Health
There is no doubt that these past five months have been horrifically terrifying to us all—from parents and teachers to the world’s brightest and most respected thought leaders. But there remains an everlasting obligation from these individuals to remember why they have been thrust into these positions in the public’s eye to begin with. Integrity and honesty remain the most prized of characteristics.
Unfortunately, if there’s anything we’ve seen these past few months since the coronavirus pandemic has continued to impact and destroy global infrastructure, it’s that consumers depend on news and media so heavily, that it has given an elixir to the novel concept of “fake news.”
But shouldn’t “entertainment” be different than news? Shouldn’t news be the ever-most serious, accurate, and dependable especially during a global pandemic? Without question.
“It’s one of the reasons why I love interviewing people for all different things,” Faulkner told me. She recalled a FOX News story about Emily Day, a U.S. Olympic volleyball player, who had been sidelined because the Tokyo Olympics had been postponed for a year. Admittingly, Day believed the International Olympic Committee’s decision to postpone the Tokyo Games until next year was “the responsible thing to do”, she shared with Faulkner on Outnumbered Overtime.
“There were some light moments, but heavy moments too,” Faulkner described to me. And why?
“Because this was a young woman who spent her whole life getting ready for this moment—and now the moment is put off and hopefully she will stay healthy with what she needs to do between now and next year. But it’s a long time.”
As for Faulkner, she has never been one to love to do a “kicker” of a story, because according to her, it was one aspect of local news she never really understood:
“Because if you’re relevant in that moment, it doesn’t mean that it’s all bad news or heavy, I don’t want people’s takeaway when they watch me for an hour or two on Outnumbered and Outnumbered Overtime—boy I could have completely missed that. So, I do look for things that matter. And I have taught my girls to do that. We only have so much time. Don’t waste it.”
With information so readily available around us, it’s not enough anymore to feel like you are connecting with someone—according to Faulkner, you have to give people something they value while “breaking through the clutter of everything else they are being exposed to, which unfortunately can be ‘fake news’ or information that isn’t vetted.”
As for COVID-19, Faulkner believes this has helped sharpen relevance for consumers. “During this time, you have got to be relevant to people’s lives because people are busy.”
We both agreed that while entertainment is good, it is a huge injustice to simply sit in front of your phone for hours because you have nothing else better to do.
“Because [as a mother], I have 99 things for you to do.”
“This Too, Shall Pass”
At thirty-years old, I still operate on that “chivalrous” scale that many believe ceases to exist. Compassion and empathy are important skills that many of my colleagues have seemed to forget or somehow “lack”—and it stems from how they were raised and brought up. I on the other hand, am extremely grateful to have been raised by two parents who have preached both qualities to my sister and me.
And COVID-19 is no exception. Watching the world fall victim to the emotional and mental strain that the coronavirus has caused us has opened the eyes of many. Nobody predicted that stay-at-home orders and social distancing restrictions would be the events that would drive us all mad.
But in solace and isolation from our loved ones and friends, or rather the feeling of being trapped with your loved ones with no escape, takes a toll on us. There is no middle ground here. With that, comes at a cost, making it even more difficult to continue advocating for maintaining mental strength morning, noon, and night.
When I mentioned this in our conversation, Faulkner quickly picked up on where I was going with it and injected how she keeps reality clear for her and her family:
“I try to do something positive for someone who can offer me nothing more than their company, at least once a day. You’d think that people have a home, nice cars, jobs—they must have everything. But no, someone is always deficient in some area because life isn’t perfect. So, I try to put out positive, uplifting.”
And she is not wrong. For those who fall into that category that Faulkner outlined, that is just a “lack” mindset that only aims to keep you down. In my career as an internet and technology attorney, it is important for me to stay as updated as possible on the latest technology and privacy headlines. This requires me to read, watch, and absorb voluminous amounts of information from not just Fox News Channel, but ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and the like.
Yet, in the five months that the media has been reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen programming designed to keep the public updated regularly, by the hour on COVID-19’s impact on our world—rather than headlines manufactured to scare and bait consumers to click and get article views up.
Therefore, I was extremely excited to speak with Faulkner when FOX News Channel reached out about what they were doing with their latest programming lineup. I took it as an educational opportunity to witness first-hand the power of what I feel digital media should represent, especially in times of national health and security. In this case…global health and security.
“People realize we are all sequestered,” Faulkner expressed to me. “We are all home. We are reaching out. You can still have the balance in your life to spread love. And while I am never going to downplay what we are going through; I also don’t want to overblow it either.”
And when I asked her why she felt that way, which I agreed with by the way, she just responded with:
“Because I truly believe in the principle that my parents taught me from the Bible—this too, shall pass.”
When this pandemic comes to an end, it is foolish to think that our world will “return to normal.” If anything, it is more upside down than ever, or at least since we have been alive.
“I don’t just mean it will pass and we will go back to who we were,” Faulkner quickly followed up with. “I think trials and tribulations make you better if you let them. I keep that inside of me as I’m broadcasting, but I don’t try to overblow stuff.”
The Silver Lining
Faulkner reminisced about a news director who taught her years back that “[she] doesn’t have to shout the breaking news—it’s breaking news and it’s probably not good, because it’s breaking. Nobody shouts out loud, ‘oh my god there are donuts on sale’, but they shout, ‘oh my god, there’s a house fire!’ You don’t need to do that.”
Over the years, Faulkner has leaned on her vocal range to draw people in, rather than freak them out.
“I know how real this is…I’m looking at New York City right now, because I live on the Hudson River. I can see it from the George Washington bridge all the way down to the Empire State building. It is an incredible place to be. And yet, I know there are hospitals over there right now and where doctors and nurses are telling the stories of the equipment they don’t have—like PPE (personal protective equipment).”
And at the end of the day, Faulkner believes that this too, shall pass. Today’s generation has forgotten the importance of personal interaction—yes, you must look at someone in the eye, rather than talking down into your phone while your fingers text a mile a minute.
“If we choose to let this make us better, let’s remind each other of that,” Faulkner emphasized. “I try to make eye contact with people, regardless of masks or gloves. I make sure that the eyes are something we can lock. And trust me, we have lost the gift of eye contact, because we always have our heads down in our phone. So, I think there are some silver linings here—this is going to be a journey.”
If the Media Can Do It, So Can You
If you are reading this and thinking that it’s easier said than done to self-quarantine and abide by social distancing requirements, you’re not alone during this time. The media does and can relate. And so can Faulkner, as a mother who for the first time, learned what it meant to blur the lines of home and office—on a national scale.
When my interview with Faulkner first began, I was initially curious on how journalists like Faulkner engaged in social distancing behavior while maintaining their daily programming. And what I learned was that even for highly respected journalists such as Faulkner, staying connected with family and friends is equally important.
“It’s what keeps us all grounded,” she answered. “And sometimes, that’s where some of my best questions come from.”
Faulkner and I both share Dallas, Texas as home to family and relatives, which made this burning question all the more relevant to everyone wondering what they should be doing if they are in a position to work from home—
“My younger sister lives down in Dallas. She texted me a few months ago when my niece turned 16. She was calling to tell me they were locking their place down, but they were not set up well to work from home. And what does she do?”
After hearing that, I had to ask the burning question myself—how has Faulkner maintained her professional composure, ensuring that her audience feels comfortable with her program, while anchoring at home from her basement?
“I’ve never done anything like this,” the Outnumbered Overtime host revealed. “I was really worried, because the whole house is home—my husband works in the living room and my kids are each in their room. I am mostly aware of the fact that this is a group activity, and I have a wonderful photographer engineer who comes to my home, all while we are practicing social distancing. He is wearing a mask and gloves. This is all new. This is not just me broadcasting at home—I’m also living by all the rules and guidelines and haven’t left my house in days.”
Sound familiar? Like us, even the most respected of journalists like Faulkner are feeling the effects of social distancing.
“There is this psychological part of, ‘hey, I’m going to go to work now—downstairs in my house, or as I call it, the underground lair, and broadcast.’ And I don’t know, something magical happens; every day the lights come on, and I just remember all those people I’m connecting with as well as all those things I stayed up reading the night before—and how they touched my heart as we were picking videos. And the minute the light goes on, I’m right there with them.”
Lights! Camera! Action!
As the lights go on in her basement, Faulkner transforms—wearing three hats at the same time as not just a national news anchor, but as a wife and caregiver to her two daughters.
And for this year’s Mother’s Day, Faulkner emailed me and dedicated this year to “all the mom’s around the world who are giving birth during this COVID-19 pandemic. My young daughters and I are sending them love and support, from afar.”
Now how does Faulkner’s feel about national broadcasting right out of their basement?
“My family watches and are with me as I’m broadcasting. But when everything is wrapped up, they are in that space and they understand what that means. And they are fascinated to see, because they too have had a couple of half-days through this ‘digital learning’, because you cannot keep kids on digital devices for 8 hours a day, five days a week. It’s a lot on the brain.”
I asked Faulkner about the types of conversations she would have with her daughters following her broadcasts, to which she recalled a conversation:
“…they came down one day and were watching me through the crack in the door, and they could see the TV with me on it—and then they could see me, in person, at the same time. While just 10 and 13 years-old, they are not too little. It was so interesting what they said to me after the show one day:
‘you know Mom, we feel like you make a difference because we see so many people talking about the COVID-19 coronavirus—they even know the lingo and doubled up, ‘but those people scare me sometimes Mom, and we don’t watch a lot of that stuff because you want to protect us, but you know we are seeing it, and people are talking about it in their digital learning classes and on their devices. But we don’t feel so afraid when you talk to the audience; we feel like you are our friends.’
I almost cried when they said that, because they certainly don’t watch enough news to understand the power of what they said. But it is powerful to tell someone that loves to do what we do, that I am on their side.”
And aren’t these major questions we should be asking media representatives, that also warrants us hearing the truthful answers?
For Faulkner, that is when she started taking notes. “I realize that these are things we all want to know, and if we can stay connected with the people we really love and value in our lives, it prepares us for what we have to do. It’s good for the soul to know that we are reality based, and I don’t think we have any credibility right now with this audience unless they think we know what they are going through.”
As the interview concluded, Faulkner wanted to emphasize that this realization doesn’t have to be a therapy session every day from noon to 2pm, when Outnumbered airs daily—“but it does have to be a session where people feel like they’re seeing their neighbors.”
“And Andrew, with you in law and me in journalism, we are addicted to realism. I just do not like anything that wastes my time, because I must figure out if it’s real. And not to be indelicate, but that was most of my 20’s and 30’s when I was single asking “is that real?”
Everything has a filter.
Outnumbered Overtime is a 1-hour special that airs everyday at 1 PM on Fox News Channel, where Faulkner provides the audience with answers to COVID-19 questions. According to Nielsen Media Research, since Outnumbered Overtime’s initial July 2019 airing, it has now dominated the broadcast competition of ABC’s 1PM hour, for 30 weeks, as of May 12, 2020, serving as the #1 program in all of cable.
In a new report in the Journal of American Medical Association, experts warn of an “overflow of mental illness”, where it’s very likely that the psychological effects will easily outlast the physical threat of COVID-19.
Back in April, Fox News Channel presented America Copes Together, a virtual town hall that was moderated by Faulkner which featured remote panels comprised of psychiatrists and everyday Americans to highlight the psychological effects that the COVID-19 crisis had on families, the healthcare community, front line workers, and all those isolated and impacted during the pandemic.
Faulkner hosted her own prime time segment, Town Hall America with Harris Faulkner, where three segments stuck out to me from a legal perspective, as I regularly consult with clients who suffer from mental health and domestic violence abuse:
- How COVID-19 raised concerns about PTSD for frontline workers;
- How Americans Are Coping with Anxiety During the Coronavirus Pandemic; and
- Domestic Violence Spikes Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
“Sometimes it feels like news is diving into some fight we aren’t part of anymore. When I say we are going to take some questions and get answers, I learn something every day on the show.”