Lunchtime hours on cable news networks have not historically been considered a daypart that draws strong ratings. Yet one program in that timeslot is defying the odds and even sometimes topping its broadcast competition.
Over the past two months, “Outnumbered Overtime with Harris Faulkner,” which airs weekdays live at 1 p.m. Eastern on Fox News Channel, has outperformed ABC’s “GMA3: Strahan and Sara and Keke” (the third hour of “Good Morning America”) in total viewership, according to Nielsen Media Research.
In August, the program delivered 1.3 million viewers, with 207,000 in the key 25-54 demo, and is the top-rated program on cable TV in its timeslot.
“Outnumbered Overtime” follows “Outnumbered,” which Faulkner co-hosts from Fox studios in Midtown Manhattan with a rotating panel of three other women and one man. They’ve hashtagged him #OneLuckyGuy — and they debate the day’s headlines from their various perspectives.
“Overtime” goes further into subject matter at hand, with Faulkner interviewing newsmakers and utilizing FNC contributors and reporters in the field.
Faulkner joined Fox News in 2005 after a television news career begun in 1992 which has included a stint on “A Current Affair” and anchor and reporter jobs at CNN Headline News, KSTP-TV (ABC 5) in Minneapolis, Kansas City’s WDAF-TV (FOX 4) and WNCT-TV (CBS 9) in Greenville, N.C.
Over the years, she’s covered major national and international stories including the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, the 2016 Republican and Democratic national conventions, the death of singing superstar Whitney Houston and the AIDS crisis in South Africa.
In mid-December of last year, she landed an exclusive interview with President Donald Trump, in which he discussed his push for border security and his search for a new chief of staff. During the conversation, he also accused Fox News of giving him “lousy polls.”
“Frankly Fox has always given me a bad poll. I don’t know why that is because they’ve treated me fairer than most,” the president said during the sit-down. “But the polls have always been lousy.”
“Really?!” Faulkner responded. “But there’s positive news in this though.”
Her work has also brought her six Emmy Awards.
This is not a fact that will win any awards: Faulkner is the only woman of color currently anchoring a weekday cable news program. She says she feels the importance of being a role model in the African American community and actively mentors young people seeking careers in media, even as she advocates for more inclusion in the workplace.
Coverage of issues involving the military is also close to Faulkner’s heart. Her father was a combat pilot who served two tours of duty during the Vietnam War. She was born on base — at Fort McPherson in Atlanta — and while she was growing up, the Faulkner family was stationed at military bases in locations including Stuttgart, Germany; Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; and Fort Bragg, N.C. She currently resides in New Jersey with husband Tony Berlin and their two daughters.
In an email interview, Faulkner discussed the evolution of her program, an eye-opening interview about the late sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, how she’s already tested the political waters in Iowa for the 2020 election a number of times and her thoughts on President Trump’s recent comments about Fox News.
“Outnumbered Overtime” has become very successful in its timeslot. What was the genesis of the show and its concept, especially in light of the fact that it began the day after a horrific tragedy, the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017.
First of all, the viewers have put me atop the ratings and I’m grateful and blessed for this part of my journey. “Outnumbered Overtime with Harris Faulkner” was first a web follow-up to our hit talk show “Outnumbered.” From the start, viewers told us they loved the extra, commercial-free minutes they could catch online after the TV version of us wrapped up. I was opening every show online for more than 3½ years with, “You want more ‘Outnumbered’ you got it — we’re in Overtime, OT BABY!”
It was offered on an interactive platform with followers migrating from Facebook, Twitter etc. and chiming in while we were live. That feedback was amazing and critical to me pushing for “Outnumbered Overtime” to jump to TV. Conceptually, it was simple and it worked: to give viewers more newsmakers and breaking stories, mix in opinion, debate and juicy interviews and bam, we have a second hit show!
What are the editorial decisions that you evaluate for each day’s program?
Editorial decisions are driven by what’s happening during the 1 p.m. Eastern hour. We cover the news with heat, meaning there is always value in gaining fresh perspective from the stakeholders in big stories. They may be lawmakers or crime investigators, victims, or Americans doing great things for the nation.
During these past two years, what are the news events that have most made an impact on you, and why?
From day one on “Overtime,” we were fiercely hardworking and nimble. Our first day’s news events forced us to scrap the planned debut rundown of politics and interviews to offer wall-to-wall breaking coverage of the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on the Las Vegas Strip. A lone gunman opened fire the night before on that crowd of concertgoers. He killed 58 people and wounded 422. I did interviews that day, but politics was put to the side. It cemented my ability to grab hold of breaking news, stay on developments and eventually lead a viewership to the next stories that unfolded. I’ve been doing that every day since. It is my happy place. So, I am glad my young daughters get to see their mom as a newsroom leader.
What are your plans on covering the 2020 presidential race?
I was the first Fox News anchor this election cycle to go to the voters in Iowa—three times in six weeks! My schedule had two speeches for the women’s group, Women Lead Change and then I added a primetime “Town Hall America with Harris Faulkner” live from Urbandale, Iowa. It was an incredible eye-opener about the conversation real American voters are having—not tweets or soundbites—but issues of illegal immigration, the economy, raising their children and having them go to good schools. The audience and participants with me on stage were Republicans, Democrats, Independents and some who were decidedly timid about saying how they’ll vote. I got it. The debate and political process these days is so toxic, people just want to be heard and to hear how their lives will be made better by our elected leaders. Iowa should go first, as its caucuses have traditionally, because they’re a microcosm of all of us.
You knew this question was coming. President Trump recently criticized Fox News, basically saying it wasn’t working for him anymore. How do you feel about his comments?
The president weighs in and criticizes what he does and doesn’t like. Everybody does that. He just has a really BIG platform and likes to tweet. I just do my job. He tweeted at me during that same period, “Great going Harris” on my show’s ratings. My guess is he watches a taste of everything. I cover his policy and actions that affect Americans’ daily lives. For example, most people, not all, but most say in person and in polling that they like President Trump’s current economy. Even farmers caught in the midst of a trade crisis with China have told me they know this push for better trade policies is necessary.
Who have been the most interesting, the most surprising or the most controversial guests you’ve interviewed?
Recently, Ken Starr joined me on “Outnumbered Overtime.” Starr was the independent counsel in the 1990s who headed the investigation that led to the impeachment of U.S. President Bill Clinton. During the interview Starr went into detail about how he knew convicted sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein. Starr told me about how he had helped negotiate the highly criticized legal deal that basically let Epstein off the hook in the early 2000s. That deal has been called “sweetheart and privileged treatment” of Epstein because it allowed then-prisoner Epstein to come and go from a jail cell for several hours a day, six days a week to his home/office. Starr starkly defended that deal, saying that it wasn’t a sweetheart deal. Our interview was quickly picked up online and re-broadcast for days after it aired on my show.
I was the first person on Fox News Channel to interview Parkland High School massacre survivor David Hogg, a young teenager who was fast becoming the face of that tragedy, and immediately an outspoken voice on guns, violence and more. But, we talked about his pain and that of his classmates and I told him I was praying for them all. He got agitated with me about that. Prayer simply wasn’t enough. I prayed any way. Still do.
It was Arizona a few weeks out from the midterm elections, 2018. No one on the national level in broadcast or cable had interviewed both the Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally in an important state during that cycle. They were both Congresswomen vying for the Senate and that race was tight and contentious in the polling. My “Town Hall America with Harris Faulkner” on immigration in Phoenix brought together a bipartisan audience and a sit-down with each of the candidates, Sinema and McSally. Viewers loved the opportunity to see debate among American citizens about the border and so much more. And, even nationally, they loved seeing the difference between the candidates. Sinema, a Democrat and Arizona native, was known for voting 60% of the time with President Trump. I asked her about it and she told me, “I just call it like I see it… balls and strikes”. McSally was a Trump supporter, former combat pilot and also an Arizona native with recent visits to the border. To this day, I’m still the only journalist to sit down with both of them in one broadcast and now they are both Senators. Sinema won that race and McSally was later appointed to fill the seat long held by Senator John McCain.
What are the keys to a successful television news interview?
Love this question! Listen, listen, listen. Most people talk more than they listen. This is a bad habit for a journalist, especially someone hoping to deliver compelling and informative TV. If you had all the answers, you’d never need a guest. I assume I’ll learn something from each interview subject. That’s why it’s important to have a list of questions as only a guide. With each answer, listen up for the follow-up opportunity and go in the direction that the subject takes you if it’s interesting and new.
What reactions did you receive to your book “9 Rules of Engagement: A Military Brat’s Guide to Life and Success”? What lessons do you feel are most important from growing up in a military family and living in various places?
Immediately, current and former members of the military began reaching out to me on social media. They supported my view on how military life makes you resilient and strong. As an Army brat, my life was lifted by principles of integrity, grit, and persistence. As an author, the goal was to share the lessons of “9 Rules of Engagement,” which can help anyone become successful. They are battle-tested and life-ready.
Lessons like Rule No.1: Recruit your special forces. I tell readers that one thing every serviceman and woman knows is that you can’t go it alone in war. I often compare everyday life to navigating a minefield of negativity and challenges. You need a special team to attack the obstacles between you and your dreams. It’s the first place I tell people to start, when rearranging your life for success. If you have haters and doubters around you, victory is hard to come by. Nations know this. That’s why they develop allies.