BRIAN LAMB: What’s the difference between working for Jack Anderson and anchoring the Fox show at 6:00 everyday?
BRIT HUME: Well, it — a lot of the work I did for Jack Anderson, I would report the story. It would go out under his byline with some credit to me or whoever else on the staff did it. This is — and I didn’t have to worry about synthesizing the column together. I didn’t have to worry about any of that. I would work on one story at a time and do them. And he would make such use of them as he saw fit.
What I do now is much less about my own reporting than maybe my own news judgment. It is — I’m really kind of a ringmaster for the work of a lot of other people, unlike a lot of programs on cable news. My program isn’t about me. It’s really about the work of a lot of other people. It’s about the analysis and commentary of some of my colleagues. And really the reporting on the correspondents and so on. I used to do an interview segment on the show. I don’t do that anymore, because it’ got in the away, I thought, of the show, moving along and telling you more.
Lamb also asked Hume about his future at Fox News:
BRIAN LAMB: I read in Howard Kurtz that your contractâ€™s up this year?
BRIT HUME: Yes. End of the year.
BRIAN LAMB: Are you going to stay with it for awhile?
BRIT HUME: We’re talking about a new arrangement.
BRIAN LAMB: Would you like to give up that 6:00 spot?
BRIT HUME: Well, that’s something I have thought about, but basically all I can say to you know is that we’re discussing what comes next.
Finally, Lamb asked Hume for his take on charges that Fox News is a conservative news channel. See Hume’s response after the jump…
BRIAN LAMB: Past recipients include David Brinkley, Dan Rather, John Chancellor, Jane Pauley, Barbara Walters and Nina Totenberg. And she quit the Board because of this. After this happened. And it says here that â€“ she says this in this article. “Fox wants to do news from a certain viewpoint.” True?
BRIT HUME: Well, if that’s true of us, it’s true of everybody. We’re no more viewpoint connected than any of the other news organizations are.
BRIAN LAMB: Well, the other news organizations do not think that from what they say.
BRIT HUME: No, nor do we, judged by their standards. Brian, what it comes down to is this. There are really two pieces â€“ two parts to Fox News, put broadly. And one is our hard news products. And the other is our evening show hosts and talk shows, which are about the opinions of the host â€“ to a great extent about the opinions of the hosts and stars of those shows.
Now, a number of our hosts are conservatives, which really, by itself, sets us apart from our competitors, because they have very few conservatives. We have a number. We also have a number of liberals. But it is a striking contrast to the others. And, when you have someone who has been successful as Bill O’Reilly, for example, and is as conspicuous a personality as he is.
And you have someone who is successful as Sean Hannity has been and who is as visible a figure as he is and outspoken. Never mind the fact, of course, that he’s balanced on that program down to the second by Alan Colmes on Hannity & Colmes. Nonetheless, an impression is created in the minds of some people that don’t watch Fox News very much, that basically Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly co-anchor the channel 24/7 and that’s what we do is their conservative opinions. But that isn’t what we do in my hour. That’s not what we do in the hour that goes to 7:00. That isn’t what we do for a large slice of our daytime programming, where we’re just discussing and reporting the news. So, it’s a bum rap, but it’s out there.
BRIAN LAMB: Let me go back and read this again to see if we can get to what maybe she’s getting at and see if you can answer it. Fox wants to do news from a certain viewpoint, but it wants to claim that it is fair and balanced, she says. That is inaccurate and unfair to other media who engage in a quest, perhaps an imperfect quest, for objectivity.
BRIT HUME: Well –
BRIAN LAMB: What this â€“ let me stop for a second and ask you about this. David Brinkley, Dan Rather, John Chancellor, Jane Pauley, Barbara Walters and Nina Totenberg and others, are they all objective?
BRIT HUME: None of us is objective. You can’t be objective. But what you can try to be is fair. I mean, David Brinkley, as I recall, is one of the first people I ever heard say that. You can’t be objective. Youâ€™re a sentient, thinking, human being. You’re going to have views in reaction to things. But I’ll say this about it. I believe that fairness begins with an awareness that no, you’re not objective. And it is your professional duty and responsibility to be aware of that. And to carry that with you into the work that you do so that you can be fair. So, you could screen out. You can be â€“ you can think if you go to a hearing and you think that the politician whose running the hearing is obstreperous personality, whether it’s Phil Graham or Barney Frank, that you think, I got to be careful here, because I don’t particularly cotton to this person. I need to make sure that I play this straight. That I’m fair. I think that’s where it begins. I’ve always thought that. And it’s not that hard to do. I mean, think of the people in the professions that we â€“ other professions that we â€“ in the practice of law. Lawyers represent clients they disagree with. They even represent viewpoints they disagree with. They do it all the time. And they do a good job of it, because they’re professionally trained to do it. We as journalists are or should be professionally trained to do that as well. To go out and assess a story based on its news value and to order it and prioritize what we see in such a way as to reflect news values and report it that way.
BRIAN LAMB: Did Roger Ailes ever say to you in a conversation, we’re going to use this fair and balanced slogan and it’s going to drive them crazy?
BRIT HUME: He said, it was going to drive them crazy. He said, he knew it was going to drive them crazy.
BRIAN LAMB: But let me show you.
BRIT HUME: It does drive them crazy. Now look, Brian, the examples I cited to you earlier â€“ the earlier example of that story is a meaningful example is the kind of thing that where we see opportunity where others see nothing. Now, can anyone, Geneva Overholser or anyone else seriously argue to me than when a report comes out from an administration that a year ago said that progress â€“ satisfactory progress was being made on half of these political benchmarks, which had been so much at the center of the debate. And a year later comes along and reports more than twice as much. That that isn’t news. Of course, it’s news by any reasonable, fair-minded standard. Our colleagues neglect such stories with some regularity, providing us a competitive opportunity. We pickup on stories like this. Now, we’re perfectly willing to report that somebody said that the benchmarks are not â€“ they’re not being met. They’re simply reporting progress. They don’t mean that much. All of that is part of the fabric of the reporting on it. But it is news. And we do a lot of that. Now, one might argue that, gee, if we weren’t conservative in outlook, we wouldn’t think that way. Well, maybe. On the other hand, if that’s true, then what’s true on the other side.