Shannon Bream first tried her hand at journalism at the age of 30 after having earned a law degree. Some of the people working with her called her “Grandma Intern.” They won’t be calling her that on Sunday.
Bream will this weekend kick off a new era on “Fox News Sunday,” the jewel of the news side at Fox News Channel, which often gets more attention for its opinion programming. She will be the programs’ first permanent female host and will be the first permanent replacement for Chris Wallace, who burnished his reputation for prosecutorial questioning of newsmakers and politicians over a tenure that lasted just under two decades. Wallace raised eyebrows in late 2021, when he announced on air he was leaving the show. He later disclosed he had jumped to CNN, where he is slated to host a new program for both HBO Max and CNN’s Sunday schedule.
“We will have our own style,” says Bream, though the mission of the show remains the same. “People are very frustrated with gridlock [in Washington] and people talking past each other. What we want to do is have deep, meaningful conversations where people are going to be pressed to express their positions.” During her time as one of several rotating hosts on “Fox News Sunday,” she has pressed Republicans such as North Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, Utah Senator Mike Lee and Oklahoma Governor Mike Stitt on topics including abortion rights and gun control.
Bream is joining a select group. Anchor jobs among the nation’s big Sunday-news programs change infrequently and even more so at Fox News. Bream is just the third moderator of “Fox News Sunday” since it launched in 1996. The Sunday shows offer a deeper level of conversation with Washington officials and people in the news, and, even in an era when anyone can take to social media and rattle off unchecked talking points, provide a service of sorts.
“There are very few places where there is a discernible, recognizable mission to prompt people in influential leadership positions, or positions of power to explain what they are doing, to defend their record and to be held accountable to a wider public,” says Frank Sesno, a former CNN executive who is director of strategic initiatives at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs.
Bream’s initial tenure on the show may come under some scrutiny. Wallace’s work on “Fox News Sunday” helped him become the first anchor from the Fox Corp.-owned network to moderate a presidential debate and he has been known to irritate conservatives and liberals in equal measure with the questions he chooses. As such, says Sesno, “Fox News Sunday” remains a “vital outpost” that he believes Fox News ought to safeguard, particularly in an era when the network’s opinion programming drives the bulk of perceptions around it.
The show’s “hard news focus” that was developed under Wallace and his predecessor, Tony Snow, “is going to continue,” says Bream.
One reason for that is Bream is joining a team that has worked on the program for years, including the past several months when Fox News rotated several of its journalists in the show’s anchor post. “It is a small team, but we have a solid mix of experience and innovation,” says Jessica Loker, vice president of politics and senior executive producer of “Fox News Sunday.” One of the group’s longest-serving members is Andrea DeBito, who has booked guests on the show since Snow held forth.
“It’s really just about doing your homework, knowing where our guests are on the issues, being able to call out any discrepancies, any flip flops, asking those tough questions,” says Loker. “That’s a key part of what we do and that’s not going to change.” Bream says doing thorough research in advance of the program helps develop a “roadmap” of questions that she hopes will lead to a robust exchange.,
There may be some room to broaden the aperture. Look for former New York Yankee Andy Pettitte to join the interview roster Sunday, says Bream, part of a broader effort to tackle topics other than politics. “We are hopeful of bringing in some things that are outside of the Beltway,” she says. “Cultural issues. Entertainment, sports figures. There are so many things to mine. Policy and policy makers will always be the heart of this, but we want to broaden our reach a bit to other stories Americans care about.”
Bream’s first official show will also feature interviews with Tim Scott, the Republican Senator from South Carolina, and Jon Tester, the Democratic Senator from Montana. And there will also be some recognition of the day, says Loker: “For 21 years, September 11th continues to be a heavy day across our nation and one that we’ll always take the time to reflect on. We’ll have elements throughout the hour to honor those who lost their lives on that tragic day.”
Unlike Wallace, Bream will keep another beat. She has given up her anchoring duties at “Fox News @ Night,” the network’s late-night news hour, but will continue as Fox News’ chief legal correspondent, making use of the knowledge she gleaned from her first profession. The job includes coverage of the Supreme Court. The dual roles may lead to long hours, and Bream says she has learned over the years to “do more with less sleep.” But she acknowledges “there are times when you have to call a time out,” even if it’s to catch a nap while watching a Hallmark movie.
Her start on Sunday is more auspicious than her initial turn as a journalist. While toiling in an early role at Tama’s WFTS, she ran afoul of a new manager, who told her, point-blank, that “You’re really terrible.” She had been trying to learn the ropes, eager to turn a strong interest in the news into a full-time job.
“It was a gut check to really be honest with myself: Am I really going to pursue this career?” recalls Bream, noting that she remains friends with several people with whom she worked in her early days. “It was a kick in the pants.” She may get a kick of another kind on Sunday when she launches a new era at a long-running and much-scrutinized show.
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