Friday, October 4, 2013

5Qs on Friday: Gretchen Carlson

Fox News' Gretchen Carlson Gets Real in Daytime

If ever there was a week to launch a daytime TV show with more journalistic heft than your everyday talk show, this week is it, with the ongoing government shutdown and the open-enrollment period beginning for the highly controversial Affordable Care Act.

With perfect timing, in steps former Fox News & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson with The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson (weekdays, 2pm Eastern).

The show, which debuted on Monday, is a hybrid talk-news program that, at times, is light and bright. There's a comfy corner for one-on-one interviews. The show is lively when panelists are on. And it's newsy when Gretchen kicks off each episode with the day's big stories. Throughout the show, Gretchen shows off skills she has picked up over more than two decades in TV journalism, notably at Fox News since 2005 and CBS News before that.

Gretchen spoke with TVFirstLook about The Real Story, refereeing talking heads shouting on either side of her and inviting Middle America into her discussions.

TVFirstLook: Congrats on the show. What's your vision for The Real Story?

Gretchen Carlson: My vision is that this is an all-inclusive show. I'm from the Midwest and, sometimes, the news is about the coasts, California and New York. I want to make sure everyone from the heartland and the coasts is included in the show.

I also feel that I owe it to my viewers to make sure I get to the heart of the matter and I get real answers from the people I am interviewing.

I also want people to feel that the show is real and genuine. This is who I am and I hope it's coming across.

TVFirstLook: On the show, and on Fox & Friends before this, you juggle serious news stories with lighter fare. How do you do that?

Gretchen: We did a lot of that on Fox and Friends, which I did for seven years. I was at CBS News before that. There are a lot of wonderful things I gained from that. My goal is to be multidimensional and showcase all aspects of my personality and all aspects of the news.

This week, we had a story about a New York Giants player who decided to remain a virgin until marriage. I find that fascinating. People want to know about that. If that's lighter fare, then that's what we are doing. But we are also on top of the breaking news of the day.

My background is hard news. I worked all over the country, so I always fall back on that every day when I interview world politicians who are making the world's decisions, right or wrong.

TVFirstLook: The Power Panel discussions on the show, like the discussion about whether women can have it all on Wednesday, are really fun. Do you think you will do more of that going forward?

Gretchen: We are going to have power panels with women, but we are also going to have power panels with men. I feel men are sometimes forgotten in cultural discussions, so I want to make sure we include men.

We start off the panels with important topics like Obamacare. We will also have a panel on faith from time to time, including believers and non-believers. We'll also talk to parents about raising children. We're on during the day, so we are talking to a lot of moms and dads at home.

TVFirstLook: All right, how do you referee when you have two passionate experts talking over each other on either side of you?

Gretchen: It's easier to manage when they are in the studio two feet away from you.

But it's always a work in progress. You want to be fair to both people and make sure that both points of view are laid out. You want to do it for viewers, too. Viewers don't love it when people are screaming at each other.

TVFirstLook: OK, last thing. You won Miss America in 1989. How important has that been in your career?

Gretchen:  It has really been a wonderful career platform. I had the opportunity to learn amazing communication skills by being Miss America. You are in a new town every day giving a keynote speech to many people, often without a lot of preparation.

I always say that was the most difficult job I ever had. It was so demanding. The communication skills from meeting so many people during that year is similar to all the people I interview now. There are a lot of parallels. Making sure guests feel comfortable is so important.

Every single day I use talent from what I gained that year. It was a jumping-off point. It was an amazing accomplishment. After that, I went back to school and started in the TV business at ground zero.

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