In a new interview with LaCorte News, journalist and longtime cable news host Greta Van Susteren spoke about her new show on Voice of America, the desire to tell stories outside of the day-to-day political jousting, and her continuing pursuit to strengthen the quality of the media business.
Van Susteren has a long career in the news world, having hosted shows on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. She was interviewed by LCN founder Ken LaCorte and a full audio recording of the interview is below.
FROM CABLE NEWS TO VOICE OF AMERICA
GRETA: It’s no secret that everyone knows I love foreign policy stories … because they actually have a real impact back here at home. It’s not just something happens in Thailand … the price of products become very cheap in Thailand so suddenly people in my hometown of Appleton, WI have to make a decision do they buy a cheap shirt made in Thailand or do they spend more that’s made here in the United States.
On her new show on Voice of America, which you can also watch on her Facebook page, Van Susteren is engaging in this type of storytelling, a shift from much of her work on the cable news big three.
GRETA: These stories have a real impact on the United States and I’ve had a deep interest in them and I always wanted to do more. Now as it turns out, when Roger Ailes left Fox News I was able to make a decision whether to stay or to leave and one of the things I wanted to do … was that I wanted to get to the point where I could do four specials a year on these stories … for whatever reason they want to hear more on domestic policy and Rupert [Murdoch] and I didn’t hit it off. We had other arguments and disagreements so I left.
However, despite her departure from Fox News, the host explains that the network never pressured her to say certain things on the show, despite claims from critics that there’s a top-down structure pressuring on-air personalities to speak in a particular way.
GRETA: I never, at CNN and Fox, I never once felt any influence. If they [viewers] didn’t like my show, blame me. I was less comfortable at MSNBC and I’ll leave it at that. Fox News never told me what to say ever, and I make that point only because the narrative of it in the world is that we’re all sitting in a room drinking Kool-Aid.
Last week, VOA debuted the new show called “Plugged In With Greta Van Susteren,” a 30-minute weekly program she’s doing on a volunteer basis.
Funded by the U.S. government, VOA is the largest U.S. international broadcaster and serves as the federal government’s official media institution for non-military, external broadcasting.
GRETA: This is a great opportunity for me. It feeds right into what my interests are and I’m loving it. And more and more people are leaving television and getting their news off the internet so I see VOA having a great impact over the next couple years in the United States than was ever dreamed.
ON MEDIA BIAS
GRETA: I think money is a huge problem and for whatever reason, if you have a show that is just jazzed up with fancy talk and fancy sound bites it’s going to get a lot of talk and a lot of eyeballs and that’s a detraction I think from the mission. The mission is to get the facts whatever they may be, now, however, the chips may fall. The facts are the star to me. It’s not the anchor. It’s the facts.
I happen to think the American people are extremely smart and I don’t have to tell them how to think. But I do have the ability to go out and get facts for them while they’re busy at work and it’s my job to go out and get facts for them.
I like transparency. I like to know someone’s horrible opinion when I read someone’s writing but I don’t think somebody or anybody comes into this business without an opinion. The question is if you can rise above it and be able to discern the difference between fact and opinion. If your job is to talk about facts, then talk about facts to the extent that opinions get slipped in there, you know you hope that you make it evident that it’s opinion to the people who are consuming the news so that they know that ‘ok now we are moving away from Ken’s recitation of facts to Ken’s opinion’ whether you like it or not.
WHERE’S JOURNALISM AT — AND WHERE’S IT GOING?
Overall, Van Susteren sees a void to be filled in the media business — one that’s centered around straight news reporting.
GRETA: I think your journalism organization [LaCorte News] is a sign of what’s to come and others because I think what’s happening … is that I think people are getting very upset with the news organizations.
They’re reaching out for news organizations that come not necessarily without viewpoints but at least without coming with rage or viewpoints or getting everybody revved up. Straight news — I think there is a vacuum to be filled there.
Among her chief concerns is that the line between fact and opinion is often blurred — and that reporters and editors are far too willing to air their political grievances on platforms like Twitter.
GRETA: I think people forgot the mission of what news is. I think if I ran a newsroom I would make everyone in my newsroom audit a law course at a local law school in evidence, where you learn about fact vs. opinion, hearsay vs. corroborated statements, what gossip is … I’m shocked to see some of the stuff that journalists put online.
Furthermore, Van Susteren laments how quickly news organizations move on to the next story — without finishing or providing updates on past ones.
GRETA: One of my regrets about the news business, and I’m guilty of this, is that we cover stories and then we sort of move on to the next story the next story we never really finish stories.
I find it deeply disturbing that a family in Florida named the Levinson family still don’t know what happened to former FBI agent Bob Levinson who I think it was either 2007 or 2009 disappeared in Iran … but my problem is that the media has a huge spotlight and it’s not using its spotlight to pound on the issue to encourage governments like our own to do something and I think that family might get some information. I think we owe it to the Levinson family.
LISTEN TO THE FULL AUDIO INTERVIEW: