This September feels like a new school year for Shannon Bream.
After hosting “Fox News @ Night” for three years, the 51-year-old broadcast journalist says she feels a “mix of nerves and excitement” while awaiting the first day of her new job as “Fox News Sunday” anchor.
The transition from an evening show to morning is still sinking in for Bream, who makes her debut on Fox stations Sunday (check local listings).
“It was funny,” Bream says over Zoom from her home office Wednesday, as her English cream Labrador Biscuit quietly waited by the door. “I felt like going to work today. I’m packing up and leaving, and my hours are totally different! My husband’s like, ‘It’s like you’re going to your first day of school.’ It kind of feels like that. A new team, a new teacher. “
Bream, the third anchor and first woman to lead “Sunday” in its 26-year history, knows she has big shoes to fill. Tony Snow, who hosted the show from 1996-2003, went on to serve as President George W. Bush’s press secretary, and Chris Wallace departed the network last year for a show on the short-lived CNN + streaming service that will move to HBO Max and CNN later this month.
“One of the first people to congratulate me was a really nice email I got from Chris (Wallace),” Bream says. “He talked about the standard the show had set, and he was really glad I was going to step into those shoes and gave me a great vote of confidence, which was very kind of him.”
Bream plans to build on Wallace and Snow’s legacies while carving her own. Here’s how she’s going to do it. (Edited for length and clarity.)
Shannon Bream named ‘Fox News Sunday’ anchor, replacing Chris Wallace: ‘Extremely grateful’
Question: What do you hope you get to do on “Fox News Sunday” that you couldn’t do on “Fox News @ Night”?
Shannon Bream: Much of it will carry over, which is the hard news, the pressing people for answers. The lawmakers who know us know they’re going to get a fair shot when they come on. We spend a lot of time doing that on ‘Fox News @ Night,’ and the Democrats and Republicans alike who come on would come back, because they say, ‘We were treated fairly. We got a chance to air our opposition and our viewpoints. ‘ I want to make sure it’s a place that people feel they can come for meaningful, deeper conversations. A lot of times the loudest voices, the most extreme on either end, get a lot of attention. Instead of just focusing on the divisions, what’s harder is to find places where some of these people may have common ground and may actually be able to move the ball a little bit in a way that benefits all Americans.
What’s it like taking on this job in our current political climate?
The minute I’m outside (Washington, DC), and I talk to people like my family, people I meet at the airport, they all say the same thing: Yes, we’re divided, but Americans at their core really do care about each other, and we care about our communities. Some of them feel underrepresented. Why is there always just the fighting and the division? That’s got to be part of the conversation, but you can take it to that next step and say, ‘Let’s not demonize people we disagree with. Where is that common ground? Can we make some progress? ‘
How have you been preparing for your first day?
I found a picture the other day that really kind of sums me up. My mom took a picture of me – I was always such a bookworm as a kid, I still am now – but I had the big glasses, and I’m walking out the door, and I’m juggling books, and I’m reading this book while my mom’s yelling at me, ‘Let’s go! It’s time for school! Get in the car! ‘ She took a picture of me, and I thought, ‘That’s me.’ I love digging in and researching and having my nose in a book. So many of these policy discussions, you really have to understand the ins and outs of what’s happening. There’s a lot of research, and I love that part of the job.
What does becoming the first female anchor of “Sunday” mean to you and what do you hope it means to viewers?
I look back at women in the business like Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters and Lesley Stahl, and they really paved the way. There’s nothing controversial about saying ‘Fox News Sunday’ is going to have a female host. There’s no meltdown over it, because they laid the groundwork and really made a path for me. I feel very grateful, and it makes me really reflect on women who had to fight and scrap for those positions. Hopefully any little girl who’s coming up behind me will say, ‘There’s no limit on what I can do in this business.’
How do you plan to separate yourself from Chris Wallace as “Sunday” host?
We’ll be the same at the core. We’re going to have deep policy conversations and demand answers from people and include all sides in the conversation. But l want to broaden beyond the Beltway on a more regular basis. There are big cultural issues out there. There are entertainment, sports, faith issues that draw people in a different way. We want to spotlight those, too, and have different conversations with people who may see things from a different angle.
How do you cope with animosity against the press?
There are times I take a little sabbatical from social media. Social media is funny, because I can do a broadcast, and at the end of that show, have some people on Twitter saying, ‘Why are you so in the tank for Trump? You’re such a MAGA. ‘ And then, the very same broadcast, I have people on the other side who say, ‘You have no respect for President Trump. How could you be so wrong about him? How could you be so hard on him? ‘ If you’re just going straight down the middle reporting the facts, people’s own frustrations come out. People are very emotional about the news, so if you’re taking fire from both sides, you’re probably right down the middle.
You recently shared you were fired from your first on-air journalism job at a Tampa, Florida TV station. If you could speak to the person who fired you today, what would you say?
I would honestly start by saying thank you, because he gave me a huge wake-up call. I was transitioning from being a lawyer to a reporter. I didn’t have a communications or journalism background. It really was one of those things where he said, ‘You’re terrible.’ And I probably was! I was so new with the business, learning by the seat of my pants, and it was very humbling, which is a good thing to learn in this business. It forced me to say, ‘OK, if this is really what I’m going to do, it’s time to watch your tapes. Is your voice weird? Is your delivery strange? How is your research? How does the storytelling go? ‘ There’s always room for improvement, no matter what level you get to, and I had a long way to go. It was super painful at the time, but I learned so much from it. I’m actually grateful to him, because he really forced me to get real with myself and tackle what I needed to improve.