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Margaret Brennan Works Her Dream Job at Face The Nation

“We have the gift of an hour each Sunday and our goal to deliver our news and interviews with context and humanity for our viewers.”



A photo of Margaret Brennan
(Photo: CBS News)

Margaret Brennan achieved a significant milestone in 2018 by becoming the second woman to host CBS News’ iconic broadcast Face The Nation. Since then, she has not only moderated the influential Sunday morning program but has also assumed the role of CBS News’ chief foreign affairs correspondent based in Washington, D.C.

Brennan’s journey to her current role has been shaped by her diverse experiences, including stints at CNBC and Bloomberg Television, where she covered global financial markets for a decade. Her time on Wall Street gave her the ability to foresee the implications of financial decisions, even when approaching them from a political angle.

“I think that having spent a decade covering Wall Street and doing so at some pivotal moments, like the financial crisis of 2008/2009, and then the European debt crisis that really became a global one years later at Bloomberg,” she recalled, “all of that does continue to inform how I understand and think of the intersection of economy, politics, policy, and society.”

With the upcoming presidential election, Brennan shared her vision for the show’s coverage of the economy’s role in shaping political narratives. She emphasized CBS polling that reflects issues like the economy and the ever-rising cost of living as major concerns for many Americans.

“These themes also influence how they think in their confidence level about the future and connects to the political choices they want, and will make for who to represent them,” she said.

Highlighting dedication to present a balanced view of the economy and its implications to viewers she said, “We will constantly bring that into our conversations because it is the conversation the American people are having.”

As the media landscape evolves with new social media advancements and AI-generated content, Brennan remains steadfast in her commitment to journalistic integrity. She expressed her concern over the erosion of trust in institutions, including journalism, and the impact it has on society’s ability to function. “I believe as a journalist, that our role is there to help educate and inform the public,” Brennan emphasized.

Beyond her professional achievements, Brennan offered a candid glimpse into her personal life, discussing the delicate balance between her career and motherhood. As a working mother, Brennan is well aware of the challenges many women face when juggling various roles.

“Every woman I know, every mom I know, wonders if they’re getting it right at that moment,” she said. Balancing career aspirations with family commitments is a universal struggle, and Brennan’s openness about her experiences resonates with countless women navigating similar paths.

Veronica Dudo: You’ve moderated Face the Nation for five years. What’s been the most rewarding part of the job?

Margaret Brennan: The most rewarding feeling is when you walk away having learned something new or revealed some element of an issue that matters. Another rewarding part is seeing the commitment from the entire Face the Nation team to produce civil, contextualized conversation with perspective on a weekly basis. I’m a curious person by nature and being able to put that curiosity to use every Sunday and bring the viewer along to learn something new is rewarding. 

News cycles are relentless and there’s a barrage of headlines hitting people every day. Part of the reward is digesting that information and untangling what matters to share useful information with our viewers.

VD: Was your goal always to work in front of the camera?

MB: No. I studied foreign affairs and Middle East studies (and minored in Arabic) at the University of Virginia. At that point, I was interested in something having to do with diplomacy but, like many young people, I wasn’t quite sure of the exact vocation that would allow me to explore all of what interested me.

My mom will tell you that from a young age, I had a curiosity for what was happening around the world. We would always have newspapers at home and, when there was breaking news, we’d watch the broadcasts. It was fascinating to me to watch events unfold and as a student, I was drawn to understanding inflection points in history and social movements where you saw individuals or groups change the direction of their society. I didn’t realize it at the time but that’s essentially what politics and policy are about.

The Middle East was my area of focus in foreign affairs while studying at the University of Virginia. This was pre-9/11. I went abroad to Jordan and when I came back I had a very different appreciation for first-hand experience. I would also share my frustration with my mom about the news not fully grasping the scope of the story or what was happening on the ground. She encouraged me to try journalism and put that frustration to good use. 

I landed a summer internship in Atlanta, at CNN’s international news desk, and the rest was history. I knew my calling was in journalism. 

VD: With so many outlets and planforms vying for viewers—what’s unique about Face the Nation?

MB: We have a hardworking team – led by our executive producer Mary Hager – that puts a premium on going beyond the headlines and to the heart of a given issue we are covering. We’re not after soundbites. The show is not about me. There is no opinion. Our viewers are seeking context and understanding of the current events and policy decisions that are impacting their lives. We try our best each Sunday to elicit answers from our guests that address those needs and hopefully set the agenda for the week that follows.

VD: What do you consider your greatest unforeseen career opportunity that came your way?

MB: I do believe in the idea that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. The big opportunities are often not completely obvious at the moment. 

Getting a call from my agent asking if I wanted to try out to be the next moderator of Face the Nation was one of them. It was a dream job. I didn’t imagine that I’d get it.

One of the high wire act attributes of this field of work is that you’re asking questions of powerful people and can actually impact politics and policy. I did not appreciate that until I became a CBS correspondent covering the State Department and then the White House. 

VD: What is the piece of advice you find yourself giving over and over again?

MB: Do your homework. Be prepared. Work hard. Be curious. 

VD: Who are/were your role models personally or professionally?

MB: There are many professionals that I admire in our field. When I was starting out, it was Christianne Amanpour who inspired me. She seemed bold and brave in the field and continues to bring that presence and poise to her current work. 

VD: How do you define success?

MB: As a journalist, you want to get that interview no one else has been able to get. You want to be first, but also accurate and fair. To me, success looks like earning and keeping the trust and respect of your viewers. To know that viewers are counting on you to hold those who come on our show accountable and that we’re gonna try our best to have a conversation of substance. I feel that our work to keep the public informed is essential to the health of our democracy.

I’m also a mom and a wife. Success these days – and it’s not easy and the juggling doesn’t always go as smoothly as I want it to – means showing up and being present for those around me at home and elsewhere. Easier said than done!

VD: Was there a moment or opportunity that changed your life? 

MB: Many, many of those moments. I couldn’t summarize it down just to one. Meeting and marrying my husband. Giving birth to two little boys. The opportunities that my parents gave me as a young shy girl to lean into my interests and strengths, and to have a great education. The people who greenlit the internships that I got in news and, years later, took the gamble of putting a producer on air to report. Working in financial news in the midst of the financial crisis and debt crisis.

The executives who gave me the next opportunities including bringing me to CBS in DC after covering Wall Street for a decade in New York. Friends who helped keep me going when I had to make tough choices or got shot down. Colleagues who helped me learn the ropes on new beats. The network for investing in my development and ultimately giving me the opportunity to moderate Face the Nation. The amazing team of producers who work alongside me to navigate this news environment.

VD: What are the main challenges as a journalist when it comes to covering heavy/tragic topics?

MB: You have a limited amount of time you can dedicate to a story per broadcast. One of the main challenges is doing justice to the pain and devastation people are living when you have to distill a heavy or tragic topic into a single segment. We’re also human and the news weighs on us too.

At Face the Nation, we rely on CBS News’ team of correspondents to not only help set the scene for national topics we cover on a weekly basis like the economy or extreme weather, but also to provide that context and first-person interviews with people affected by a tragedy like a mass shooting or the Maui wildfire. We have the gift of an hour each Sunday and our goal to deliver our news and interviews with context and humanity for our viewers.

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The Time is Right For Rupert Murdoch to Leave, But Is it Right For Fox News?

Murdoch may have never wanted to retire but there’s probably no reason for him to stay. His work is finished.

Jessie Karangu



A photo of Rupert Murdoch

The writers of Succession couldn’t write the script we saw come into full display on Thursday. Out of nowhere, one of the most consequential media leaders of our time decided to resign. Rupert Murdoch will ride off into the sunset having left a legacy that has changed media and the state of our democracy forever.

Rupert Murdoch has elected presidents, changed mindsets, and caused hysteria and pandemonium for billions of people over the course of his career. It may not be hyperbolic to say he is one of the few media titans who could’ve had a direct impact on your personal life. Whether you love him or hate him, he was successful at the machine he wanted to create. He has decisively been a shadow emperor of the Western world for the past 20-40 years.

Because of the blueprint he has set in stone, don’t expect Fox News to ever change, even if he isn’t at the helm any longer. The fact is that numbers don’t lie. Fox News commands retransmission fees that are comparable to ESPN, TNT, and the USA Network without carrying any live sporting events. It is one of Fox’s biggest revenue generators despite losing an epic lawsuit to Dominion. It is one of the networks keeping the cable bundle alive and will help prolong it as much as possible because of its existing base.

Speaking of its base, the fact that it has a base in the first place speaks volumes. Fox News has something every other network on television only envies: super fans. There have been pitfalls along the way over the past three or four years but in general, Fox News finds a way to consistently beat its opponents in the demo as well as in overall viewers.

The network has had to switch out hosts for various reasons over the past couple of years but because of its formula of storytelling and team building, viewers don’t leave in droves.

It may not be journalism but it is the perfect way to keep allegiances and it has worked for Fox. Whether it was his tabloids, his syndicated shows, or his news network, Rupert Murdoch has always insisted on creating an environment of “Us vs. Them” for a group of people whose unique diversity is often underestimated. Murdoch has consistently found a way to turn anger and fear into dollars and if it ain’t broke, why fix the Fox?

The successor taking over for Rupert Murdoch also isn’t an unfamiliar seed of discomfort and madness. Lachlan Murdoch has had a say and has been in discussions about Fox’s direction for decades. Some reports say that his own way of thinking is to the right of his father. If there is any child of Rupert’s who supports the path of destruction and illusion that Fox News has created over time, it’s Lachlan.

One of the few problems that Fox may face is purely logistical. It has been reported that Lachlan enjoys living in Australia more than the United States. Operating a television behemoth from another continent could be risky, especially after the behemoth has allowed anchors to vomit election lies on screen and allegedly commit sexual assault off-screen. But that shouldn’t affect the network’s ability to operate because Lachlan has already been serving as co-chair even before this week’s announcement.

One of the biggest reasons you shouldn’t expect Fox to change is because they’re the only network that has broken the code. Newsmax, Megyn Kelly, Glenn Beck, and Tucker Carlson have tried or are trying. But they haven’t been successful. They achieved a level of prosperity in their own right but their numbers and margins of profitability are nowhere close to what Fox News makes. Their concurrent reach cannot even be compared.

The closest rival that has been able to penetrate some sort of mainstream relevance, although exclusively online, is The Daily Wire. And yet even with Ben Shapiro’s respective empire, it will be hard to match what Fox makes because of the business model Fox falls under. There isn’t any imminent competition that could drag Fox down and truly challenge the amount of viewers they receive or the kind of money they make. 

Murdoch may have never wanted to retire but there’s probably no reason for him to stay. His work is finished. His worldview has a daily effect on the lives of billions. As the business models for media continue to change, it’s better to leave at the top than to try to solve the next problem.

Titans like Bob Iger and Mark Thompson could look back at Murdoch’s decision years ago and wonder why they didn’t leave as a champion as he did. Unless there was a pie coming at his face during a hearing in the United Kingdom, one of the biggest strengths of Rupert Murdoch is that he always knew when the time was right.

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What News/Talk Can Learn From A Sports Host Like Mad Dog Russo

How are you taking the news that is relevant in our space and making it stand out to the audience and making it relatable to your audience?



A photo of Chris "Mad Dog" Russo
(Photo: Scott Cook, Rollins College)

Sports media had one of its best viral moments in recent memory this week when Chris “Mad Dog” Russo shared his Saturday college football plans with the audience of ESPN’s First Take

Russo was talking with Stephen A. Smith and Marcus Spears about this weekend’s game between Colorado and Oregon when Molly Qerim told Russo to share with the rest of the panel his plans for the weekend.

Russo went on to describe his Saturday afternoon, blow-by-blow, which included a cocktail and “half a THC gummy” for the noon ET games. After the first slate of games, Russo planned to make a call to his bookie, place a $10,000 bet on Colorado to beat Oregon, and then another cocktail, along with the “other half” of his gummy.

It was pure entertainment from Russo. He wasn’t trying too hard, it wasn’t over the top, but it was brilliant content.

The clip has been viewed millions of times since it aired because it was real, relatable, honest, funny, self-deprecating and delivered perfectly.

Only a handful would have seen or heard this clip, other than those watching the show in real-time, had they just done the standard “media talking heads break down the big college football game of the weekend”. But to Russo’s credit, he likely understands in today’s media landscape that the die-hards who want a full Oregon-Colorado breakdown can get that in a ton of different places in 2023. What’s he going to bring that’s unique, different, and stands out? And that’s exactly what he did.

As it pertains to news/talk radio, or news media at large, how do you have that Mad Dog-Gummy moment? It doesn’t need to literally be you talking about taking gummies before the next GOP debate on September 27th (although anything that helps get through one of those disasters would be welcomed). But how are you taking the news that is relevant in our space and making it stand out to the audience and making it relatable to your audience?

While it’s anecdotal, whenever I bump into KCMO listeners, the biggest feedback on the show is not my takes on Trump, Biden, Kansas City city council, or anything else for that matter, it’s, “I like when you talk about your girls.”

I have two daughters, four and two, who are absolutely incredible, entertaining, and yes, nightmare toddlers sometimes. When it’s relevant and topical, I will bring them up. I talk about them far less than the news, but they’re the “topic” that always gets the organic feedback.

Like Russo’s moment, it gives the audience insight into who we are as people, beyond what we think about the topic(s) of the day. 

This doesn’t mean that a four-hour show should be about your weekend plans or your kids throwing up in their beds at night (although I could rip off a few of those stories and kill a few segments). But picking and choosing those moments will help you stand out in an overcrowded media landscape where the audience has options galore and needs more reasons than ever to come back to you and your show.

Give them insight into not just you the host/personality, but you the person. 

I can’t think of the last time cable news or news talk had a viral moment like Mad Dog Russo. But maybe you can be next.

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A News/Talk Radio Autopsy After the BNM Summit

The news/talk audience is getting older. This is somewhat self-inflicted. We are still doing our shows in the same template Rush Limbaugh innovated in 1987. Time to change it up. 

Avatar photo



A photo of a panel at the 2023 BNM Summit

After the inaugural BNM Summit, I was more excited about our industry after the two-day event. Radio in many ways is a solitary pursuit.

Teamwork is sometimes not a factor in a morning show with a cast. You walk into the studio, put on the headphones, turn on the mic and go. I needed some excitement, some good news, and the chance to meet new friends and renew longtime relationships. I got it.

As an industry, we have been pummeled by bad headlines: some of which are self-inflicted, and some are challenges for our future. If you believe the headlines, smelting lead would be a better career choice. I don’t believe that, and you shouldn’t either. While smelting lead seems like an exciting career other than the whole lead poisoning thing, perhaps that is better than radio station break room coffee. 

Have you ever considered how bad radio station coffee is? I don’t drink it. I drink a pot of my own before I strut into the office. Perhaps, it is time to call any reputable health inspector in to inspect that thicker than tar swill. 

Radio is a terrific profession. How many jobs provide more laughs than broadcasting? It is fun.  I have worked a bit outside the radio industry. Real-world jobs suck. Our stations develop awesome advertising campaigns for clients. Why not us? We don’t publicize our strengths.  Podcasts are great, but when did a podcast raise money for the local foster children? When did a podcast show up at a client’s office with a smile and donuts? TikTok? Those Chinese Communist bastards are poisoning our kids. YouTube? Cool content, but the Google-owned platform is as likely to build commonalities with your neighbors as a lion is likely to lay down with a lamb. 

Radio is a cool job. One where you can make a difference. It’s not exactly like Mother Theresa….  but it’s better than being an influencer on Instagram. 

I am ranting.

You know who I am sick of? The radio coroner gang. Radio still reaches a majority of the American public. Your local big network TV affiliates may reach less than 40% of the public.  They are no longer a big deal. Don’t give them any respect. Those jerks don’t deserve it, except for that pretty reporter who would be lucky to be my next wife. I know that I am old enough to be her dad, but hey, old dudes need love, too. 

Radio is vital and needed. Radio needs to look itself in the mirror and say “We are essential”. I was in the room in Nashville with men and women who see a future. The BNM Summit delivered that.

By the way, the brother and sisterhood at the BNM Summit was strong. I haven’t been hugged this much since a family reunion. I wish that you could have been there. It was amazing. I really was pumped up. We matter. You matter. Your ideas are important. 

We have challenges. We need to address issues with Gen Z and the generations to follow them. Radio does have issues with innovation. We run the same clocks that we did in 1970. We sweep the corners, which is stupid and does not reflect actual radio listening. If you are in a PPM market and are sweeping the corners, reevaluate your tune-ins per hour. Look at that carefully. So, your host comes out of the break at :27, and news is at “30. I guarantee your tune-out rate is through the roof. 

You need 5 minutes of continuous listening to get credit. A listener is as likely to start listening at 23 minutes past the hour than almost any other time. Yet, we still sweep the corners. It’s insane. You may not like PPM. It is a fair assessment, but adapt or die. We have not adapted to PPM and radio has been using this technology for well over a decade. 

The news/talk audience is getting older. This is somewhat self-inflicted. We are still doing our shows in the same template Rush Limbaugh innovated in 1987. Time to change it up. PPM gives us tools. If you delight in being a political insider, you are going to demo old. Go to a political event. It is geezer-rific. Talk about the interests of a 45-year-old. You can beat this.  You have the tools, you have the data, and you have the talent.

I was watching a YouTube video on East St. Louis. That city in Illinois is now one of the most violent places in the USA. It was not always that way. East St. Louis was once a vibrant community with a bustling downtown, strong industry, and a great future. The community got complacent, and the employers started to leave. The city was not focused on growing and it has become a shell of the great place it was at one time. 

Radio needs to look at that. What is next? Where is the innovation? How do we change the momentum? It’s all up to us. There are thought leaders in our industry reading this. These are brilliant people. I don’t claim to have the answers, but I know where we need to focus.

Being in the room with amazing leaders in the radio industry brought me more excitement.  The BNM Summit was exactly what I needed. I could not be more enthusiastic about our future. Am I naïve? Perhaps. Do I understand the power of radio? Absolutely. 

The power is in your hands. May every moment on your radio station essential. 

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