One of the toughest jobs in the news business has got to be Fox News Chief White House Correspondent, especially during a Democratic administration. That’s part of the reason the job pays so well, because no matter how you try to do the job, you face significant obstacles. The news culture at Fox News is such that the Fox News reporter, even a reporter acting in good faith, is met with suspicion, facing criticism and diminished credibility from both sources and colleagues. Additionally, that news culture places pressure on journalists to tailor their reporting to the fox news audience, often in contravention to things like facts and logic.
Fox News reporters of all stripes face these challenges, but they are magnified on the White House beat, where your profile is higher, and where relationships with sources are particularly important. Fox News reporters, White house reporters especially, approach the job in one of three ways:
2. They maintain high journalistic standards for awhile, are undermined by (and then succumb to) both the pressure of that editorial culture, and the assumption by everyone else that they already have.
3. They maintain high journalistic standards, are undermined by Fox News’ editorial culture, don’t leave, and are repeatedly passed over for promotion (Wendell Goler was at Fox News since 1996, and was consistently passed over for Chief WH Correspondent repeatedly, before he retired last month).
The current occupant of the Fox news seat, Ed Henry, falls into the second category. Hired away from CNN to replace Major Garrett when Garrett stepped down to accept a position at National Journal, Ed played it straight for a good long time after he went to Fox News, but was immediately attacked as a right-wing Fox News tool, was cut into a Republican political ad, and eventually, was edited by Fox News to look like he was being a wingnut tool when he really wasn’t. Rather than quit or toil in obscurity, Ed adapted.
One of the worst things about being a Fox News reporter (or any Fox news personality), though, is that it means you’re not allowed to speak, publicly, to Tommy Christopher. This injunction goes back many years, to my days at AOL’s PoliticsDaily, and might possibly stem from any of several incidents. That’s a story for another Members Only column. Ed Henry, consequently, is not allowed to talk to me, even if he wanted to, but fortunately, I got to interview him twice when he was still at CNN.
I’ve tried to convey to Banter readers the Ed Henry that I know, who is a naturally talented reporter with a knack for well-constructed questions, whose current employment has undermined and obscured his gifts. In this pair of interviews, you get a much better sense of Ed Henry, as a reporter and a human being, than you would from watching him on TV. In our first interview, we talked a lot about the job, and particularly about how Ed approaches it. For the first time anywhere, here is the full, unedited video of that interview, which took place in the Brady Briefing Room on January 28, 2010.
A few months later, in April, I interviewed Ed again, this time for a more pop culture-oriented site I was freelancing for, so this interview shows more of Ed’s human side. It also includes the tail end of a conversation in which I explain to him why I got fired by PoliticsDaily, and a few minutes of candid over-roll at the end, in which we try to remember which one was Betty, and which one was Veronica. Like Chuck Todd, Ed doesn’t have any tattoos, but he does take the opportunity to point out my tattoo, so you get to learn about that too. The picturesque setting is the walkway behind “Pebble Beach,” the area next to the north Lawn where reporters do their live standups: