‘When Fox Began It Was This Area of interest Market…That Area of interest Was Actually Half The Nation’

Bret Baier on the set of Fox News Channel’s “Special Report with Bret Baier”

Fox News

Anchor Bret Baier remembers the early days of the Fox News Channel, before Fox became the ratings colossus it is today. “It was always scrappy at the beginning,” Baier told me, recalling that early on, telling people he was from “Fox News” didn’t mean much. “They’d say ‘is that the Simpsons network?’ Or the NFL? And I’d say, no… different. But eventually, it started to sink in, and a few months into the job I would travel around and someone would recognize me or they would say, ‘you’re with Fox. I love Fox because you report, I decide.’ And you know, I thought, this is breaking through.”

“Breaking through” was putting it mildly. As Fox News marks its 25th anniversary this week, the network sits as the unrivaled ratings king of cable news, finishing the third quarter with an average prime time audience of 2.372 million viewers—more than CNN and MSNBC combined—a win that marks Fox’s 79th consecutive quarter as the most-watched cable news network. “We’ve made huge strides over 25 years,” Baier told me. “When Fox started it was this niche market. It turned out the niche was literally half the country.”

Listen to my full interview with Bret Baier, as he talks about the divide between news and opinion at Fox, his new book, and more:

SubstackEpisode 20: Bret Baier, Fox News

Baier joined the network as the Southeast Bureau chief—at a time when the bureau was essentially Baier’s Atlanta apartment, outfitted with little more than a fax machine and a cell phone. “I bounced around the Southeast and South and Central America,” Baier said, until September 11, 2001, when he was sent to the Pentagon. “I started doing live shots outside the burning Pentagon for Fox affiliates around the country, and I never left.”

Bret Baier reporting from the Pentagon on September 12, 2001

Fox News

Baier moved to cover the Pentagon full time, and he didn’t even get back to Atlanta to pack his bags. The network sent movers to box up Baier’s apartment and ship it to his new place. At that time, Baier would often report live for Brit Hume’s show Special Report, which was building a loyal following for hard news even as the network’s opinion hosts were drawing huge ratings in prime time. “Bret told me ‘if you build it, they will come. It’s not about you, it’s about the news.’” And that’s the mindset Baier keeps to today, as he anchors Special Report and draws some of Fox News’ highest ratings outside prime time. In the third quarter, Special Report with Bret Baier was the fifth highest-rated show in all of cable news in the key demo of adults 25-54.

“It has become a loyal following,” Baier said. “One of the things that’s really the secret sauce if you will is authenticity—the ability to not talk down to viewers, and to bring them in and say, hey, here’s what we know. And here’s what you should know.”

Baier, who recently signed a new long-term contract with the network, says he can imagine spending the rest of his career at Fox News. “There are a ton of people who’ve been here for 24, 25 years,” Baier said. “That is a really rare thing in the news business, but particularly in TV news…and there’s a reason for that. There’s a reason people stay. Now listen, I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say that we had easy times through some of the dark moments that we’ve seen in the past. But collectively, we’ve gotten through all that. And I think it’s a great place to work.”

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