AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – He’s a former political editor at Fox News for 10 years. He was the first to call the state of Arizona for Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential race. He also recently testified before the January 6th committee. Chris Stirewalt has now joined Nexstar, the parent company of NewsChannel 6 to take part in their cable news network NewsNation as a political editor. Chris recently wrote a book called, “Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Divides America and How to Fight Back”. It’s a fascinating read, and before it hits shelves on August 23, Chris joins us on The Means Report.
Brad Means: We are so pleased to begin today with Chris Stirewalt, political editor for NewsNation, as I mentioned. Owned and operated by our parent company, Nexstar. Welcome to the Nexstar family, Chris. How’s everything going so far?
Chris Stirewalt: Well, I gotta tell you, of all of the things that got me here, the great Sherry Gretch, who is an executive Nexstar, who I worked with for more than a decade when I was political editor at Fox News. She called my bluff. She said, “You write this book about how we have to make sure that aspirationally fair journalism can work and that there’s a market for it. And you say all this stuff and that sounds good. But what are you doing about?” And she called me out. And I’m so glad to be part of the team because I think there’s just a real demand in America today that is grossly under explored. For again, aspirationally fair news. We won’t get it right every time, right? We know that we will miss. That’s why they call it the rough draft of history, not the final version. But that effort matters to viewers because that creates a different kind of connection instead of an emotional one around parties or ideologies. But around this basic quest for the facts and quest for the truth.
Brad Means: Well, that’s just sort of how NewsNation has built itself ever since it launched. Is that it would be this beacon of fairness and objectivity. I will ask you this though, sort of just to go off track and I promise we’ll talk about your book. They hired you X Fox News guy. They hired Chris Cuomo, the face of CNN. Are you guys just gonna represent opposite ends of the spectrum? What should we expect?
Chris Stirewalt: Well, I don’t know. I know that my job is to offer my analysis. I have an easier job because I have to not care who wins or loses. My job is to provide as much as possible. Again, we always fall short of these standards that we set for ourselves. But what I’m aspiring to do is to provide analysis of how things are going to work politically and what happens next, to help viewers make their own choices and live their own lives. I’m not here to tell anybody to think one way or the other. We all know everybody has their own opinions that they hold in their heart of hearts. I know that the designated pitcher or designated hitter rule is an abomination. And the National League is wrong, wrong, wrong to have accepted it. But it’s not my job to tell people how to play baseball. It’s my job in this analogy, it’s my job to tell people what the consequences will be and how things are going. And to provide a little clearer insight. So I hope Chris Cuomo is very, very successful. And I am not going to argue with him. If he does have a point of view that he wants to bring, it won’t be my job to argue with him. It’ll be my job to provide analysis.
Brad Means: Well, at this point in the interview, viewers may have realized that you’re the gentleman who made the early projection that Joe Biden would win Arizona back in the 2020 Presidential Election. A call that you made on Fox News. It was not popular to understate it, with the Trump Campaign as members of it watched from the White House. Can you outrun that, Chris? Is it still the thing that people approach you about in airport, supermarkets, your neighborhood?
Chris Stirewalt: Oh, you know, it’s… I don’t think of it as something to outrun. The Fox News Decision Desk team that I was very privileged to be a part of, for a bunch of election cycles was the best. And I was proud of the call we made and I’m proud of it still. And I’m proud to have worked with those guys. So I don’t think of it as something to outrun. I think of it as you know, those are stripes on my arm and not scars to bear. So I’m proud of the work we did. And that’s if people don’t like… Here’s the secret, when you call races, half of the people are not gonna be happy, right? About half the people-
Brad Means: Exactly.
Chris Stirewalt: Are not gonna be happy. And that’s okay. That is definitely okay. Democrats were not happy when Fox was one of the first to show in 2016 that Donald Trump was on his way to beating Hillary Clinton. And Republicans didn’t like it in 2020 when we were the first to show the way in which that race was gonna slip away from the Incumbent. And you just have to like… that’s what we do. Your job and my job is to not worry about that stuff and do our job as best we can, when it’s put in front of us.
Brad Means: Chris, let me ask you this. And you touch on your polling methodology and your approach to polling in “Broken News”. Your book, you’re very good at it. Are you going to use that same approach, that same number crunching machine, if you will, for elections on NewsNation? And should we be able to know that we can listen to you on those election nights and know that you’re probably pretty close to a hundred percent accurate on your calls?
Chris Stirewalt: Well, all I can say is that, as far as a hundred percent accurate, we never had to take one back, in a bunch of cycles at Fox, never had to take a call down and that’s cool. There was one Connecticut governor’s race, still gives me a couple of nightmares from time to time. But overall, yes, we batted a thousand, but what’s exciting at NewsNation is the partnership with Decision Desk HQ. These guys are the pirate ship. They’re lean and they’re mean, they’re great race callers. I love them. I’ve admired their work for a long time. Getting to work with them at NewsNation is super exciting, and we’re gonna have a wonderful time on election night. It is gonna rock and roll.
Brad Means: Tell the viewers what you mean, Chris, in the book, and I’m holding it up right now. I know that you can’t see us on your end, but when you talk about in “Broken News” that there’s too much coverage of politics in the media, not enough coverage of government. Explain that distinction.
Chris Stirewalt: Well, look, when I started out a long time ago, in a year that began with 199 back in the paleolithic era political analysis, and this kind of horse race politics was sort of like the weatherman, right? I was an other thing, not the mainstream. Like, “Here’s the news. Now let’s bring in this dude who will tell us what it means politically.” And the problem with it is, is that it is too easy to do poorly, covering things in the way that you guys cover the news day in and day out. What’s going on with state government? What’s going on with the county commission? What’s going on with the city government? How is this working out? What are the experiences and consequences for the people who live in your community, right? What does Georgia think? What does your county think? What does your city think? How’s that going? That’s hard and you know it, right? Because you’ve done it in your career of out there with the shoe shine and a smile, trying to get the story from the court. Trying to get the story from the city council meeting, that stuff is time intensive. And by the way, very often, viewers don’t care. Very often, viewers say, “Okay, well I guess so moving on, isn’t there something sexy? Isn’t there something exciting?” The saying in TV news, I’m sure you’ve heard is, talk is cheap. Putting two chatter heads in a room to bellow at each other like elephant seals on a beach. You’ve already bought the studio, right? That doesn’t absolutely cost you anything. You’re amortizing your costs. Training, equipping, and standing behind reporters to go out and really gather the news and cover government intently is hard and may not deliver. Not only is it expensive, but there’s likely to be a lower return on investment than there is from those elephant scenes.
Brad Means: Well, let me ask you this. I wanna make sure that I get as many questions in, Chris, as I can and I’m sorry. It’s tough to interrupt on Skype, I know, it’s awkward. Let me just ask you a few quick questions.
Chris Stirewalt: Yeah.
Brad Means: Then who should we trust? Because I know that you recommend in the book, that we try to digest several news sources as consumers, and then make a more informed decision at the polls after that. How many shows do we have to watch or articles do we have to read before we think, “Okay, we’re good.” We understand what’s happening in our world.
Chris Stirewalt: Well, everybody has a different need, right? You have a different need for news in the same way people have a different need for how many calories they’re gonna consume in a day. A person that is just a, when I say just a, I don’t mean it in any way, in a derogatory way, but if all you need the news to do is to get through your day and you wanna know the weather and you wanna know if something big is going on and you wanna know why the Interstate was shut down. And then maybe when there’s an election coming up, that you need to be ready to vote. You may not need that much news. If you own a business, you can see how that would scale up, that you would need more over time. But I can tell you this much, the right unit is not 24 hours, right? The correct unit in which to consume news. 24 hours is definitely not that. And one of the things I appreciate, in your community, you know that you’re gonna have to go live with these people, right? The good people of Augusta, in South Carolina and in Georgia. The good people of your region. You have to go to the grocery store with those people. You have to go to civic activities with those people and they remember your name and they know who you are and they either trust you or they don’t. So every time you get behind the desk, every time you’re reporting a story, every time you’re in a meeting, you know that you have accountability to the people in your community and you take that seriously. That’s how you got the reputation you got. So what consumers have to do is think about, “Okay, what’s the source and where do I want to invest my time?” Let’s say I’m only gonna consume an hour, or let’s say in the course of a day, I only wanna spend about an hour of my day thinking or being around news. I’m gonna read the paper in the morning, and then I’m gonna maybe watch some news in the evening, Choose wisely. Pick a trusted voice, pick somebody who has a good track record. So maybe the way to think about it is, the fewer outlets that you use, the higher quality those outlets and sources have to be because you’re asking more of them to deliver.
Brad Means: This book, “Broken News” truly folks, will help you be a more savvy consumer of the media that exists everywhere in our society today. Chris, what would you say quickly to us when it comes to your point about politicians seeking the limelight? They’re more concerned with air time than they are with issues. Should we gravitate toward the low key candidate, the one who just focuses on the issues and doesn’t want the spotlight?
Chris Stirewalt: Well, you have to take it all together. When we think about a leader, we have to think about the two stacks. You got the one stack, which is the policies and how you feel about them. And on the other side is character and you can’t ever have none in either stack, right? You couldn’t support a person who is of good character, but who’s position you hated entirely and vice versa. So when you think about politicians, a warning sign on the character side, I think as the kids would say, is thirsty. If they’re thirsty, if you can tell that they’re thirsty and that the things that they’re saying are to get attention. And if there’s a lot of viralness going on, this is a warning that you might be dealing with a person of low character. And the temptation for these politicians is they say, well, I’m acting like this so that I can get power so that I can use power to do good. But a funny thing happens along the way, they get that old Potomac fever. And pretty soon they realize that the most important thing for them to do is stay in office until the earth is swallowed by the exploding sun and for all times. And then we’ve lost him. So just keep an eye out for the thirsty folks. That’s a warning sign.
Brad Means: Is Donald Trump gonna run again and can he win?
Chris Stirewalt: Well, I think the way to understand Trump is he is running until we hear otherwise, he hasn’t filed papers with the Federal Election Commission, but if it walks like a candidate and it quacks like a candidate, then it’s probably a candidate. And I think the way for us to think about it as journalists and probably as for voters, is to just assume that he is, until he says that he’s not. And yeah, he can certainly win because the Republican party is deeply divided and his supporters are deeply angry. And they’re really tied up in an emotional journey with Trump. It’s been a really damaging, I know it’s an overused word, so please forgive me, but it’s been a trauma. And as a result of the trauma, Republicans on both sides are in weird places and it takes a long time to walk back from that kind of stuff. So he is definitely in a place where he could be the Republican nominee.
Brad Means: Chris, you are a busy man, whether it is writing the book “Broken News”, which by the way, folks, comes out tomorrow, or whether it’s testifying before the January 6th committee or continuing your hard work at NewsNation. I can’t thank you enough for sparing a few moments for us here on The Means Report. Great job and great book.
Chris Stirewalt: Well thank you for making time for me. I appreciate it. Brad Means: Absolutely.