30 Most Impactful TV Newsers of the Past 15 Years: Neil Cavuto

By A.J. Katz 

To mark the 15th anniversary of TVNewser this month, Adweek honored the 30 Most Impactful TV Newsers of the Past 15 Years, spotlighting the personalities and execs who were instrumental in the industry’s incredible decade-and-a-half evolution. TVNewser will be presenting expanded versions of each honoree’s  interview.

Neil Cavuto

  • Job title: Svp, anchor and managing editor of business news for Fox Business Network and Fox News Channel; anchor of Cavuto: Coast to Coast on Fox Business Network; anchor of Your World with Neil Cavuto and Cavuto Live, on Fox News.
  • In January 2004, when TVNewser launched, Cavuto was host of Your World with Neil Cavuto, on Fox News.

Adweek: What were you doing 15 years ago, in January 2004?

Neil Cavuto: Like pretty much everyone in the news business back then, I was revving up for another Presidential election. The incumbent, George W. Bush, already was seeing his post-terror success being chipped away with the deteriorating war in Iraq. But I remember as well the stock market had just scored an enormous comeback in 2003, and one that would continue into 2004 and right through 2007, before the big financial meltdown in 2008. It was an interesting snapshot in time. Bush would go on to get re-elected, the very same year a fellow named Barack Obama emerged on the national scene with a rousing speech at that summer’s Democratic National Convention on behalf of John Kerry. The rest, as they say, is history.

What is the biggest way that TV news has changed over the past 15 years?

It’s just much faster and much more immediate. Social media, which was just getting its electronic sea legs back in 2004, has now substantially changed not only how we get our news, but our very “definition” of news. One disturbing trend is this hellbent rush to be first, even though in this over-heated environment, we often risk being wrong. There’s way too much screaming and ranting, and not nearly enough simple reporting. It’s almost as if media coverage of any issue has morphed into professional wrestling, where he or she who screams the loudest, will rate the best. I’m not saying ratings don’t matter, but I like to remind my various show staffs, that looking in the mirror and feeling good about what you do…matters more.

What’s your favorite professional moment of the past 15 years?

As the chief business nerd here at Fox, hands-down it would be the financial crash back in 2008. But that crash had its underpinnings years before, and I take some measure of pride in knowing that we helped point out those signs — the way-too-easy money for mortgage loans that required no documentation, and all-too-eager banks that happily dispensed the cocaine of all that cash.

 I remember Fox Business Network debuting in the fall of 2007, when all this was beginning to hit the fan. In retrospect, and I know it’s weird to say this now, but our timing couldn’t have been better.

What has been your toughest professional challenge over the past 15 years?

I’d be lying if I didn’t point out the obvious — that I’ve had ample physical challenges. No need to repeat here or try and garner sympathy here — good luck with that! But as weird as this sounds, I’m grateful for all the medical hardships. They’ve humbled me — and that’s no easy task! But they’ve also made me a better person and I like to think, a better journalist. They’ve taught me that life is short, but that’s no reason for me to be.

 Who have you learned the most from in your career?

Actually, my wife, Mary. She’s a calming and reassuring presence when it comes to the things that matter. We recently celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary, and let’s just say she’s gotten the shorter end of the stick on that whole, “in sickness and in health thing.” We’ve seen a lot and been through a lot. When you know time is precious, you have little time for silly grievances that are not. We’ve learned not to get caught up in the moment but simply enjoy the ride.

Which of your competitors do you most admire?

There are actually many, so I don’t want to risk slighting anyone by forgetting someone. But the quality I most admire is simple fairness and decency — and not only in my colleagues but those we cover. To say we’re a thin-skinned bunch is an understatement. To behold the times we resist the temptation to act that way makes an even bigger statement. John Kennedy once famously said that, “We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” That is what binds us — our humanity.

 I just think fame is fleeting. Just look at the careers and companies that have risen and fallen in just the last 15 years. It’s humbling. It’s humanizing. We could all afford to be reminded of that, myself included.

What do you now know about the business that you didn’t in January 2004?

It’s changed. In some ways, good; in other ways, not-so-good. Everyone seems to have a soapbox now, or an agenda now. You either hate President Trump or you love President Trump. I try to see the good “and” the bad in everyone, including the President, and use the his own words or actions to illustrate my point. People see things through the prism of their own biases. We can’t help that. But we better police that. What worries me is in the increasing quest to rate, we lose something far more valuable — our soul.