Former Fox News host Greta Van Susteren was back in front of a camera Tuesday, telling viewers in a Facebook Live chat “I’m sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye to you,” referring to her sudden exit from Fox after 14 years.
“I regret that they didn’t let me say goodbye,” Van Susteren told TVNewser. “I regret that.” But Van Susteren’s audience, many of whom have engaged with her on social media for years, knew just where to find her. “The good news is that everyone quickly moves over to Facebook,” she said.
Instead of working in a modern cable news studio, backed up by her longtime On the Record show team (“Brit Hume has inherited the best staff in all of cable news,” she said), her studio is her living room, and the camera is the one built into her cell phone.
“Remember me?” Van Susteren joked as she opened a Facebook Live session Saturday, telling viewers she’ll keep producing the videos as long as people watch. And they are watching. Tuesday’s decidedly casual video had 37,000 views in the first 30 minutes. A video Van Susteren posted Monday morning has been viewed 1.7 million times, and that “remember me” video from Saturday? 4.6 million views and counting.
“The viewers are there,” Van Susteren told TVNewser. “Highest number of viewers on a show Friday night was Bill O’Reilly, he had 2.7 million viewers. I do my one-woman-band little video on Saturday night and I have 4.6 million viewers.” It’s not a precise apples-to-apples comparison, of course, but 4.6 million views is 4.6 million views, and Van Susteren sees an opportunity.
Despite rumors she’s looking to jump right back into cable news, perhaps at CNN or sister network HLN, she says “I’m not talking to anybody. Not at all. It’s just been a week, and this is the first time in fifteen years I’ve had any time off … I just haven’t given it any thought. At some point, I will give it some thought … but I’m not addicted to airtime. But I am addicted to social media. Social media is an adventure.”
She’s working on two books—one dedicated to social media will be out early next year—and she’s booked a reporting trip to Liberia next month, to report on the opening of a hospital in the aftermath of the Ebola epidemic. She’s expecting to sit down with the country’s president–for an interview she very well may shoot herself with her phone. “I can do that stuff. And it doesn’t take much. It takes my iPhone,” she said. “And people know me, because I’ve had 25 years of being on TV.”
Back in April, when an earthquake hit Ecuador, killing 650 people, Van Susteren jumped on a plane and reported from the country, finding a sketchy wi-fi signal near the airport and reporting live on Facebook. “Had nothing to do with Fox, had nothing to do with anything. Imagine that. That’s how much the business is changing. I can do it by my iPhone.”
“I think social media is a real threat to how we’ve been doing business collecting news, news gathering,” she said. “Because it’s practically free. If you have someone who can front it who the viewers trust, that’s key. That’s where I’m a little bit lucky, because I’ve got 25 years. People know me, they either hate me or like me, at least they know me.
And in cable news, fighting for resources to cover stories like Liberia and Equador—in a Trump vs. Clinton election year? Van Susteren has the luxury of grabbing her phone and going to the stories she cares about. “We’re so stuck in our current business model, we’re not looking ahead. And I suppose because money’s been coming in over the transom for all these news organizations. But at some point, it’s not going to be pretty for these news organizations. Social media is dominating.”