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As the 2016 campaign draws to a close, the TV news networks and their digital competitors are gearing up for hundreds of hours of live coverage. One of the news anchors who will be in the chair Tuesday night, is Neil Cavuto, covering his 3rd presidential election night for Fox Business Network and 6th for Fox News Channel. “One of the great things about Fox is we relish our difference,” Cavuto tells TVNewser. “We like challenging conventional wisdom. We appreciate perspective and we really appreciate history.” And history–one way or the other–will be made Tuesday night. We caught up with Cavuto about his election night and post-election night plans:
TVNewser: You will be in the anchor chair for more than 5 hours Tuesday night, in addition to your other FBN and FNC shows earlier in the day. You’re also still on the mend from major heart surgery. Are you up for this? And what kind of snacks do you have to keep you going through the night?
Cavuto: Well, I guess viewers will have to tune in to see for themselves if I’m up to the task. For now, the sheer adrenaline of working six and often seven-day weeks since returning has helped prepare me for this moment. Still, if it goes really late, you never know. I could end up being like Jerry Lewis at the end of the telethon. Who wouldn’t want to tune in for that?!! But I know I’m very lucky to be back. Actually, the way I seem to collect diseases and ailments, I’m very lucky to be alive! So, to quote Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Alexander Hamilton character, “I’m not throwing away my shot! And since my cardiologist just might be reading this, let’s just say I’ll be dining on only the healthiest fruits and whole grains election night. That doesn’t mean if it goes really late, my liquids could be of a slightly stronger variety. It’s all about pacing myself.
TVNewser: FBN beat CNBC in total audience in October, a first for the network. Part of the reason was a heavy emphasis on the 2016 race. Do you think your bread and butter business coverage was under-covered as a result?
Cavuto: You’re making the assumption that covering money and politics isn’t bread-and-butter business. I think it is. Remember, far more Americans pay taxes than buy and sell stock. They have a vested interest in this country’s financial future and those who will determine it. That doesn’t mean the markets aren’t important, but seeing business through the prism of Wall Street sometimes makes you forget there’s a Main Street. I’ve subscribed to this view going back to my days at CNBC, when I worked on a show called “Market Wrap.” Cover the markets and the big mergers and corporate upheavals when they’re the story, but ease up when they’re not. After all, it’s called the Big Board, not the Big Bore.
TVNewser: As an executive, as well as an anchor for FBN, what kind of feedback or instruction do you give Lou Dobbs, Stuart Varney or other anchors?
Cavuto: They don’t need any guidance from me! They get it, they know it, they love it, or they wouldn’t be here at Fox doing it. I think it shows in the energy and enthusiasm all our anchors and their incredible staffs bring to their programs. I like to remind folks you can tell a lot about a news or business channel by just watching with the sound off. At some stations, the anchors come off looking like they’re doing a hostage tape. Our folks jump off the screen. I’m biased, but what makes FBN folks so good is they’re clearly having a good time – and good fun — doing it. Even with the volume down, that speaks volumes.
TVNewser: Network executives are preparing for the days and weeks after the election, when viewership will almost certainly fall back to normal levels. What’s the FBN plan going forward?
Cavuto: I suspect things slow down, but that doesn’t mean things stop. We’re going to have a new President on January 20 of next year, with a new Cabinet, new priorities, yet grappling with some of the same-old problems – mostly money problems. For as long as I’ve been covering the intersection of our capital and the Capitol, it’s always been about following the money. Not right or left. Not red or blue. Just green. Just money. Who’s spending it? Who’s wasting it? Who’s hiding it? A brand new Washington will be dealing with these issues. Markets will be responding to these issues. Americans will be invested in these issues. And because from our very beginning, these have been FBN’s issues, no network is better suited or prepared to cover these issues.
TVNewser: Are you going to make a play for that fancy new studio Fox built?
Cavuto: I’d be just as happy doing our shows at a Denny’s Restaurant – just don’t tell my doctor! Don’t get me wrong, fancy sets are nice but getting your facts right and explaining those facts clearly and concisely are nicer. Trust isn’t won or lost mastering a big screen, but screening the little things, and appreciating the missed things. It’s about zigging when others are zagging and staying calm when markets are going crazy. My Dad used to say we are defined not how we do the big things in life but how we approach the little things that make life big. One of the great things about Fox is we relish our difference. We like agitating. We like being the skunks at the picnic. I hope we never ever forget that. Something tells me Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy and no less than Rupert Murdoch himself, never plan to let us.