For years, Blake Burman was a recognizable face on Fox Business Network, reporting from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and consistently seen firing off questions during Trump White House press briefings. Fast forward to 2023, and the veteran correspondent is at NewsNation, the upstart cable news network from Nexstar Media Group Inc., for whom he serves as chief Washington correspondent and host of the network’s political panel show, The Hill.
Like many of his colleagues, Burman is at the University of Alabama this week, site of the fourth Republican presidential primary debate, which is taking place this coming Wednesday. NewsNation is co-hosting and producing this particular debate (much to the chagrin of Newsmax). It’s a notable feat for the young network.
We caught up with Burman last week and he explained how he ended up at NewsNation, as well as what we should expect from the network’s on-site coverage today through Wednesday.
TVNewser: First off, How did you end up at NewsNation earlier this year? What were the discussions with management like to get you on board?
Burman: I knew Cherie Grzech, who is now our SVP of news & politics, and several others at NewsNation who I really trusted and respected. Once I spoke with Cherie and Michael Corn, our president of news, it wasn’t if I was going to join, but a matter of how quickly I could get there. I couldn’t be happier to be at NewsNation and knew immediately this would be the perfect fit.
How is the culture at a start-up like NewsNation different from Fox News and Fox Business?
NewsNation definitely has a startup-like feel to it, but keep in mind Nexstar is a big publicly traded company, so this startup also sits on top of that incredibly solid foundation. One of the great things is that there is almost this blank canvas, or close to it. If you were to build a network from scratch today, how would you do it? If you were to build a political panel show from scratch, how would you do it? Well, it’s what we are doing. It’s both a great challenge but also a huge opportunity.
Tell me about your plans for debate night. Who will be on site with you for The Hill, and what will be some main topics of discussion for that day’s broadcast?
The Hill on NewsNation airs at 5 p.m. ET (and then on Sirius XM ch124 at 6 p.m. ET) so we will be leading in to debate night coverage. Our panel will include Mick Mulvaney, Morgan Ortagus, Johanna Maska and Julia Manchester. It’s a great representation of what you see on The Hill: experts from both sides of political aisle, along with detailed reporting. We try to bring Washington to the viewers, and the viewers to Washington. Obviously the big event will be the debate later in the evening, but you never know as well what the landscape and political world will look like at any given moment.
In your opinion, how will this GOP debate will be different from the first three?
The calendar basically lays it all out: there’s the debate, a couple weeks after that, the holidays follow and then there it is: Iowa and New Hampshire (and the other early states) right around the corner. What happens in December can have real impacts when caucus-goers and primary voters start making their choices in January. This very well could be one of the last big moments for these GOP contenders to make their case as to why they believe they’re the better alternative for the Republican party than Donald Trump.
If you were moderating this debate, what are some issues you’d raise?
I’m not going to tell [NewsNation anchor] Elizabeth [Vargas] and her co-moderators what to ask! They’ll be more than ready to meet the moment. On The Hill we are constantly talking about issues like the economy, immigration, and the ongoing war in the Middle East. Healthcare and abortion have also become major issues as you know. I’m guessing there will be a mix of all those.
For many viewers, this event represents their introduction to NewsNation. What should our readers know about the network along with the show you now moderate?
Perhaps the most refreshing thing for me has been in the last few months how people have said to me a version of this: I just started to watch NewsNation, please keep doing what you’re doing.
There is an audience out there that really just wants the news, that wants to see what’s going on, and hear from both sides when it comes to the latest events and when the conversations turn to politics.
One of my goals on The Hill is to try to give the audience a slice of what’s happening inside Washington, but also what’s going on outside the Washington bubble. You’re going to hear from newsmakers, lawmakers, and panelists from both sides of the political aisle. We don’t do the tribal group think. Rather, one of my goals is to make sure our audience gets a sense of what’s going on in the political arena and a feel for why we find it interesting. I can tell you this much: I am constantly listening throughout the show, because I am often hearing something for the first time I didn’t know before. I hope the audience gets a sense of that as well.