Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 10/06/21

Coping with extreme Easter disruption: Chief religion correspondent Lauren Green | Fox News

In the beginning there was Lauren Green. Fox News‘ chief religion correspondent was the first reporter the network hired when it launched 25 years ago tomorrow (10/7). She joined members of Fox News senior management, including CEO Suzanne Scott (center) and other on-air “originals” for a celebratory bell ringing at the Nasdaq yesterday morning.

JWK: You’ve been at Fox News from the beginning. How did you arrive there?

Lauren Green: I was working as the weekend anchor for WBBM which is the CBS station in Chicago. I knew that I wanted to cover arts more and I thought coming to New York would be the way to do that. So, my agent lined up some interviews at the networks. At the last minute, when I got to New York, he lined up an interview with Fox. I had never known anything about Fox. So, he says “They’re starting a cable network and they would be worth talking to.” So, I went in for that interview and that’s just kinda how it worked out. It was really happenstance.

JWK: Were you a general assignment reporter at first?

LG: I was hired as a news anchor and to cover the arts. I have an arts background. I have a degree in piano performance as well as a masters in journalism. I was very heavily into arts, so I wanted to be able to cover the arts. They were willing to give me that opportunity, as well as being a news anchor.

JWK: What was it like to be at the network as it began?

LG: Oh, my goodness! It was pretty raw!…It was fun because it was such a small group of people but we were all veterans. I mean everybody had worked in the industry for a while and coming together (we realized) that we were starting something brand new and could put our stamp on it. It was, (as) they say, “lean and mean.” Things had to get done and everybody was a participant in making sure it got done.

I remember in the summer of 1996 walking into the construction zone which was going to be the newsroom and (wondering), oh my goodness, is this going to happen? My guide, who was one of the executives of Fox, said “This is going to here and then we’re going to have this here and then we’re going to have this on the outside.” I was just so impressed by what was going to happen here. It just blew me away.

Technically, I was the first on-air person hired for Fox so I started working before the studios were ready. We were doing pilot news episodes… The first time I was doing it was in one of the offices…I had a plywood desk and a chair (with) no prompter. So, I was reading scripts just to…see how this is going to flow when we actually get on the air…It really was interesting to be a part of it at that stage of the game. I also remember we basically had only three or four studios. We had Studio N which was the newsroom studio which was kind of glass-enclosed. Anybody who was working in the newsroom could see Studio N. We had Studio A, Studio B and Studio C. That was it. Those were the four studios we had. Not very long after that, they added Studio D…Then Studio E came along and…now I think we’re up to Studio J.

JWK: Give it another 25 years and you’ll have Studio Z.

LG: We used to laugh because Langan’s was a (nearby) bar…and they said “Oh, we should call Langan’s Studio L!”

JWK: When did you realize Fox News was taking off?

LG: When my sister who lives in Minnesota…told me one of her neighbor’s sons found out that I worked for Fox. She said “You would not believe how he was talking (about) Fox.” He goes “I am so grateful for Fox!”…I went like “What?” I hadn’t realized how much the “Fly-Over Zone” – as people in New York and LA like to call it – were so grateful for Fox. I hadn’t realized it until then. This came a couple of years after we were finally getting our traction in the market. I think that’s when I realized that Fox was building something really quite different.

JWK: In terms of tone and production values, how would you say Fox News has changed over the years?

LG: I think that’s it – a lot of production values. More studios, more bells and whistles. We’ve really gotten into higher tech. We expanded into radio (and) dot-com and the digital aspect of Fox…I mean just expanding and expanding and always being on the cutting edge of whatever technology is there (as well as) adding multimedia reporters which is a sort of a training ground for new reporters.

They’re concerned about the future so it’s not just “Okay, we’ve got these people working today and these shows and these shows.” They’re really training new reporters coming along and (are) willing to work them. You know, they care about people. They care about their employees…People don’t realize how Fox treats their employees. It’s so good! I mean you may not like their politics or you may not like the things that they talk about on the air or, you know, Tucker Carlson or whatever you don’t like about Fox (but) you have to understand that they probably treat their employees better than any network in the industry.

JWK: How did you become Fox News’ chief religion correspondent?

LG: I was always interested in faith and religion. Studying music, you really learn the history of Western music which is really the history of the Christian church because so much of it is tied to the history of the Catholic Church…As a person of faith, I was always interested in faith – and building faith. So, it gave me an opportunity to explore something that I was already passionate about.

JWK: Did you seek that post when it was available – or did they come to you and say “Hey, will you do this?”

LG: They came to me but, before that, I had gone to (the late Fox Chairman and CEO) Roger Ailes about a special we could do based on a book called Can Man Live Without God? I was just so blown away by the book. I thought we really should probably do something on this…So, we ended up doing that. That was when I was still doing the news cut-ins for Fox & Friends. So, we did that special and…they wanted someone to cover religion. I was there so it made sense to offer it to me.

JWK: How would you compare how Fox covers issues involving faith as compared to the other networks?

LG: I think Fox actually understands that people really do believe – that there is a truth there that people do believe – and it’s not to be treated as something inconsequential. I have to say – and I don’t want to say it wrongly – but I think most journalists or news outlets kind of treat religion as a sort of afterthought when religion really is the foundation of everything that we do. Whether you believe in God or don’t believe in God, that’s a belief about God. That’s the fundamental understanding. Your relationship with God – or what you believe about God – is the fundamental working order of your day…I always tell people I cover belief systems. Everybody believes something.

JWK: I tend to notice the subtle things. For instance, on other networks the term “thoughts and prayers” seems to be out of fashion. Now, their “thoughts” are with people going through difficult times but the word “prayers” is usually omitted. It seems to me that there’s a certain unspoken pressure to do that – whereas, it seems to me, the on-air people at Fox News might feel a little freer use phrases that express religious faith and sentiments.

LG: I think that’s true. I don’t think other networks are as able to express that. I think they are more inclined to impress sort of a secular, pluralistic society…It’s very much like the Roman Empire. It’s okay what you believe just as long as you believe that Caesar is God. That doesn’t sit well with someone who’s a Christian because, no, Jesus is God. That’s really where the Christians became the enemy of Rome – believing that Caesar was not God. I think similar things are happening today. There’s a secular, humanistic (view of things). It’s okay (what) you believe, just know that every other religion is equal to yours. Well, you know what? No real believer of any religion believes that…That’s really the problem with the mainstream media. They won’t admit that.

JWK: But you do believe in respecting people all faiths and no faith, right?

LG: You have to respect all faiths. In fact, I will say that there many atheists that are more moral people than me on some levels. You know what I mean? It’s not that being a Christian makes you better (or) more moral…That’s not the issue at all. It’s just the fact that cannot be equal based on their core tenets/beliefs…They could all be false but they can’t all be true.

JWK: I guess you could say that about everything. If you believed something else you’d be of another opinion.

LG: Society kind of thinks that people who actually believe that something (is) the truth (are) troubling or someone you can’t trust or someone who’s fanatical. Well, (if) you believe that secular humanism is true (and say it) you are proselytizing just the same as I would be.

JWK: What’s the best story you ever got to cover at Fox?

LG: It’s got to be the conclave in the Vatican. That’s probably one of the best stories ever…One of the best stories was going to Amsterdam and interviewing a gentleman who had built a replica Noah’s Ark.

JWK: What do you think are the biggest ongoing stories involving faith right now?

LG: For the last, at least, decade it’s been…the culture wars (such us) issues of marriage, sexual identity (and) abortion. Those are huge because those are things that are being fought within…the ranks of pretty much every religion. I think Christianity is experiencing it more because it’s the largest religious group in the United States…Pretty much all religions agree that you should treat people fairly, that you should stay married to your spouse (and) that adultery’s not good. They all believe that you shouldn’t lie (and) you shouldn’t cheat. I mean all religions kind of believe this. What you’ve got, though, in this area of abortion and gender or sexual identity are some of these core beliefs in every religion that are being tested. I think that’s why it’s such a huge deal…It’s not just Christianity. It’s Islam. It’s Judaism. You will find that most of these religions are split on ideological lines based on those issues.

JWK: What denominational perspective do you bring to these issues?

LG: I grew up in a Protestant church. I was basically born into the AME Church – the African Methodist Episcopal Church. I was a member of a Methodist church in Minnesota. I was baptized in a Baptist church in Chicago. I was married in the Greek Orthodox Church.

JWK: What role does your faith background play in your coverage of faith issues, including your coverage of other faiths? What characteristics does your faith tell you to bring to your journalism?

LG: To be respectful of people, their opinions and their beliefs…Every person is made in God’s image. I know that because my faith informs me of that. So, that’s the first and foremost. I may not believe what they believe but I do know, first and foremost, they are a child of the Living God. So…be respectful, be understanding, be loving and treat (everyone) in a way that is consistent with my faith.

JWK: Is it sometimes hard to maintain a “fair and balanced” approach when you’re doing a story and you come across people who are actually hostile to what your own faith beliefs?

LG: It depends on how you ask the question…Listen, I’ve been surprised (and) taken aback by somebody’s hostility. It’s like…what? For me, it’s like a moment of “Oh, I better learn from that just to really ask questions to get information.” I think that’s what a journalist should really be focused on. Let’s just get the information and not focus on the insults or anything. If you just treat people fairly and try to ask questions in order to get information that usually works out well. Listen, I’ve interviewed a lot of people who I didn’t believe (or) I didn’t agree with their beliefs. It’s not about what I believe. I mean it is and it isn’t. The fundamental belief is to treat people (as) made in God’s image then that should inform how I treat them.

JWK: As an African-American woman at Fox, how do you respond to people who label the channel as racist and sexist? Obviously, Fox has had its issues with sexual harassment but it hardly unique in that area. Other networks have faced similar issues. A lot of people have very definite opinions about Fox. They won’t even listen to it. How do you feel about that and how do you respond to that?

LG: I wonder how many people actually watch Fox who actually have (those opinions). I think a lot of the time they get their opinions from another network telling them what Fox did and haven’t seen it in context. That would be the first question I would ask them – did you actually see that? And are you upset because they don’t believe what you believe or they said something that you don’t believe or…why are you upset?

Listen, I’ve watched other networks and anybody who has been in journalism can understand this. It’s not so much what they said it’s what they didn’t say…This is not about setting up a straw dog to have an opinion that you can just sort of lambaste. I think a lot of other networks (present) a very weak conservative opinion in order to have their sort of liberal viewpoint put forward. In the morning when I’m in the gym I can put on all the different networks at the same time and I can see what they’re putting on their air at a certain time – and, also, how much time their giving it. They’re all different. They all have their constituents who watch their program (and) who, basically, want their opinions affirmed.

JWK: Here’s my perspective. I actually worked for CNN for four years in the nineties and for Fox News for two years in the early 2000s. I think the perception is that Fox is more opinionated than CNN. I think that might have been true in the early years. When I was there, I felt CNN tilted to the left but they basically were really good at hard news and breaking news. My view is, and I wonder if you would agree with this, over the years – especially in recent years, since Trump – the firewall between news and opinion has all but been obliterated at CNN where it’s pretty much all opinion all the time. Meanwhile, Fox, at least to some degree, actually does maintain a clear firewall between objective news coverage and opinion. What’s your view on that?

LG: Well, there’s always been a firewall between the opinion stuff and the news stuff. (If) you watch Special Report with Brett Baier it’s pretty much straight news. You’ve got a lot more opinion pieces later at night (with shows like) Tucker Carlson.

JWK: What I’m trying to say is that, if you you’re looking for serious news coverage, Fox News is actually more serious these days than CNN is. At least, in my opinion.

LG: I think there’s a lot more opinion on MSNBC than there is on CNN. They’re much further to the left than CNN ever was – and much further to the left, I think, than Fox is to the right.

JWK: You have a Fox News Radio podcast called Lighthouse Faith. Can you tell me about that?

LG: It’s really my opportunity to explore things that I’m interested in and stories that I think deserve a little more time than a few-minutes news piece. I do a lot with science and faith because I think that’s something that people are unaware of – that science is very much attuned to faith and religion. I just did an interview with Dr. Michael Guillen who is a physicist, astronomer and mathematician. He just wrote a book about Believing is Seeing. He’s done all of the rounds of the religions and he just found Christianity to be so powerful and very close to his understanding of science. I thought it was fascinating. I like to talk about things like faith in movies and whatever is out there that seems interesting.

JWK: So you’ve been with Fox News for 25 years. Are you gonna keep at it? What’s ahead for you?

LG: I actually am about a couple of years from retirement. So, that’s coming up. What I think what I’d like to do is more writing – more books, more music.

I have this dream of creating this charity…which would basically go into schools and give private piano lessons to students on a wide-scale level (to) make it part of the academic curriculum in a school – start with the first grade and just keep it going so that the brain starts to form with music. Neurologists have done all the studies (that) show that learning music at a young age actually improves academic performance and that many of those minds are formed to be able to take on the sciences. Engineering, medicine and biology, all of those sciences are enhanced when young minds learn music at a young age.

JWK: Anything you’d like to say as we wrap up?

LG: No organization is perfect (but) I’ve really enjoyed the journey with Fox. I just feel very blessed and very thankful for being able to be with an organization for this long. I’ve had the security of work and work where people actually like you and support you.

JWK: Yeah, to be with one employer for 25 years in the TV news business is quite something.

LG: I just think that nothing happens by happenstance. This is a journey that God has brought me on. I’m here for a purpose. I don’t always know what that purpose is but…I’m walking forward.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
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