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Elizabeth Vargas thinks there’s room for a new evening newscast.
“I think a lot of people feel like they’re just being ignored or they’re turned off by the extreme nature of just one side, or the two extremes arguing with each other,” Vargas tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I think there’s a way to cover what’s happening right now in this country and around the world in a smart way. That doesn’t devolve into shouting matches or, you know, political talking points that aren’t really even related in many cases, to the events that we’re covering.”
Vargas, a veteran TV news correspondent and anchor (she succeeded the legendary Barbara Walters as the anchor of ABC’s 20/20), will launch her new show Elizabeth Vargas Reports on NewsNation Monday during the critical evening news window of 6 to 7 p.m.
“It’s the newscast of record for NewsNation every day. It is not an opinion show, it is a news show. So we’ll be covering the biggest stories of the day, in depth,” Vargas says. “I think by 6 p.m. A lot of people already know the headlines of what happened. So we’re going to go deeper on the very biggest stories, as well as later on in the show — as in the last 20 minutes of the show — perhaps [feature] two big stories that affect everybody across the country that might not be in the headlines that day, but are incredibly important to people everywhere.”
“Viewers are hungry for fact-based news that speaks to all of America, and we want to deliver on that,” NewsNation president Michael Corn says.
The news anchor also hopes to snag newsmaking interviews, leaning on her decades of experience — and a promise to be fair — to book guests.
“You know, if somebody comes on my show, they’re not going to be able to spout disinformation unchallenged,” she says. “But I’m not there to also elevate or dismiss anybody’s point of view or political opinion.”
The longtime veteran of ABC News is the latest journalist to join NewsNation, the (relatively) new cable news from the local TV giant Nexstar. Vargas joins other TV news veterans like Chris Cuomo (CNN, ABC News), Dan Abrams (MSNBC, ABC News), Leland Vittert (Fox News) and Ashleigh Banfield (MSNBC, CNN) on NewsNation’s lineup.
“With decades of experience, Elizabeth’s credibility, fearlessness, and intelligence are an increasingly rare combination in this industry,” Corn says. “She is dynamite in the anchor chair, and we expect viewers to be in for a real treat.”
And like many of those other shows, Vargas’ program will lean into the stories that it argues competitors like Fox News, CNN and MSNBC are ignoring. Though with former President Donald Trump expected to be booked this week, there will still be some big news to cover.
“I just think that there are a lot of stories that — and I include myself because I currently live in New York City — those of us in the beltway sometimes get caught up in sort of all the politics of what’s going on, and those stories are important,” Vargas said. “Like don’t get me wrong, you know, we are in the middle of a presidential election cycle. And a historic one with a possible indictment for the first time ever of a former president of the United States [this interview was conducted before Donald Trump’s indictment]. This is historic. But there are other stories that are really important to people all across the country that I think are are not covered in the evening newscast.”
Vargas cites the mental health crisis that millions of families are going through, or the border crisis that she argues has only recently received attention from other evening newscasts.
“We were the only network with reporters on the ground for a long time in East Palestine [Ohio] when the train derailment happened, so I think there are a lot of issues and stories in the heartland of this country that are really important that sometimes might not get huge play on evening newscast,” she added.
Indeed, Vargas, like her NewsNation colleagues, plans to lean into what she calls the channel’s “secret weapon”: the journalists working at Nexstar’s 200 local TV stations across the country.
“That is a huge, huge thing, because when that train derailed we had a local reporter who was very close to the scene and there very quickly and able to give us the local angle,” she says. “Networks cannot afford to put correspondents in every city in town across the country and to pay them to sit there and wait for something to happen.”
But it’s also going to be an uphill battle. Cable news viewers are habitual, and getting them to switch channels, or trying to bring in a non-news viewer, is hard.
“Do we understand that this is like a Herculean task to launch a brand-new network? Absolutely,” Vargas says, adding that she and her team read the dismissive press clippings from the launches of CNN and Fox News to inspire them.
“The chance to build a show from start, from scratch, and a brand-new network that is going 24/7 In a few short weeks, that hardly ever happens. The last time that happened was when Roger Ailes built Fox News, and years before that when Ted Turner built CNN,” Vargas says. “And, you know, those were some really tough early years for those networks as they struggled to find their footing and find an audience. But I always remember thinking that must have been so exciting, to build something from scratch.”
But first comes building trust.
“This isn’t a show that has any history good or bad. It’s a brand-new show on a brand-new network,” Vargas says. “But we’re going to earn that trust and earn that audience slowly but surely one night at a time, doing it night in and night out by doing a fair and complete and in-depth analysis of what’s happening.”
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