Journalist Q&A: Jon Scott, co-anchor, 'Happening Now'

With Fox News since 1996, Jon Scott now co-anchors 'Happening Now.' His main focus is politics and headline-dominating events.

Name: Jon Scott
Title: Co-anchor for Happening Now
Outlet: Fox News Channel
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With Fox News since 1996, Jon Scott now co-anchors Happening Now. His main focus is politics and headline-dominating events. A former host of A Current Affair and Dateline NBC correspondent, he spoke to Aarti Shah about Fox's feud with the White House and covering celebrity news

Can you describe the content of Happening Now and its audience?

Scott: We go on the assumption that by the time we go on at 11am ET, most people have seen their local morning news or the morning shows. They know what happened overnight or the reaction to what President Obama said the night before. The reason for the show's name is we try to ad-vance the ball. We try to focus on things that are happening live and push the story along.

How do you set your news agenda and decide what you'll focus on for each show?

Scott: I think Fox News viewers are tremendously interested in politics of all kinds, so you can never miss with that. We really try to focus on not telling you the same story you saw on the 11 o'clock news last night or on the morning shows.

For example, I recently dragged a member of Congress out of the hearings for the White House party crashers to get up-to-the-minute kinds of reaction on that em-barrassing case. So we really try to get people involved in the stories of the moment to get what's going on.

Because your show is shaped by what people talk about, do you rely heavily on social media?

Scott: We make an effort to look for the fresh stories that are coming off of newspaper Web sites and other Web sites. We scour those things religiously for breaking stories. We've broken stories nationally because we do that.

You have to be careful about taking someone's Twitter feed and turning that into a story. That's the problem with the Internet. So many hoaxes can get out there. It's rare that we'll take a story and rush it to air just because it's on somebody's blog. But we're certainly always watching the new media.

Tiger Woods' marital problems have been largely covered in the news. What is your philosophy on covering celebrity scandals on the program?

Scott: You can't ignore them. My own personal take would be that I'd prefer not to cover that as much. But my definition of news is what people are talking about. And people all over the country are talking about Tiger Woods, so I can't ignore that story.

Am I personally fascinated with what's going on in his marriage? No, but I might not be representative of the general public. We do cover that, but I think we generally do it respectfully. We're not rubbernecking at a car crash.

For example, [a recent big story was that] the woman he was allegedly having an affair with was going to have a news conference, but she backed out. That's a big deal. Attorney Gloria Allred has never canceled a press conference in her life - to my knowledge.

Has Happening Now been impacted by the Fox News feud with President Obama?

Scott: It didn't impact us that much. We reported on it some and I think it was a little silly of the White House to take us on. They're grown-ups and should have thick skin.

Frankly, I think their anger was directed at our opinion-makers, like Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity. But even that's silly. It's a free country and you should be able to take criticism. That said, we have had the president on our program and we still get guests from the White House.

Do you find it difficult to get Democrats to be on your show?

Scott: The Pew Center for Journalism Research did a study and found that our viewership is about one-third conservative, one-third in-dependent, and one-third liberal. So we don't tailor our news to suit a particular agenda and I think that's reflected in the tastes of the audience.

I do think there are some political leaders who won't talk to us, but I think that's their loss because they are missing out on a huge audience that is open to new ideas and willing to listen to what they have to say.

How do you use the Web to augment your coverage?

Scott: I think everybody is trying to figure out the connection between the Internet and television. I recall when I was an NBC News correspondent and they were trying to launch MSNBC. People would say it's like a combination of the Internet and television. But it's never amounted to that. So we are still trying to synergize between our Web site and television program. l

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