Talk to Harris Faulkner for less than a minute, and you will know why she is an award-winning American news anchor for Fox News Channel.
There is a warm, comforting tone to her voice as she delivers an intelligent and witty interplay of words backed by a genuine passion for what she does.
These words–whether from an interview or a news broadcast, or a motivational speech to teenagers–have informed, enlightened and empowered audiences nationwide.
It is this mastery of the spoken word that has, in part, earned her the weekend anchor position on “Fox Report Weekend.” Her ability to report the breaking news has won her six Emmys. But among all these words, there is one word in particular that inspires her the most. It is her favorite word: Mom.
As a wife and a mother of two young girls, Bella (age 6) and Danika (age 3, and whose name was inspired by renowned auto racing driver, Danica Patrick), Harris tells me how much she loves being called mom. She blissfully embraces that identity and feels like she is in a “special club” now.
Although a busy mom and professional, Harris has been able to find that often delicate balance between parenting children and managing a career. And just like the rollercoaster of motherhood, reporting the news is filled with moments of spontaneity, joy, surprise, pain, challenge, and adventure.
In fact, her first week on the job many years ago threw Harris into a situation that would prove to be especially, well, adventurous. It was in a tiny news station in Greenville, North Carolina. Her News Director at WNTC-TV informed her that he would be sending her out to cover a breaking news story at East Carolina University where a man was inside with a gun and holding hostages.
“I figured the station’s other reporters were in the bathroom or something for him to assign me this huge lead story in my first week–like, maybe I was the only one available,” Harris said, laughing. “He believed in me, though. I’ll always remember his advice as I walked out the door in my heels: ‘Make sure you change to comfortable flat shoes,’ he said.”
It was a good thing Harris did switch to the flats, for she stood the entire day as events unfolded. It was in those long hours, during her first live shot, when she realized that covering breaking news was her passion. In fact, breaking news would become her brand for the next twenty years.
“When I look back at that young woman I was then, there are many things I would have done differently, but the one thing I wouldn’t have changed was the focus I had,” Harris says. “Fast forward to my career now and the opportunities I have had, and they’ve always been around breaking stories. That’s really my mark. When news broke, news directors looked my way–and that was such a compliment to me. I had found a niche for myself.”
Her love of news started much earlier, when she was a young girl. “I was around seven years old, and I remember watching the evening news with my parents,” Harris explains. “My dad is retired military, and when he was home from assignments, we liked to watch the nightly news and catch up on world events. What I loved most was then sharing the news with my mom. Dad said I had a real knack for giving the main headlines.”
A few years later, in Junior High, when her parents took her on a tour of a local news station in Northern California, Harris decided then that broadcasting would be her career.
“Standing in that station is where my dream started,” she says. “I knew I belonged in a newsroom.”
Included in her dream career was the opportunity to co-host for TV’s “A Current Affair” news magazine, occasionally fill in as host of the “The Nancy Grace Show” on CNN Headline News, and now anchor “Fox Report Weekend” (Saturday and Sunday, 7-8 p.m. ET) and contributes breaking news reports on “Happening Now” (weekdays, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. ET).
Ask her who has helped her cultivate that dream, and without hesitation she will excitedly tell you about her husband, Tony Berlin, whom she credits with giving her the confidence and the flexibility to do what she does.
As a former news anchor, Tony used to compete with Harris on the air. They met and fell in love, and are now getting ready to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary and reaffirm their vows. “Tony is an amazing storyteller and my mentor, and I have learned so much from him,” Harris says. “He even reads Dr. Seuss to our children better than anybody I know.”
Tony, owner of a media relations company and who works out of their home, typically watches their girls whenever Harris needs to work at the network or cover a news event off-site. “I would like to publicly thank Tony for being my best friend and hanging with me throughout it all,” Harris says. “One of my proudest moments was accepting my first Emmy, but, as I always tell people, I also won a Tony.”
Harris is also proud of her children–their sense of humor, in particular. “Kids are funny,” she tells me. Part of the balance she has found in life is making sure she continually enjoys and plays with her girls.
“There are many challenges and obstacles we all face, and it helps to have humor along the way. I have a picture on my desk of my daughter, Bella, just howling laughter. Whenever people enter my office, they look at that picture and can’t help but smile. Life should be filled with laughter.”
But is it hard to separate work from home life, especially when that career involves sometimes working on call?
“We have a firm rule in our house: Whenever it is my time with them, I put my phone in another room, and I am completely present for the girls,” she explains.
“They get Mommy. They need my eye contact, my attention. We do each other’s hair and nails. We cook together. We scooter or bounce on the trampoline at the community center. We play at the park. I make sure they always know that they matter–more than anything. We have really good times together.”
These good family times help with balancing the stories of tragedy and heartbreak Harris is accustomed to seeing on the breaking news. I ask her as a veteran journalist if she is personally affected by it all.
“It absolutely affects me, and it does so in real-time just like everybody else,” she says. “I have been doing this for a very long time, and I have seen pictures and things that viewers will never see, and those visuals are haunting, quite frankly. And so I never tell people that I put all those emotions in a special box and say I’m okay.”
Take, for example, the shootings at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook elementary school. Harris was the voice and face that many people saw as events were unfolding.
I hear the solemnity in her voice as she talks about that day. “When I had to announce the death toll and say the words ‘we have just confirmed 26’, it hurt. It really hurt. I’m a seasoned journalist, and I knew it was important that I remain focused and make sure the facts were straight. It wasn’t just about giving information; it was about guiding viewers through the situation and being there with them. I couldn’t break, and I had to remain calm. It’s like when your child falls and hurts herself; you can’t freak out.”
“Having been on the air through the events of 9/11 and other horrendous stories we have had to cover, I have learned that you have to be in the moment and remember that you are needed and must deliver.”
But, when Harris later returned to her home in Edgewater, New Jersey, she found her safety net. Her husband greeted her, said the girls were in bed, and asked what she needed. “’I just need to be with my girls,’” she told him.
Harris quietly slipped into the room her daughters shared, hugged and kissed each, and then slept on the purple carpet in between their beds. “When I woke, both my girls had rolled off their beds and were cuddled in my arms. We stayed there for awhile, and I prayed. And Newtown remains in my prayers.”
And just like any mom, Harris does experience challenges and frustrations. “There are times when big stories break and I have to be gone,” she says. “I’m an organizer, and I like to leave a good plan behind. I get frustrated with myself when I let the calendar get away from me, and I have to reel it back in. I try not to plan events more than two weeks in advance, and sometimes I need to check things off the list. And although I like to be super organized, I know that I need to be flexible too.”
How does Harris create and edit her personal and professional schedules?
“It comes down to knowing your core values, writing them down, and then it’s really easy to shape your calendar around them,” she says. “Quality time with my husband is a core value of mine, for example. And that’s why we typically have date night on Mondays. It doesn’t have to be anything big; just enjoying each other is important. Also, I know that my daughters need time with me. If I look at the calendar and see that I don’t have time to read to my girls in the morning, then I need to change things.”
Another core value that Harris tries to consistently live out is giving back to others. For example, she is very active with Veterans associations and is delighted whenever she can serve in the military arena. She is a big proponent of the American Cancer Society, as well as breast cancer and Alzheimer charities. Growing up with a mother and father who served as part-time foster parents, Harris tells me she has a real heart for foster care and adoption agencies.
There is also a teacher and motivator residing in her heart. And just as Harris informs the public, she also likes to empower people. As a seasoned professional, Harris enjoys mentoring young journalists and giving them tools for how to think in the moment. She also speaks to schools and universities around the country.
“I’ve always thought if you are blessed to have the opportunities I have had, it is not just an honor or pleasure to give back–it is a requirement,” Harris says. “The fact that I enjoy it is the blessing on top of it.”
Harris plans to launch soon a new website designed to bring her positive and motivational messages to young people. One of her key messages centers on the idea of individual excellence.
“One of the things I am really honing in on is teaching others how to embrace excellence in every way,” she says. “My target audience is those between the ages of 12 and 21, who typically listen less and talk more. I want to carry a message that lets them know they can be powerful in their own right. They can ‘be excellent’ and know that it is a choice. If you bring excellence with you, you won’t have to find it. And, you will never regret taking the high road.”
These are the lessons that Harris is already teaching her daughters, but there is one in particular she hopes they will never forget. “I want them to always know what my dad used to teach me growing up: ‘Remember above all else, you are loved.’”
I ask Harris what she would say to mothers who at times feel overwhelmed with life’s responsibilities and society-imposed benchmarks. Her answer gravitates towards one word: Contentment.
“When your plate is full, your plate is full,” she says. “There is no reason to put everything out of balance–including the people you love–to try to get to a place where, by the way, is just another point towards something else. True success is really loving where you are along the journey and not always racing towards the next best thing.”
I note the smile in her voice. “My plate is full, and I’m good.”