While media outlets were fixated on the death of Prince this weekend, Fox News host Greta Van Susteren was in Ecuador to report on a deadly earthquake. Van Susteren didn’t blink when TV airtime was filled with mourning over the music icon, she simply reported the humanitarian crisis via Facebook Live.
“There is an appetite for the Prince death. Everybody knew him, so of course everybody wanted to hear about it,” Van Susteren told TheWrap. “There are a lot of important stories so I try to grab one that’s important that others aren’t looking at.”
A magnitude-7.8 quake struck Ecuador on the evening of Apr. 16, killing hundreds and leaving thousands homeless. It hasn’t been covered to the extent of similar disasters, but Van Susteren understands the election and the death of Prince have tied up media bandwidth.
“For many Americans, Ecuador is far away and very difficult to get to. It’s hard for the media to get there,” she said.
Transportation wasn’t an issue for the “On the Record” host, who hitched a ride on a relief organization’s cargo plane.
“I hitchhike rides, so to speak. Whenever I know there is a plane going down and I can go down, I do it,” said Van Susteren before explaining how she’s used similar transportation methods to reach Iraq, North Korea and various refugee camps.
Van Susteren spent the majority of her Thursday show covering Prince’s death, but afterwards it was time to head to Ecuador for a quick, 25-hour trip intended to bring awareness to the crisis. Some of the footage will be shown on tonight’s edition of “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.”
We caught up with Van Susteren to discuss Ecuador, Facebook Live and her thoughts on the way media outlets handled Prince’s death.
TheWrap: Do you think Prince received too much coverage on cable news?
Van Susteren: I have no problem with people going wall-to-wall on these stories because viewers want to see it and we have so many outlets for news. It’s not like the old days. We’d have a very different discussion if we still only had NBC, CBS and ABC nightly newscasts. Then I would have a very different view. There are so many outlets; we can do all the news.
How did your Ecuador trip come about?
I knew Samaritan’s Purse had lots of planes going down. My whole goal is to get to the story. When I can get away to [cover] a story, I do it.
How many people traveled to Ecuador with you?
I only brought [Fox News producer] Griff Jenkins. I actually did a show live from North Korea with just a cameraperson and a producer. We really don’t need all that stuff anymore. We can travel light. I can get a story done with an iPhone if I have to. It’s not going to be pretty, but it’s going to communicate the news. It’s also a question of space, a question of resources. We’re committed to so many stories. Sometimes it’s just easier to travel light.
How did you utilize Facebook Live to help tell the story?
I’m in the middle of writing a book on social media so I’m always trying to find new ways to get news out fast. I have my eye on everything. I did a Facebook Live from my studio about a month ago, so I’m aware of the technology. I walk around with two cell phones, two different services, because I never know where in the world I’m going to be and I’m always worried some carrier won’t have service. All I did was tap on the app for Facebook. I found some Internet service, believe it or not. I knew I could just log on and do a live report. It goes live to my Facebook and I had my other iPhone so as people were posting comments, I could actually look down at my other phone and read them. Not only does it broadcast live, it records it and embeds it in case anyone wants to watch it later. It’s incredible technology. It’s going to revolutionize everything. It’s so easy.
[Van Susteren made sure to mention that Periscope offers similar technology]
Is this the future of news?
It is so the future of news. People need to figure out how to monetize it. Fox pays me a salary and has built up my credibility and my experience. I’m one of the few anchors who has been sent all around the world. Fox has a vested interest in doing things, but this [Facebook Live] is free. How are you going to monetize it? That’s the issue for the future.
When will news be delivered like this on a regular basis?
My guess is that people are going to spot this. I don’t think anyone else has done this. This is breaking news on an iPhone to Facebook. I don’t know of any other news organization or any other anchor that has done this. I think once people see this, the flood gates will open. Now, there is always the problem that people are going to use bad judgment. That’s natural. This is not edited. This is live.
What were the differences between the media presence in Ecuador and other crises you’ve covered?
When I went to Haiti in 2010, you could hardly find a place to set up a live shot because we were tripping all over each other. The magnitude of the death was considerably higher, but death is death. People are suffering. When I was down in Ecuador, I didn’t see any other news organizations. There were very few relief organizations. This is a country in great trouble.
Did anyone ask you about Donald Trump or Prince when you were in Ecuador?
No. They’re trying to survive.