The network’s chief anchor tells TheWrap how his new breaking news division will use innovative technology — but not holograms
Fox News announced on Thursday that anchor Shepard Smith will be leaving his 7 p.m. “Fox Report” and 3 p.m. “Studio B” shows behind to launch a brand new breaking news division at the network and anchor a new hour called “Shepard Smith Reporting” at 3 p.m.
Smith spoke to TheWrap about his new role as managing editor of Fox’s new division, which will work out of a newly-built set called the Fox News Deck, where information specialists will gather and curate news across every medium imaginable to be ready to present it to viewers whenever it breaks.
TheWrap: Tell me about your new role.
Shepard Smith: I’m so excited. Roger [Ailes] describes it as the quarterback who’s running the show and calling audibles. I’ll be the quarterback and we’ll be running parallel studios, control rooms, editorial groups, technical groups. While programming is on, we’ll be in our working environment gathering news and aggregating it and getting it ready for air. And when it breaks, they’ll toss it to us. And when we’re through we’ll toss it back to them. When we have more, we’ll come back — weaving the news in and out of the programming all day and night. We’ve been trying to figure out a way to do this for years and now we’ve gotten the technology together. I think it’s gonna be amazing. I’m really excited to take on the challenge. We’re gonna do it all in real time and the viewers are gonna watch it happen.
So as the quarterback, you can be the Tom Brady … or the Tim Tebow.
Ha! I don’t want to compare myself to either one of those — they don’t play for my teams. And I don’t want to say Eli Manning because he’s one of my heroes. All I’m really doing is making the decisions any managing editor would make about what we’re gonna do and what we’re not gonna do, but I’ll be making them in real time while on the air with the viewers watching. It’s a shortcut.
And how are you planning to integrate new technologies into the way you do news now?
We’re not gonna pretend that you don’t have a Twitter feed that you’re watching or that you’re not on Facebook all day. It’s trending on Twitter and people are commenting and Instagram pictures are going up — we’re gonna acknowledge that that’s happening, we’re gonna say this stuff we have confirmed, these things we’re investigating.
For instance, one information specialist will be working on one thing that we’re watching, and if there’s a development then we’ll have an on-air big 55-inch screen that’s like a drafting board that operates like an iPad. And at any point, we’ll take that information specialist’s screen to viewers. While other information specialists are working on other stories that we’ve got going.
I’ll be able to put things to air from the studio in real time on the fly. Which, there is a risk but as long as we stick to saying what we know and attributing what we don’t and making sure that we have all our facts straight then we’ll be fine. I’ve got the team in place that’s been doing that for years and we’ll continue to do it. We’ll just be able to let the viewers see the process. Sometimes it’s fine and sometimes it’s sausage and it’s gross but we’re gonna try not to make it gross.
Other networks have tried to innovate by using holograms. Will you have holograms?
No! We’re gonna leave holograms to the other networks. The things we’re employing are things that help us get information to the viewers in real time. We’ve eliminated the gimmicky stuff, like, everything that you’ll see, no matter what the environment, will be in real-time and the things that we’re really watching. And we can shoot it in real time. We won’t be hologramming people in and out of things. We’ll actually be using this technology to get the information to the screen more quickly. When I realize something’s happening that I want to jump to, I have to go through the producer and the director. Now it’s a one-stop shop. I can do it.
Also read: Fox News Moving Megyn Kelly to Primetime
Will you miss the 7 p.m. timeslot? Although I guess any time there’s breaking news at 7 p.m. you’ll be right back in it.
For now, I’m leading a team that is really is gonna be putting the news together in real time and it’s just … it’s something new and innovative and modern, I’m excited about it. You can’t keep things the way they used to be. I’m all about modernizing.
You’ve been at Fox News since the beginning —
Since before the beginning!
So you’ve really seen it change from this brand new channel that only reached 17 million homes into the cable news juggernaut it is today.
Well, we had two studios and no lighting director. My mom was watching. And now, you know, we’re probably the most scrutinized and certainly the most watched news network in the country. I’ve always felt like our journalism, we can stack up against anybody’s, but sometimes the other noise drowns that out. And Roger doesn’t want it to be that way, he’s very proud of the programming we’ve put to air — it’s all number one. I’m proud of the work that our opinion people do and our analysis people do and I’m also very proud of the work that our journalists do. Now we can weave them all in together. I think that’s a good thing for our viewers. I hope viewers like it. I’m really excited to do it.
What did you think of the last season of True Blood?
As crazy as our lives are, they can never get as screwed up as Sookie’s!