Shep Smith was bored.
That’s what he told Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes during a four-hour dinner, four and a half months ago in Manhattan.
That’s when Ailes also presented his idea for a new position and role for Smith at Fox News — one that the network announced on Thursday, which makes Smith the face of a new breaking-news division at Fox News.
In his new role, Smith will be the managing editor of the breaking-news division, while continuing in his position as Chief News Anchor. He’ll continue anchoring the 3 p.m. hour on the network, in a program called “Shepard Smith Reporting.”
He will no longer anchor during the 7 p.m. hour — but he’ll be spliced in throughout the day when news happens. It is part of the network’s push to modernize the way news is presented by “escaping the boundaries of the traditional evening newscast.”
“It’s kind of an old 1960s thought that you cram the news into an hour — every day, you have exactly the same amount,” Smith told Business Insider in an interview. “So now, we’ll weave it in all day. Roger says I’ll be on a lot more than I am right now, which’ll piss a lot of people off.
“But news is organic. And we’re going to bring it to you when we have it.”
Smith admitted that he had shopped around before signing a long-term contract extension with Fox News in July.
“All the people you might expect,” he said of who was interested. Later in the interview, he mentioned CNN and NBC as two places that would be “great to work for.” Ailes, he said, even encouraged him to listen to what other networks had to say.
But in the end, no one made as good, as different, and as forward-thinking a pitch as Ailes, the man who Smith has grown to view as a father figure.
“It was a pitch,” Smith said of his dinner with Ailes. “Because, you know, it’s not like there aren’t other places to go that weren’t interested. But of all the different things that people came to me with, the only one that blew me away was this idea.
“I love football. He’s like, ‘I want you to be the quarterback. I want you to be calling the audibles. I want you to be the managing editor — the shots are yours to call.”
Smith painted the new division as one that will give the network an on-the-fly sort of feel that keeps up with the rapid pace of the news cycle of 2013. He will be hosting the 3 p.m. hour and oversee the new division from “The Fox News Deck,” a brand-new signature studio.
But the new format also allows him to be able to weave into the network’s lineup whenever news happens. Say, for instance, a story broke at 2:15. He’ll duck in and present the news. If there’s a new development or some kind of historical context he can add, he’ll duck in again. But he says he won’t be forced to talk about it “for 15 minutes” when the network doesn’t have anything new to add.
“It’s not like people don’t notice that,” he said. “‘Shep is still prattling on and on about the same thing.'”
And personally, it’ll take away a heavy dose of simply reading off a teleprompter while infusing a heavy dose of news. That’s what Smith, who said he chose the best journalistic opportunity in his new deal, wants.
“I feel like a kid with a new toy, and a whole new focus,” Smith said. “You know, a lot of people are like, ‘They’re just a talk channel.’
“Well, our news profile’s going to be higher than ever. Roger assures me that that’s what he wants. And this is costing him a s — ton of money, so it better be what he wants.”
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