Fox News’ Shepard Smith has few of the credentials of network-bred newsmen like ABC’s Charles Gibson or even NBC’s Brian Williams. And he’s on cable, which is way below broadcast in prestige terms. So why is he now making close to what they get paid?
One reason Fox News chairman Roger Ailes boosted Shep’s salary into the big leagues (3 years, $7 million to $8 million/yr) is that he anchors two shows, both of which beat CNN in the ratings: Studio B with Shepard Smith at 4 p.m. and Fox Report at 7 p.m.. That explains why he’s making more than CNN’s Lou Dobbs ($6 million) and Anderson Cooper ($5 million).
But another reason that Smith is worth a mint to FNC is that he represents the Fox style of news–speedy, jocular, and studiously shallow–without an overt political point of view. He’s a walking billboard for the network — and believe it or not, that’s a compliment…
Unlike Fox News’ primetime anchors Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, Shep is, for the most part, apolitical. He broke through–and got his highest ratings–during his coverage of Hurricane Katrina in which he blasted the incompetence of the response.
Because he can pull off the Fox News style without its politics, Smith can also do double duty by working outside the cable channel for News Corp.’s (NWS) other assets. He gives the Fox local TV stations a national personality who can anchor big news events, like the State of the Union broadcasts he did earlier this year. And should Ailes, Peter Chernin and Rupert Murdoch decide the stations need one, Smith could anchor a national news shows on the Fox broadcast network. It’s unlikely, but then until the Hollywood writer’s strike is resolved, just about anything is possible.
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