Mr. Smith Goes to Election Night
Fox News Anchor Preparing for Long Haul on Broadcast Net
Fox News Channel anchor Shepard Smith says, “Chatting about politics is not my favorite thing.” He wearies of “the chattering classes” that have been a staple of news coverage of the two-year presidential campaign.
He likes the Big Story, and this presidential election certainly is “one for the history books,” no matter which party wins. So he’s energetically prepping to anchor a six- or seven-hour Election Night program that will broadcast the results and the ramifications to Fox-owned and Fox-affiliated stations on Nov. 4.
“I did it four years ago on the broadcast network, and it was an amazing experience,” Mr. Smith said.
The broadcast will be formatted so that stations can dip in and out with election coverage relevant to their local stations as needed, while the national broadcast continues seamlessly. It’s expected that Fox-owned stations in Chicago and Phoenix, the respective home bases of Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Republican candidate John McCain, and in Washington will be interested in bigger local windows than many stations.
Mr. Smith also hopes to tap reporters from KSAZ-TV in Phoenix and WFLD-TV in Chicago, among other markets, for reports in the national broadcast.
In the event that predictions of a landslide come true and the outcome is known early, Mr. Smith will happily focus on the future and how the winning candidate will turn stump speeches into reality, something he thinks people are ready to hear about.
“I can’t imagine that, talking about politics as we’ve done for the last two years, it won’t be a great thing to move the ball forward. I mean just to get the chattering classes out of the mix will be so refreshing—this tedious back-and-forth at each other, with us admittedly as facilitators, about things that people don’t care one bit about,” the anchor said, “I can’t wait to start talking about how, specifically, the person who wins this race is going to begin to solve these enormous challenges that face us.
“To that end, we have economic experts booked. We have banking experts booked. We have lawyers booked—because we know there are going to be a lot of lawyers out there,” Mr. Smith said with one of his trademark chuckles.
While some key Fox News correspondents will contribute to the broadcast coverage, the Fox Broadcasting programming for the most part will be quite different from the other Election Night programs being produced simultaneously from Fox News headquarters: one anchored by Brit Hume for Fox News Channel, one anchored by Neil Cavuto for Fox Business Network, one for FoxNews.com and one for Fox News Radio.
Mr. Smith’s and Mr. Hume’s programs will originate from two just-finished high-definition studios (with their own HD control rooms) on the 12th floor. Overseeing it all will be Fox News editorial news VP Jay Wallace, who scheduled himself to return from a reporting trip to Iraq and Jordan with FNC anchor Bill Hemmer on Saturday, just in time to dive into rehearsals in the new studios.
The production of multiple feeds, which have been the subject of weekly meetings all year, is “pretty aggressive, and 12 years into the channel’s existence we’re pretty much flexing our muscles to do some heavy lifting,” Mr. Wallace said in a call from Baghdad last week. “We’re about out of control rooms.”
The Internet programming will consist of the “Strategy Room” that has been the programming on FoxNews.com on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will originate from the plaza outside Fox News headquarters in Midtown Manhattan throughout the day and into the night.
On the plaza Fox News’ red-lettered zipper will have its own dedicated camera and writer of election developments, so that all the programs can feature it.
“It’s quite the coordination [challenge],” Mr. Wallace said. “There will be a lot of internal calls and e-mails.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Smith, who anchors two of Fox News Channel’s highest-rated weekday hours, insisted that Mr. Hume’s plans to retire after the election do not stoke any professional daydreams on his part.
“Chatting about politics is not my favorite thing. I see it as dividing people who are otherwise getting along pretty well. I kind of leave my religion and politics and all that stuff just for a very select few people, and that’s not something I talk about in the open because it creates tensions. I just don’t enjoy the process as much as so many people,” Mr. Smith said. “I don’t have a politics fantasy. I want to be there when the big story breaks.
“Sitting at a big desk and doing politics every night is not my dream,” he said. “I’m already living my dream.”