On the Resignation of Shepard Smith

Shepard Smith
From Wikipedia
licensed under the Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution License.

First off, a couple of disclaimers: First, there is only one show on Fox News that I watch with any regularity (which is sporadic these days), that being the Journal Editorial Report with Paul Gigot. I rarely if ever listened to Shepard Smith and his show.

Second, while my education at college was in Political Science (BA & MA), I also worked at a newspaper, the Pacific Business News for five years (got the 5-year watch to prove it). It was the place where the ideals of journalism were instilled in me – getting the facts and reporting on what the facts said.

So, with those two disclaimers, let me be another voice in the wilderness that says it’s sad to see another journalist be run out of a media firm for doing their job.

As the news broke about Shepard Smith’s sudden resignation from Fox News, I became intrigued in the how’s and why. The how was an announcement on his show at 3 p.m. Eastern. The why is, after interpreting all of the reports on this, that the ability to report facts and the desire of Fox News to report on things that made President Trump happy, had become a gulf too wide to transcend, as a professional.  

A professional, a professional journalist. When was the last time we saw that noun and adjective put together with a name that was, unquestionably, qualified for that title?

Since I disclaimed before that I rarely if ever watched his show on Fox, I had to do a little digging to figure out Smith’s reporting. What I came up with was a perfect example of how a good reporter will go through the issues brought up, discern fact from fiction, and report on just “what is”.

I cite the example of Smith’s dismissing the whole “Uranium One” psudo-scandal that has been promoted by right-wing commentators like Sean Hannity. In a report Smith made in November 2017, Smith debunked the major issues that made up the “Uranium One Story”. In listening to the actual report, which is about 6 minutes and I encourage you to listen to it, Smith does what every professional journalist should do – examine the source documents and the accurate role of each player and the timeline of actions.

In this case the accusation is that Hillary Clinton approved the sale of American uranium overseas. Then as a “thank you” by the investors, a $140 million donation was made to the Clinton Foundation.  The “facts” that make this version of the story up comes from one source – a reporter for Breitbart News who wrote a Clinton hit-piece book called “Clinton Cash”.

Cross walking this into a personal example, I was pursuing a story at PBN about Aloha Airlines putting itself up for sale or negotiating a sale. I was getting source material from a gentleman who would only give me enough data to start the investigation. After pursuing leads, I presented it to the paper’s Publisher to see if we had enough in his view to move ahead with the story.

Literally put, it was this “sources” information, with a dashing of “it could be” statements from aviation experts and examination of financial information of the airline from a third-party source.

Larry, the publisher told me, and I quote “there is a lot of smoke here, but no fire”. He wanted the fire, the fact that “x was really happening”. At the end, I never got the story. It was the airline that would announce it was being sold a few months later.

Point being, while I missed my chance to break a story, the fact that there was so much rigor in the evaluation of the information presented, and then being told “its not good enough” is not designed to dismiss a story. In a professional journalist setting, that type of rigor is designed to make sure the story is right, for the audience to read and decide.

That is something my publisher understood. It is something that I question whether Fox News will ever understand.

Sean Hannity by Gage Skidmore 3.jpg
Is this the face of “professional journalism” at Fox News now? (Sean Hannity)
PC: Gage Skidmore

At the end, the loss of Smith as a professional journalist doing his job should be a real concern. For we now have it where the talking heads who are promoting one President’s position are demanding that their point of view be the only one to report on a major news channel. Letting facts be distributed by talking heads who have a strict agenda to support the president is not journalism, its “topical advocacy”.

The American people deserve better than that for its news.