Strong Debut for Fox News's High-Tech 'Shepard Smith Reporting'

Strong Debut for Fox News's High-Tech 'Shepard Smith Reporting'

Fox News’s Shepard Smith Reporting made a strong debut on Monday, beating MSNBC and CNN combined and outperforming Smith’s former program that had preceded it in the 3 PM EDT time slot.

According to TV Newser, the Monday debut of Shepard Smith Reporting averaged 1.4 million total viewers and 250,000 in the 25-54 demographic and topped MSNBC and CNN combined in both measurements. In addition, “compared to the same day last week, the show was up 29% in total viewers and 57% in the demo. The program was also up compared to the Q3 2013 average of the previous 3pm show Studio B: up 33% in total viewers and 34% in the demo.”

On Monday’s program, Smith said the groundbreaking show would get its news–like many Americans–from a variety of platforms like Twitter and Facebook, noting that many Americans already have seen, read, or heard about all the news when the primetime programs air.

Smith acts as the quarterback, and his producers, or “information specialists,” use BATS (big area touchscreens) at the “news deck” while Smith uses a wand-like remote that allows him to control a monster video wall where guests are interviewed, tweets are shared, and photos are displayed. Smith has reporters on, interviews lawmakers like Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WI), and runs investigative stories. 

The show has an opportunity to succeed on days where the news cycle is slow. Viral videos and photos on Twitter can be instantly shown, and the program may be able to interview those associated with the videos and photos to add value and instantly provide more information about topics Americans are discussing and news and media they are sharing online. 

Smith’s show may ultimately be one that is essential to watch when there is breaking news, because that is when information that is instantaneously Tweeted and shared on social media is often the most unreliable. Smith’s program has a giant Twitter wall where information culled from Twitter is “confirmed,” which will be extremely useful during manhunts or natural disasters, when it is often difficult for Americans intently following the news to verify the information being spread across social media networks. 

Critics of the show, like those who had earlier ridiculed Fox News anchors for not sounding like and having the intonations of Ted Koppel or Tom Brokaw, mocked the oversized tablet-like touchscreens the show’s producers use at the news deck. However, the giant-sized tablets that the information specialists are seen swiping as they get news from a variety of platforms are an effective way to allow the viewers to actually see what the producers are looking at and make the viewers feel as if the program gets pieces of news from the same multitude of sources and platforms from which they get theirs. In addition, the new media gadgets do not completely dominate the program; there is just the right amount of new media and “futuristic” technology to compliment the show’s more traditional aspects and structure.

As Smith said when he introduced his new show, the ways in which consumers obtain their news and information are changing. The Wall Street Journal noted that Americans are spending more time on smartphones, tablets, and computers than watching traditional television. Twitter and Comcast just announced a partnership in which Twitter users will be able to access some television programming “through Twitter messages about those shows.” Yet, mainstream and cable networks have not quite figured out how to incorporate the new media world into their broadcasts. Smith’s show has the chance to do so and draw people back to the small screen to find out more about what they are consuming online, instead of the other way around. 

Perhaps more importantly, though, in addition to making the viewer feel like the show was truly interactive, the program proved it did not take itself too seriously when Smith actually displayed and laughed at some of the mockery that was directed at the studio’s news deck. And that gave it a sense of authenticity. On Tuesday, for instance, Smith referenced tweets that mentioned how small the producers manning the 55-inch touchscreens looked, and then promptly went over to one of his “information specialists” at one of the touchscreens and asked how tall she was. 

The woman replied that she was 5′ 8″. Like the show, her height outperformed expectations.