School of Journalism and New Media

The University of Mississippi

The Disarming, Informal Style of the Host of Studio B

Posted on: April 6th, 2010 by

We were scheduled to see Dr. Jim Pratt’s protege, Shep Smith.

Patrizia Barkley, Shep’s assistant, had greeted us in the lobby of the Fox News building at a few minutes before 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the last day of March, and we had settled on chairs a few feet from the news set when Shepard Smith came sauntering in to Studio B, accompanied by his father.

He sat down behind the news desk and fitted an ear phone in place while a make up artist dabbed his face here and there. He clicked on a computer and talked to various staff members and a mysterious presence in another room.

A countdown began and then the Ole Miss alumnus from Holly Springs led a fast paced news show with quick give and take and unusual cuts to uncommon perspectives. This is the hard news programming of daytime Fox News.

I remembered a younger Shep Smith, no more energetic than the version I was watching this afternoon, but without the headliner charm and resonance of the current news anchor.

He had emerged as a star anchor for Jim Pratt’s daily campus news program, and the campus was riveted by his superior skills, clever delivery and endless charm.

When he came back to campus last fall for a program in the Overby Center, he drew the largest crowd of the year, an audience that filled every seat and lined the walls, and in his disarming, informal style, he completely charmed the crowd.

Shep was as a general assignment reporter for the New York bureau of Fox News. Then he became a senior correspondent.

He reported the Columbine school shootings; President Clinton’s impeachment trial; the conflict in Kosovo; the Jonesboro, Ark. and Paducah, Ky. school shootings; Princess Diana’s funeral; the murder of Gianni Versace and the O.J. Simpson civil trial.

He had been with Fox News Edge in Los Angeles where he reported the crash of TWA Flight 800, the Montana Freemen standoff, the 1996 presidential campaign and the Oklahoma City bombing. He also worked for A Current Affair.

After Ole Miss, Shep had begun at WJHG-TV (NBC) in Panama City, Fla.

Jim Pratt had come to Ole Miss in 1982, and Shep Smith enrolled as a freshman in 1983. Some time during the 1984-85 school year, Dr. Jim had mentioned a promising young man from Holly Springs. He pointed him out to me, and I watched him as the semesters progressed.

Now more than 25 years later, it is amazing to see the talent that Jim Pratt had identified years ago as potential and to think of what Dr. Jim might be saying if he were sitting beside me in Studio B.