The cable news world was stunned on Friday by the unexpected resignation of longtime midday Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, and speculation immediately ran wild with regard to why he left as well as who would be selected to replace him in the 3 p.m. time slot.
According to a top executive at Fox News, several of the network’s prominent news anchors will take turns filling in for Smith in that time slot until a revamped news program with a new permanent anchor is launched in early 2020.
Rotating fill-in hosts for now
That revelation came from Jay Wallace, president and executive editor of Fox News Media, in an interview with Variety on Monday. The main takeaway from Wallace’s remarks was that the 3 p.m. time slot will remain a straight news program and will not be transformed into an opinion program.
Some of the names mentioned by Wallace as fill-in hosts for the spot vacated by Smith included such prominent anchors, hosts, and reporters as Bret Baier, Shannon Bream, Bill Hemmer, Brit Hume, Martha MacCallum, John Roberts and Chris Wallace, perhaps among others.
Correspondent Trace Gallagher will be the first to anchor the program before the others perform a stint on a rotating basis. A new, stand-alone, news-focused program will be launched in that time slot next year with a yet-to-be named permanent host.
“This is going to remain a solid news hour, with our best news stars,” Wallace told Variety. “Journalism is a huge part of the mandate here.”
Wallace further revealed that while Fox personalities would certainly be considered for the role of Smith’s permanent replacement, the network remains open to the possibility of somebody new from outside of the network being chosen, and said, “We aren’t rushing into it.” He added that using the rotating lineup of fill-in anchors would allow the network to “figure out what works well for us” as well as “what works for these times.”
“Familial bonds” at Fox
“It was a tough day for a lot of people here,” Wallace, who was once a producer of Smith’s program, said of his unexpected departure. “The thing about this place, there is a camaraderie, a ‘us against the world’ mentality.” He continued, “These are more like familial bonds as opposed to just passing, transactional relationships. That’s why it hit so hard with a lot of people.”
With regard to speculation that recent on-air sniping between Smith and the primetime opinion hosts, particularly Tucker Carlson, Wallace reiterated that network policy was and remains that internal spats are meant to be kept off-air and dealt with behind the scenes.
“Emotions can run high, and they do at times, so they do,” Wallace said. “Our guidance has always been to deal with this — if you have a problem with someone, pick up the phone. These are sharp people. Why do you want to parade this in front of everyone? Our audience doesn’t want to see it.”
Wallace also discussed some of the other big things in the works at Fox News, such as hiring more reporters and giving them more room to roam and find stories on their own.
He also highlighted a desired shift toward covering more of Washington than just Congress and the White House, upgrading the D.C. studio and expanding the on-air and digital platforms of Fox News, Fox Business and Fox Nation in an effort to retain the network’s position at the very top of the cable news industry.