The New York Times’ Bill Carter writes about Shepard Smith’s new contract, notes the arrival of Lou Dobbs in the 7pm timeslot, and interviews Roger Ailes and Smith…
Though Mr. Smith’s program is down from his high-water mark in 2001, he has dominated ratings at the 7 p.m. hour, averaging about 1.4 million viewers and regularly doubling every challenger CNN has thrown against him. He also won widespread praise for his reporting of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. That raised his profile enough that he had been rumored to be considering offers from the high-paying network news divisions. But he found Mr. Ailes’s offer more persuasive.
“It’s fun to play who’s got what to offer,” Mr. Smith said in an interview in his Fox office. “I didn’t get there.”
The comparison with Mr. Dobbs has become more significant since CNN moved a Dobbs newscast to 7 p.m. from 6 p.m., where he now goes head to head against Mr. Smith. So far, Mr. Dobbs has gained some viewers over the program he replaced, but not at the expense of Mr. Smith, who is up as well.
What makes the face-off with Mr. Dobbs more intriguing is the seeming role reversal. Fox News, widely known for wearing its opinions on its lapels, has in Mr. Smith a news anchor whose goal is do the news “without any twist,” he said. “Shep is hard news,” Mr. Ailes said.