Fox News Apprenticeship Program Turns 10

Fox News Channel will graduate the four people that make up the 10th class of its Ailes Apprentice Program on Thursday in a ceremony at the company’s New York headquarters. Started by Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, every year the program accepts four Fox employees, interns or freelancers from diverse backgrounds for a one-year paid fellowship that involves training in multiple divisions and creating diversity-oriented content for the network. Each participant is assigned a mentor from the executive ranks, and gets a one-on-one meeting with the program’s namesake.

“Throughout the past 10 years, the Ailes Apprentice Program has provided opportunities that young minorities otherwise wouldn’t have to become stars in the media field of their choice,” Ailes said in a statement to B&C. “Our ultimate goal is to inspire change in the television industry through the program’s continued success and achievements in diversity.”

Francisco Cortes was a production assistant when he was tapped for the program’s inaugural class in 2004. Today he is VP, Fox News Latino, as well as a mentor and guiding force in the apprenticeship program. He spoke to B&C programming & digital media editor Daniel Holloway about the program’s evolution.

What was the program like when you graduated and how has it evolved?

I was a production assistant, just starting with the company. I got a call from the newsroom director. I’m wondering what I did wrong, looking around the room. I’m sweating. Then the newsroom director is like, ‘First of all, you did nothing wrong. This is a good call. Mr. Ailes, our chairman, is creating the Ailes Apprentice Program, and you are one of the first people that came to mind.’ You can only imagine how that is. Here you are, some 21-year-old kid in the newsroom, being exposed to quite arguably one of the best minds in the business.

What did you learn and how?

My mentor at the time was the newsroom director, Sharri Berg, who’s actually still with the company [as a senior VP] and still a mentor of mine. So here I am, and someone who’s been in the industry for more than two decades, someone who’s worked with Mr. Ailes directly, is offering me advice on how to succeed in the industry—how to plan my next steps, what to wear, what to say in a meeting— everything from A to Z.

How involved is Roger Ailes in the program?

Mr. Ailes is very hands-on. It’s refreshing to see the chairman of the company involved so heavily. After you graduate, you become part of a family. Mr. Ailes makes sure that you continue on a track of success through the company. So it’s not like, ‘Hey, congratulations, you graduated the program. Thank you for participating.’ It’s, ‘What else can we do to help you?’ And he’s still very involved in it to this day.