Fox's Shep Smith Receives Zeidenberg Award

Fox News anchor's Shep Smith was the recipient of the Radio Television Digital News Foundation (RTDNF) Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award at a ceremony in Washington Wednesday (March 13), telling a crowd of Washington journalists that he was committed to the primary mission of journalism, which he said was being accurate, honest, thorough and fair, to never knowingly misinform, and to correct and apologize when the inevitable mistake happens.

The award was named for the late senior Washington correspondent for B&C.

Presenting that award was Shepard Smith Reporting executive producer Jonathan Glenn. Glenn said he had to be talked into working for Smith, who he said he found tough to work for, "but only with those who didn't care." He said that if you cared about being right, and being good at your job," everything was great, because Smith cared, and was "frustratingly good" at his job. He called Smith a better writer than he was--Smith suggested otherwise--and even a better producer. "He knew lighting, and how to white balance and set levels," said Glenn, who added that he had not met another person on the planet more attuned to a misplaced modified.

Glenn said working with Smith was both exasperating and rewarding. The reward is that smith cares about "the truth, and about facts. Shep cares tremendously about this business and he takes seriously what we all do," he said. "When news is breaking or tragedy is unfolding, there is no one I trust more to take us through it," including explaining what "we don't yet know."

Smith spent his time thanking all the people--colleagues, friends, family--who had helped get him to this point and this award, including Fox News President Jay Wallace, who was a tape runner on the overnight shift, and a desk assistant, then Smith's line producer, senior producer and executive producer. He said they were the ones who made very day rewarding.

Smith said he shared the award with his team, who worked "so hard to get it absolutely right, because as you may know, people kind of pay a lot of attention to what happens over here in our little corner," to which he appeared to be referring to the news, rather than commentary, corner of Fox News.

He said "being accurate, and honest and thorough and fair is our primary mission." Smith took some time to remember Zeidenberg and some praise from then FCC chair Alfred Sykes upon Zeidenberg's death in 1990. Sykes called Zeidenberg "a model journalist. He was curious, relentless and fairly reflected the facts as he understood them."

Smith called that an ideal we all try to live up to. He also said that it was the duty not only of journalists but of anyone with "the honor of a platform of influence," that, "when the inevitable mistake happens, we must immediately correct it and sincerely apologize.... We must never manipulate or invent. We must never knowingly deceive, because to do so is a disservice to our audience, and potentially injurious to our society, and I'm convinced that upon those who intentionally misinform, history will poorly reflect."

Smith said the times ahead will test everyone, but his team will try to remain on task ignore the Twitter trolls who relentless pursue him and to get the facts to the people, "all the people in every place."

He said the First Amendment gives journalists the protect to do what's right, "no matter what."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.