How does one climb from an executive assistant to executive producer of the top all-news network in just 10 years?
If you’re Fox News Channel’s Suzanne Scott, that path involved a lot of hard work and volunteering to take on new assignments. Working as an assistant for two TV legends — Chet Collier, who produced The Mike Douglas Show in the 1960s, and Fox News CEO Roger Ailes — also doesn’t hurt.
Growing up in New Jersey, Scott didn’t think she’d end up in journalism. “I thought I wanted to be a lawyer,” says Scott, who studied political science and international relations at American University in Washington, D.C. Scott worked as a paralegal after graduation, and then moved to California, where she took a job at a talent agency.
Soon after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Scott returned to the Garden State, and applied for a job as an executive assistant at CNBC and at America’s Talking, predecessor to MSNBC .
“The minute I interviewed her, I said she was different,” said Collier, then executive vice president at America’s Talking. “She came across as having more natural talent than anyone I’ve met for a long time, and I’ve worked in the business for almost 50 years. So I hired her right away.”
Collier has an eye for talent — three decades earlier, he had hired Ailes as a production assistant on The Mike Douglas Show. (Ailes later became executive producer.)
Scott worked as an assistant to Collier, Ailes and former America’s Talking vice president of programming Beth Tilson (now Ailes’ wife). Scott said the three executives were key mentors.
After Ailes left NBC Cable to launch Fox News Channel for Rupert Murdoch in 1996, Scott was one of dozens of executives that followed him. As an executive assistant, she was involved in meetings planning the launch of Fox News, and helped hire talent and form the program schedule.
“I raised my hand, saying, 'I’d love to help you with this or that,’ and they always said yes,” Scott says. “That was my philosophy then and it’s my philosophy now: I’m here to support the mission of this place — whatever Roger Ailes and my boss [executive vice president of programming] Bill Shine need — and I try to get the job done with excellence every time.”
Scott’s transition from executive assistant to producer occurred over time. “It’s been a stepping-stone process. You build upon each experience,” Scott says.
It wasn’t until after 9/11 that Scott was placed officially in the newsroom, where she began working on Fox’s 10 p.m. show, learning on the job. Shine says she was groomed by the best.
“You can’t be around two living legends like that [Collier and Ailes] without absorbing and picking up what they think and how they work. I think Suzanne has certainly done that, if you watch how Suzanne manages and goes about her job,” Shine says.
Shine is also quick to point out that Scott earned her position. “Nothing was given to [Scott] along the way,” Shine says.
Eighty-hour work weeks are the norm for Scott, who is expecting her first child in March. That doesn’t include the time she puts in on weekends.
“Basically it’s being on call 24/7, which is the nature of our business. It’s what we do,” she notes.
In 2003, Scott was named senior producer of On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. The program quickly became one of the most popular shows on Fox News’s schedule and on basic cable.
Last January, Fox News promoted Scott to network executive producer. She now oversees the network’s primetime programming and its popular Fox & Friends morning show, along with developing the network’s weekend schedule.
Scott’s recent work has included preparing the Journal Editorial Report, which previously aired on PBS, before its Fox News debut in its Saturday 11 p.m. time slot on Jan. 18. Fox News struck an agreement with The Wall Street Journal last summer to add the show to its schedule.
“Once the deal was finalized on my end at Fox, I just handed it to Suzanne, and said, 'We need it on the air in January,’ ” Shine says.
Scott is one of many Fox News executives who’ve remained with the channel since its launch in 1996. She said the four qualities that Fox tries to instill in its employees — attitude, integrity, excellence and teamwork — are some of the reasons why Fox employees stay at the network so long.
“Roger [Ailes] has created an environment that fosters growth, creativity and teamwork,” Scott says. “There’s a clear mission here. And we want to win and we try to hire people who have that same attitude about winning.”
Crediting some of her mentors for teaching her the ropes, Scott tries to do the same for other Fox News employees. “I have a couple of apprentices that I talk to regularly that are assistants in entry-level positions. I try to keep in touch with everybody at every level here,” she says. “If we’ve hired someone, I try to get to the [production assistants] and the people who do graphics for the shows, because I think if they know that they can have a direct conversation with someone who is looked at as being a boss, they appreciate working here.”
While Scott has risen steadily to her current position over the last decade, Collier predicts that she’ll continue to grow in her career.
“This woman is going to go far in the business,” Collier said. “I know she is, because she learns — she learns from everything.”
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