In time for the dog days of broadcast summer, Fox is fronting a new prime time newsmagazine, The Pulse, staffed and produced by News Corp. cousin Fox News Channel. When the tabloid-style program arrives July 11, it will bear Fox News' fast pace and requisite attitude.
"It will certainly be Fox-y," said Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, who will host The Pulse. "The audience is not looking for another Dateline, 20/20
or 60 Minutes."
Fox's latest attempt at a newsmagazine came in July 1998 with Fox Files. Another, Front Page, sputtered in 1994 after a year.
may successfully ride into the schedule on Fox News' coattails. The network, which leads CNN and MSNBC in Nielsen ratings, is lending its biggest stars. Along with Smith, Fox News kingpin Bill O'Reilly and gun-slinging war correspondent Geraldo Rivera will contribute. Expect investigative reports and entertainment and health stories. (O'Reilly himself has recently been hosting quarterly news specials on Fox.)
The format will be a departure for the Fox News crew, accustomed to quick-hit headlines and talk-radio–style shows. "With a newsmagazine," said Fox News executive producer Bill Shine, "you can let something breathe and do more investigative work."
For Smith, the nine-week newsmagazine means a summer of triple duty. On cable, he hosts afternoon news and, at 7 p.m., his unconventional brand of newscasting, The Fox Report with Shepard Smith, which trails only Bill O'Reilly and Larry King in cable news ratings.
On a channel known for talk, Smith proudly brandishes an hour-long newscast: "Other shows just have talking heads and interviews with pundits. When you're locked into interviews, you can't keep up with changing news."
In May, The Fox Report
averaged a 1.1 rating, bringing its year-to-date average to a 1.2 rating. CNN foe Crossfire
trails far behind with a 0.5 May average. With MSNBC ditching plans to move Brian Williams to 7 p.m., Smith's lock on the hour seems guaranteed.
Key to The Fox Report's fast pace, Smith says, is keeping taped packages to a minimum, two or three per show, with correspondents chipping in with live shots anytime, from anywhere.
In six years with Fox News, Smith has toiled on several major stories, most recently the events following Sept. 11. He covered the Columbine High School shootings and President Clinton's impeachment proceedings and witnessed the June 2001 execution of Timothy McVeigh.
Next month, he'll step onto a much larger Fox stage. Smith is accustomed to anchoring a show watched by about 400,000 people, not the 9 million to 12 million who tune in for a 60 Minutes
or Primetime Thursday.
He's not worried.
"It's not like years ago when no one knew who we were," he said. "Now, we have an identity."