UM Alumnus Shepard Smith Inspires, Challenges Students

By BY EDWIN SMITH/UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI,

Former Fox News anchor shares career memories, words of encouragement during Ole Miss visit

OXFORD, Miss. – A week after announcing his resignation from Fox News, famed broadcast journalist Shepard Smith returned to the University of Mississippi Friday (Oct. 18) to speak to a roomful of journalism and integrated marketing and communications students at the School of Journalism and New Media.

Smith shared that while technology will always change, the rules of good journalism practice and citizenship never change.

“First and foremost, you must always operate in what’s good for the public interest,” he said. “Freedom of the press is protected by the Constitution. With that freedom comes responsibility.”

Smith told the future journalists they should attribute whatever they do not see, hear, smell or taste. He also encouraged them to practice full disclosure and always show respect.

“Always remember that with every news story there are people who deserve to be treated with respect,” he said. “Respect every single person. It’s important because at the end of the day, it’s never just about scooping the story.”

Smith also challenged the audience to “fix the mess” created by his generation and older.

“You are the future,” he told a standing-room-only crowd. “We messed it (the country) up. You have to fix it.”

Reflecting on his remarkable career as an investigative reporter of some of the nation’s most controversial incidents, Smith urged his listeners to begin by always telling the truth – no matter how uncomfortable it may make some or how awkward the results might be.

“Mistakes can usually be corrected, but you have to do so with the same fervor that you made the mistake,” he said. “It’s just so much easier to tell the truth. Admit that you screwed it up. The moment you don’t tell the truth, you’ve betrayed your audience.”

Smith said teamwork is also extremely important.

“At Ole Miss, you learn how to make friends and get along with people,” the Holly Springs native said. “If you learn those things, you can go anywhere you want to go and achieve anything you want to achieve.”

After working at Fox News for 23 years – since its first broadcast in 1996 – the network's senior correspondent, managing editor and chief news anchor abruptly announced on his program, “Shepard Smith Reporting,” that he was leaving the network.

“I left because it was time for a change,” Smith said. “Since then, I’ve been scheduling appearances at several universities around the country. Ole Miss was my first stop. I love Ole Miss.”

Students and faculty said Smith’s remarks and candor left a lasting impression on them.

Kendall Chavarria, a senior integrated marketing communications major from Punta Gorda, Florida, took notes during the talk.

“I thought it was cool how he said we have to always tell the truth,” Chavarria said. “It’s obviously something he is passionate about. In an age when we hear so much about ‘fake news,’ it’s really encouraging to hear a successful member of the news media take a stand for telling the truth.”

Smith is a great example of the type of alumni Ole Miss produces, said Will Norton, dean of the School of Journalism and New Media.

“Shepard Smith is living proof that Ole Miss gives you a foundation to build a successful career in journalism,” Norton said. “If you work hard, apply yourself and follow your dreams, then any of you can become the next Shepard Smith.”