November 4, 2022

Good morning and welcome to the end of the week. Rest up this weekend because we’ve got a heck of a week coming up with the midterm elections surely generating plenty of news. In addition, I have a special story that will be published Monday on the Poynter website. I spent last Sunday on the set of the longest-running show on TV, and I will give you a behind-the-scenes look at how the venerable Sunday news show is put together, as well as the thoughts from the veteran moderator.

In the meantime, today’s newsletter has links to recommended reading and a few media tidbits for your weekend review, starting with a bit of news about veteran journalist Shep Smith.

Shep Smith’s show is canceled

Veteran journalist Shep Smith made a noisy splash when he departed Fox News in 2019. He still had time left on this contract, but left because he could no longer stand to work for a network he claimed had pundits who knowingly lied to or misled viewers in order to make their points. He once said, “Opine all you like, but if you’re going to opine, begin with the truth and opine from there. When people begin with a false premise and lead people astray, that’s injurious to society and it’s the antithesis of what we should be doing: Those of us who are so honored and grateful to have a platform of public influence have to use it for the public good.”

He ended up at CNBC, where he anchored a no-nonsense, just-the-facts, nightly newscast called “The News with Shepard Smith.” But aspirations far exceeded viewers, and CNBC has decided to cancel the newscast. According to Nielsen, the show averaged about 222,000 viewers this year — far below what other cable news networks (Fox News, CNN, MSNBC) get in that time slot. For example, this week, Jesse Watters show on Fox News drew 3.1 million viewers and Joy Reid had 1.5 million on MSNBC.

The final episode of Smith’s newscast will air sometime later this month. A newscast focusing on business will replace Smith’s show and debut sometime in 2023.

CNBC President KC Sullivan wrote in a memo to staff, “ ‘The News’ set out on a bold mission of providing non-partisan, fact-based reporting on the most important stories of the day in the U.S. and around the world. The quality journalism Shep and his team delivered each weeknight was exemplary and not lost on us or our 7 p.m. audience.”

This is Sullivan’s first major move since taking over CNBC in September. He also wrote in his memo, “After spending time with many of you and closely reviewing the various aspects of our business, I believe we must prioritize and focus on our core strengths of business news and personal finance. As a result of this strategic alignment to our core business, we will need to shift some of our priorities and resources and make some difficult decisions.”

About 20 people work on Smith’s show and the company says it hopes to help those impacted seek other opportunities at NBC News Group. That will not include Smith, who is leaving the network.

An important series

On Thursday, The New York Times editorial board introduced a series called “The Danger Within,” urging readers to understand the danger of extremist violence and possible solutions. As an introduction to the series, Times opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury writes, “Americans are right to be nervous about the coming midterm elections, and not only about the results. It will be the first time that the nation’s electoral machinery will be tested after two years of lawsuits, conspiracy theories, ‘audits’ and all manner of interference by believers in Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.”

Kingsbury adds that she also is worried by the “embrace of violent extremists by a small but growing faction of the Republican Party.” She concludes with “In the past few years, there have been plenty of points at which it feels as if the future of the nation hangs in the balance. Peaceful politics are all we have to manage our deeply divided democracy. Lose that and the country is headed for a dark place — that’s what this series of pieces on extremism is trying to help avoid.”

The first of the series is “America Can Have Democracy or Political Violence. Not Both.”

In it, the Times editorial board points out that the violence from right-wing extremists and mobs stirred up by Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, is the kind of violence that can undo a democracy.

“Yet,” the board writes, “the nation is not powerless to stop a slide toward deadly chaos. If institutions and individuals do more to make it unacceptable in American public life, organized violence in the service of political objectives can still be pushed to the fringes. When a faction of one of the country’s two main political parties embraces extremism, that makes thwarting it both more difficult and more necessary. A well-functioning democracy demands it.”

Now more journalism to check out over the weekend …

More resources for journalists

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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