Shepard Smith to be Honored with 2020 Silver Em

Former Fox News anchor to receive university's highest award in journalism

Shepard Smith, who spent more than 20 years anchoring Fox News before leaving the network last year, is this year’s recipient of the UM School of Journalism and New Media’s prestigious Silver Em award. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi journalism student who grew up in Holly Springs and became a leading network news anchor is the latest recipient of the school’s prestigious Silver Em award.

Shepard Smith, who spent more than 20 years anchoring Fox News before leaving the network last year, will receive the award during a ceremony at 6 p.m. April 1 in the Jackson Avenue Center.

“Shepard Smith embodies what a journalist should be – for decades, he has reported the news without fear or favor,” said Debora Wenger, UM assistant dean for innovation and external partnerships and professor of journalism. “Because he got his start in journalism here at the University of Mississippi, we feel extraordinarily proud of all he has accomplished.

“With this award, we hope to let him know how much he matters to our school and to a profession that many of us consider the foundation of our democracy.”

It was evident early on that Smith was going to be a dedicated journalist, said Will Norton Jr., dean of the School of Journalism and New Media.

“When Shep Smith was in school, he always seemed to be in a hurry, carrying a big camera with lots of equipment, trying to get to his next appointment,” Norton said. “As he looks back at those years, he credits journalism professor Jim Pratt, Ph.D., with preparing him for the profession.”

Smith worked tirelessly for the live student news program that Pratt began in what is now Farley Hall, Room 105, Norton said.

“When viewers watch Shep today, they see someone devoted to the facts,” he said. “That same enthusiasm was so evident every day in those early years when he was on campus.”

A week after Smith announced his resignation from Fox News, he returned to Ole Miss to speak to journalism students. He said he learned that truth is the foundation of journalism while pursuing his degree at UM. He also emphasized the importance of admitting and correcting mistakes.

“There’s no mistake you can’t undo,” he said during his talk with students in October. “You can correct every single mistake. You can stand up and be a human being about it and admit to those who count on you that you screwed it up.

“And you have to do the correction with the same fervor and emphasis that you made the mistake. Then you’re good. “

Smith said he attended the university on a music scholarship before studying journalism. His teachers emphasized journalism’s commitment to the public, he said.

“You have a responsibility to people who rely on you to find out what in the world is going on,” Smith said. “And even if it’s just the car wreck, or the city council meeting or the game you are writing about, you have responsibility to do as well as you can and tell the story as effectively as possible.”

Smith said he took that approach at Fox News.

“It’s a huge responsibility to have a platform where millions of people are watching you every day,” he said. “It’s really a big responsibility, and I learned that in Farley Hall.”

Smith also will join alumni Charles Overby and Curtis Wilkie as part of the spring series of conversations hosted by the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics. The event, set for 5:30 p.m. March 31 in Overby Auditorium, is free and open to the public.

Tickets also are not required for the Silver Em event. For assistance related to a disability, contact Sarah Griffith at 662-915-7146 or jour-imc@olemiss.edu. For more information about the School of Journalism and New Media, visit http://jnm.olemiss.edu/.