Roger Ailes’ ‘Last Hurrah’: A ‘Course Correction’ For Fox News, and ‘Friendly Talks’ With Shepard Smith

By Alex Weprin 

In Newsweek this week, Howard Kurtz has another of his occasional chats with Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. The message Ailes and Fox are sending via the article: change is in the air.

Kurtz notes early on that Ailes’ contract ends in 2013, and says that the TV executive is embarking on his “last hurrah.” Part of that hurrah, according to Ailes, is tweaking the FNC message to try and maximize its audience:

But as President Obama’s popularity has plummeted and the country has grown increasingly sick of partisan sniping, something unexpected happened. Roger Ailes pulled back a bit on the throttle.

He calls it a “course correction,” quietly adopted at Fox over the last year. Glenn Beck’s inflammatory rhetoric—his ranting about Obama being a racist—“became a bit of a branding issue for us” before the hot-button host left in July, Ailes says. So too did Sarah Palin’s being widely promoted as the GOP’s potential savior—in large measure through her lucrative platform at Fox. Privately, Fox executives say the entire network took a hard right turn after Obama’s election, but, as the Tea Party’s popularity fades, is edging back toward the mainstream.

Ailes also speaks freely about his talent, including top primetime hosts Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, saying that “O’Reilly hates Sean” and that Hannity is “predictable.” He also talks about Shepard Smith, who is known for occasionally going off on unpredictable tangents about current events:

“Every once in a while Shep Smith gets out there where the buses don’t run and we have a friendly talk.”

As is often the case in the Kurtz/Ailes interviews, there are many more interesting parts of the story, which you can read here.