Shepard Smith Mixes Social Media, Traditional Tactics In Fox News Excursion to Ukraine

Fox News Channel anchor Shepard Smith is mixing old-school shoe-leather reporting with new-age social-media monitoring techniques to suss out possible stories while on the ground in Ukraine.

The Fox News veteran left for the troubled region after doing the Monday broadcast of his regular program, “Shepard Smith Reporting,” and has been reporting live since Tuesday. Smith is  in Kiev today, but has also been to Crimea, where, he said in an interview,”things just kept changing before us” as he and his crew visited naval installations and talked with people there.

But Smith isn’t just relying on the usual TV-news tools when visiting a country in crisis. Since early October, the chief news anchor of the 21st Century Fox-owned cable-news outlet has been operating with a new command center, known as “The Fox News Deck” at the ready. The modern-day studio has a team monitoring real-time news feeds and social media, and, Smith feels, has given him an advantage while in the field.

“They had tweets from the west coast of Crimea that Russians had somehow sunk a third ship to make access to the port more difficult,” Smith recounted. “We can’t go with it, but we are able to start making some decisions and can get that confirmed. Later on, it popped up on the BBC, and I’m like, ‘Our system is working.’ It’s really nice to be able to get information in advance.”

In his recent broadcasts, Smith reported from Crimea about a United Nations representative who felt threatened after he was surrounded by a mob and told to leave. In other segments, he has interviewed Stuart Holliday, a former U.S. ambassador for special political affairs at the U.N. about how lawmakers in Crimea moved to split from Ukraine and join Russia.

Smith said he encountered no problems getting about in Crimea, but noted there are people looking to harass news correspondents. “You get harassed a little bit by some who call themselves the independent security force. Some of them are original and some of them, I think, are just troublemakers.”

He has been particularly taken with Independence Square in Kiev, which has become what he called a “congress of canvas” – filled with tents from various protest organizations that want to help residents keep things going. They are still living around campfires, in lean-tos, all around Independence Square, and they are there 24 hours a day. The intestinal fortitude is impressive,” Smith said.

While uncertain of how long he will stay, Smith thinks the Ukraine story will be newsy for some time. “It’s as complex and fast-moving an international story as I think I’ve ever been in the middle of,” he recounted.

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