Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Roger Ailes, Matt Egan, and the Changing Face of Cable News

Matt Egan is only 24, but he is already in a position that is well beyond his age. He is a news writer for FoxBusiness.com and has been in this role since 2007. Just a few years ago, Egan wasn't very sure what he wanted to do. He talks about an interview with Fox Business in a recent article in the New York Times: "Ray Hennessey, the director of business news, went to my college (the College of New Jersey), and also wrote for The Trenton Times. I kind of went to the interview not interested in business or TV, but I figured I’d give it a shot. And the interview was amazing. I was one of the first hires for the Web team." The old adage of "who you know" and the value of alumni relationships seemed to help the young Egan. However, I'm familiar with the standards of Fox Business and Fox News. Going to the same "old school" might get you noticed, but would not necessarily secure a career. Egan certainly had to bring his best game to the program.

Something that certainly helped Egan is the Roger Ailes Apprentice Program. In an article in Multichannel News, "Fox News Channel has quietly sought to increase its minority employee base through an apprentice program spearheaded by the network's most senior executives... CEO Roger Ailes created the network's Apprenticeship Program in 2003 in an effort to provide minorities at entry-level positions with an opportunity to gain valuable behind-the-scenes experience working at a cable network that otherwise wouldn't be available to them."

Essentially, Ailes doesn't believe that young people who are minorities are not getting enough opportunity to learn about this important industry. He wants to fast track opportunities for these often neglected groups. Ailes is quoted as saying “I didn't think enough minorities were getting access to the system,” Ailes said (Fox News Channel employee base is nearly 20% minority). “If there aren't a lot of people they know inside, then they don't necessarily have the same access as others.”

Since 2003, 20 young people have gone through this unique mentoring program and by 2008, over $900,000 had been spent on it. The senior executives who nominate young people for the program, often fresh out of college, go on to actually mentor the students they recommended if selected.

The program has certainly fast tracked Matt Egan's career. Although he seems very comfortable in his job today, he noted in the Times interview being challenged early on, "Getting beyond the businessy terms: derivatives. Mutual funds. Futures. Options contracts. I had no idea about the stock market. I wish I had taken business classes. I bought a business textbook ahead of time. I read that, and started reading The Wall Street Journal every day. We had a month and a half to prep." Even today, it isn't always smooth sailing, noting that his big problems today relate to "Keeping my cool. The stock market tends not to cooperate a lot. If the Dow’s up 100 points because an economic report came out, I’ve got to go back and change what I’ve just written."

Fox News and Fox Business have developed an innovative approach to acclaimating young people to the news industry that has, in my opinion, further positioned the networks as the industry leaders.

Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business, the longest running show on AM 650 (M-F at 11 am) in Houston, Texas and on AOL Radio. His articles often appear in Chicago Sun Times, Reuters, USA Today, and other national media. Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal calls Price the “best business talk show host in the country.” Find out why and visit his blog at www.BizPlusBlog.com and his show site at www.PriceofBusiness.com. You can also find Price on Strategy Room at FoxNews.com.

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