On October 11, 2007, I walked into Fox News Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan. Fox News Channel was still in its infancy, and Fox Business Network was launching the following business day. George Bush was serving his second term as US president, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had just hit an all-time high 14,167, and the Boston Red Sox were about to win the World Series in a four game sweep against the Colorado Rockies. What happened next, no one could have predicted. Mere weeks after launching the business network, our country entered the greatest recession since the Great Depression. The overleveraged global financial industry came to a head, and the housing bubble burst. This led to an eventual complete collapse of the US banking system. Stocks around the world plummeted and the global economy crashed. Almost 14 year ago to the day, I began my unpredictable, wild ride as a reporter and anchor for Fox Business and now Fox News.
Amidst those early volatile days, I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my career and life: embrace the chaos.
Fresh off my time as a trader on Wall Street, and a year at Bloomberg TV covering commodities markets, I hit the ground running in my new role, reporting LIVE from banks and insurance companies all over the country. Showing not only the economic side of the global financial collapse, but also the human impact of it. Standing outside Bear Stearns former offices on 47th street in Midtown Manhattan, reporting LIVE to living rooms around the country, Americans watched as word traveled that one of our largest financial institutions was falling into bankruptcy. Exhausted and weary from those dark days, I suddenly, in between on-air hits, noticed bankers and traders walking out of the building one by one with card board boxes. As I looked closer, I noticed the space between the cardboard filled with the personal contents of their desks. Some of those folks had tears flowing down their faces as they traveled home to share the horrible news with loved ones. They had lost their jobs in an environment that would be tough to find work again anytime soon. That moment, for me, humanized a sophisticated financial story about complex derivatives, swaps and subprime loans. Those moms and dads, and sons and daughters, were the face of a truly heartbreaking story of greed and risk. As a young reporter, my eyes opened to the world, and I saw the real-world impact of the news on which I was reporting. Many more people lost their jobs in the days and weeks that followed. And, it was my job, to not feel sorry for them, but to tell their stories for all to hear. “This is America”, I thought to myself, “we’ll get through this together and be better for it”. I knew there were so many struggling Americans out there, and their voices should be heard.
I packed my bags and headed off to small towns all over the tri-state area, interviewing countless folks fired from Wall Street. Some of which took on Main Street jobs just to get by. In the days and weeks that followed I spoke to brave men and women, moms and dads, who took up a job waiting tables or working in their local towns just to make ends meet for their families. Having learned that very important lesson early on, I sought to cover the demise of these big banks and the historic nature of the moment, but to also highlight the heroic efforts of so many great Americans. Like the Long Island dad I spoke with who had just lost his job on a trade desk. He took up work as a local bartender to pay for his kids’ school and t-ball.
The news that followed that difficult time, led to embracing even more chaos, when I began reporting on the greatest financial fraudster of our time, Bernie Madoff. Reporting daily outside his Upper East Side home in New York, I covered his massive Ponzi scheme. I remained steadfast in my mission to cover not just the Wall Street impact but Main Street as well. The now dead, convicted criminal, was found guilty of stealing from new investors and paying off older ones. His horrific crime conned millionaires and celebrities alike, but it also bilked everyday investors, even grandmas and grandpas out of their life savings. I spoke to the millionaires who lost so much, but I also spoke to many of those mom and pop investors who lost everything. Including a woman in Florida who had to sell her home and live with her son after Madoff robbed her of every dollar she had saved in her lifetime. She wept as she shared her story with me.
Sadly, Bernie Madoff was only the beginning. In the months that followed, I jumped on planes to chase other “Mini-Madoff’s”, as they became known, all over the country. I reported on Arthur Nadel in Florida who bilked investors out of nearly $200 million, and Allen Stanford of Texas and Antigua who robbed everyday unknowing investors out of billions. Covering these stories was emotionally and physically draining, to be sure, but those experiences built my strength as a journalist to anchor and cover the biggest stories of most of our lifetimes.
In the years that followed, I used my economic background and financial reporting experience to dig into every story and opportunity that came my way. I was presented with an amazing opportunity to launch a news-driven talk show called “Outnumbered” in early 2014. I, along with my colleague Harris Faulkner, co-hosted the earliest days of what blossomed into a hit program for the Fox News Channel. My co-hosts leaned on me to look at the money or economic side of almost every story we covered. It was a beautiful -and for me- natural entry into the world of general news. Shortly after we launched the show, I announced my pregnancy and delivered my second child in January of 2015. Literally months after returning from maternity leave, I was asked to moderate a presidential primary debate for the 2016 election in Milwaukee! Wowsa! If there ever was a better time to EMBRACE THE CHAOS! Co-moderating that debate was a career changing moment, and I would go on to co-moderate a second presidential primary debate months later in Charleston, South Carolina.
Years later, after taking on the role of co-anchor of “America’s Newsroom” with Bill Hemmer, we looked forward to covering another historic presidential election. The 2020 race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. As Biden tried to narrow the field in early 2020, I along with my colleagues at Fox, traveled to Miami for the Super Bowl, then to Iowa for the caucuses and New Hampshire for the primary there. Little did we know all our lives were about to change forever as the global pandemic took hold. Cameras were sent to our homes and studios were built. I, and so many other broadcast journalists, found ourselves in those early days in the most unusual position of broadcasting LIVE from our basements and spare bedrooms. We embraced a whole new level of chaos, and we did what we had to. I was one of the first anchors called back into studio in July of 2020 as we continued to cover cases counts, shutdowns and mandates. We all continue to adjust to a new normal. That November, I co-anchored election night coverage for Fox Broadcast. It was another chaotic, but career defining moment.
That brings us to today, as we mark the 25th anniversary of Fox News Channel. Every weekday, I co-anchor “America Reports” 1 to 3pm ET daily with my colleague John Roberts. And, as I write this, I have just come off the air, covering the second week of the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. It has been a heart breaking week filled with so much emotion. The human toll of this moment is tragic. We are frustrated as Americans. But as journalists, we seek the facts, ask important questions and deliver the news to our viewers without fear or favor. We have covered the war for years. We show our viewers the videos, the names and the faces. We press our leaders for answers.
So much of what I try to bring viewers everyday is the culmination of so many years of experience in the field and studio. I wake up every day expecting the unexpected. While I prepare daily for segments and interviews, it is the stories I have covered and the people with whom I have spoken over the years that is the best preparation of all. There is no way to plan for what comes at us daily as broadcast journalists, but our career lessons can teach us so much. And for me, the biggest lesson of all, is to embrace the chaos.
WRITTEN BYSandra Smith